Technically and tactically, you won’t have seen a better game in the UEFA 2012 European Championship than the Group C game between Spain and Italy in Gdansk yesterday.
It had it all, an Italian back three with De Rossi filling the role of the Libero surrounded by a herd of Azzurri coloured Juventini, and a stacked Spanish midfield complete with false number 9, all whilst meshing the Catalan and Blanco styles under the bright red banner.
From Xavi to Pirlo, Fabregas to De Rossi, it wasn’t any wonder UEFA didn’t charge a congestion fee due to the sheer amount of midfielders named in the starting lineups, but despite this, the game was well contested and flowed with a real dynamism from box to box.
This was a far cry from the heavily anticipated camping at the edge of the box, which many expected of Italy, who instead gave Spain a thought provoking tactical offering. What surprises even more is that this was the first time the Azzurri had adopted this system under Prandelli, who proudly abandoned his own strategy to one which best suited his players.
The Azzurri threatened Iker Casillas’s goal on a number of occassions and although their back line was also tested, they looked the more credible goal threat. An early Cassano chance flashed across the goal and many Italian’s will have spilt their glass of Peroni when Thiago Motta’s late first half header went goalwards.
The second half saw even more of Prandelli’s daring Italian side, when Mario Balotelli dispossesed a troubled Sergio Ramos. Casually approaching a panicked Casillas, Balotelli had carved open the best chance of the game, only to be caught faltering under his own relaxed demeanor.
It was an error which saw Balotelli replaced by Udinese capocannoniere, Toto Di Natale and it didn’t take long for the Serie A bomber to have an impact. A primed goalscorer, ready to prove his worth, Di Natale latched onto a beautifully weighted through ball from Juventus regista Pirlo, and made absolutely no mistakes in finding the back of the net.
Following the goal, Italy somewhat abandoned the game plan. A lack of concentration from converted left wing-back Emanuele Giaccherini, saw Cesc Fabregas pounce onto a delicious ball around the corner from David Silva within 5 minutes of Di Natale’s opener.
The Azzurri however, remained strong for the remainder of the game and in the process restored some much needed faith and pride into the national team. This well earned point had finally returned smiles to the people of Italy and the team’s supporters.
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