"Cooked and eaten."
The headline on the front page of Saturday's Gazzetta dello Sport summed it up in three simple words. Italy didn't just lose to Costa Rica, they were schooled. Costa Rica head coach Jorge Luis Pinto said after the win that "Juventus inspired us" with how they played and it's hard to argue with that. The 3-5-2, the high pressing, the complete hustle and bustle to get the opponent all out of sorts. Yeah, sounds like Antonio Conte's Juventus.
After the second round of group games and the respective results, Italy still don't necessarily need a win to advance to the knockout stages. But is the possibility of settling for a draw really all that much of a good thing?
If Italy passed their first test, then they flunked this one with room to spare. Not a good thing, folks.
Now we have four days to worry about how the hell the suddenly up-and-down Italy defense will try and stop Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani in Tuesday's final group game with so much riding on it. That sounds like nightmare fuel.
1. That was not the Mario Balotelli Italy needs at the World Cup.
Remember six days ago when Super Mario was the calm, cool and collected guy who scored the game-winning goal? That seems like ages ago, not less than a week. As clinical in front of goal with his powerful game-winning header against England, it was the opposite on Friday. Balotelli's best chances came in the first half, neither of which he was able to take advantage of and find the back of the net.
If the 4-1-4-1 is something that Prandelli is going to stick with against Uruguay on Tuesday, then Prandelli is going to have to find a way to break it down and not rely on balls over the top of the defense like what happened against Costa Rica. And if it's just two or three chances that Balotelli ends up getting, the game one version will have to be present, not the one we saw in game two.
2a. All three of Italy's subs didn't do a damn thing.
First Antonio Cassano. Then Lorenzo Insigne. And finally Alessio Cerci. Down 1-0, Cesare Prandelli didn't hold back when trying to get a game-tying goal and potentially more than that.
The end result? Crap, crap and more crap.
None of the three subs — which essentially changed Italy's formation from the 4-1-4-1 Prandelli has used in the first half against Costa Rica and the England win to an ultra-attack-minded 4-4-2 — made the kind of impact their manager was hoping for. Cerci didn't do much, Insigne did less, and Cassano ... oofa. The end result was basically the same as before all three of them came onto the field.
Yeah, nothing to remember, everything to forget.
Oh, one more thing: Giuseppe Rossi, we miss you.
2b. Stay onside, people.
Eleven times offside. It's not that hard to figure out why a lot of Italy's attacks died before they reached the final third.
3. The Costa Rica pressure got to Italy — early.
Read this little factoid and you'll know why.
Andrea Pirlo had 36 touches in the first half. He had 72 touches in the first half vs England.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 20, 2014
Common logic tells you something like "Psh! Six days to recover is fine!" Ah, how naive we can be sometimes. Italy must have left all of their ability to deal with the heat in the amazon. While Italy wilted in the Recife heat, Costa Rica really showed no ill effects of the high temperatures. They not only pressured Italy, but they pressed so high up the field that the Azzurri's back line sometimes found themselves in a panic to try and distribute the ball to a teammate.
4. Outside of Matteo Darmian, Italy is still searching for an answer at fullback.
In a way, we can compare this to Juventus right when Antonio Conte arrived. There was Stephan Lichtsteiner, and that's about it. The void was clear and the options on the other flank we basically average at the very best.
Darmian was decent, but clearly not as good as he was last weekend in the win over England. Still, Darmian's performance looks a whole lot better than the guy on the opposite flank, Ignazio Abate, who was one of many players to be given a 4 rating by the Gazzetta after the loss. Can't say it wasn't deserved — Abate didn't do much of anything at all.
Please get healthy, Mattia De Sciglio. You're greatly needed.
5. Giorgio Chiellini is not having a very good tournament. Nope, not at all.
In some capacity, I was able to blame his relatively poor game against England on the fact that Prandelli deployed Chiellini at left back (and we know Giorgio is not a left back). Based on Friday's starting lineups, I'm not exactly able to do that again.
Chiellini should have been called for a terrible tackle in the box minutes before Costa Rica scored their goal. And on said goal by Bryan Ruiz, guess who lost their mark? Yeah, it was Chiellini. Not exactly the kind of thing you would expect from a guy who has been so good for so long. Sure, it happens, but Chiellini is held to a higher standard than most because of how good he is.
And when he doesn't meet said standards, like has been the case for Mr. King Kong in Italy's first two group games, then there's going to be questions raised about his performances.
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