Based on simple numbers, Italy's Juventus contingent were going to play a big role in the success — or failure — of the Azzurri's Confederations Cup opener against Mexico. It's just simple math, really. Over half the starting lineup against El Tri consisted of Juventus players, so it's no wonder that they'd be looked upon to have an integral part in the Azzurri's result on Sunday at the Maracana.
And, well, that's exactly what happened.
Andrea Pirlo did exactly the same kind of things we've gotten so used to seeing Andrea Pirlo do. Emanuele Giaccherini suddenly channeled his inner-Zinedine Zidane for the assist on Mario Balotelli's game-winning goal in the 78th minute that gave Italy a 2-1 win over Mexico.
Exactly the way we drew it up, didn't we? Well, maybe the Pirlo part...
Excuse me while I watch that for the rest of the day. Not a bad way to celebrate your 100th cap in an Italy jersey.
And while Pirlo was the class of the field as he has been so many times before, Giaccherini's assist was a surprise to many. It seemed as though he was dividing thousands of opinions on Twitter all game long — some thought he was having a solid game, others thought he was totally craptastic. I'm in more of the former camp rather than the latter. He covered a lot of ground in Cesare Prandelli's new-found Christmas tree formation.
Giaccherini certainly gets a lot of guff for even being on the Italy roster, and in a lot of ways it's understandable. There are obviously better players than he is that are either on the bench or not even on the roster and those saying "Giaccherini doesn't start for Juve so why should he start for the Azzurri?" were out in full force today. But for one game, Giaccherini repaid the faith that Prandelli showed in him, playing a rather big part in how Italy beat Mexico.
While there was the good in Pirlo and Giaccherini, there was the bad in Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Barzagli.
Again, Principino was used out of his natural position in midfield and, surprise surprise, he struggled to make any serious kind of impact. It was a struggle for Marchisio, there's no doubt about it. The way he was playing, I'm kinda surprised he lasted nearly 70 minutes on the field. It obviously begs the question as to why Marchisio is played out of position when he's so effective as a central midfielder, but I guess we'll never really know until somebody asks Prandelli himself.
And then there's Barzagli, who had one of the first un-Barzagli-like games in quite a long time. There's the penalty he gave away, tumbling over Gio Dos Santos in the box for a clear-cut call. There were also missed passes that you rarely see a player like Barzagli do more than once in a game, let alone a handfull of times. Maybe it was the shift to a four-man backline again, I dunno. But if Italy do want to go deep into the tournament, Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini — who was an absolute rock against Mexico — will have to be two of the team's top performers.
I'll just leave this here.
Chapeau al marziano con la maglia numero 21!👍👏— simone pepe (@pepigno7) June 16, 2013