Cesare Prandelli's Handling Of Manchester City's Balotelli Makes Him The Manager Of The Tournament

Cesare Prandelli overcame injuries, fatigue, betting scandals and Mario Balotelli's ego to take his Italy side to the EURO 2012 final. Here's why he's my manager of the tournament.
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Cesare Prandelli overcame injuries, fatigue, betting scandals and Mario Balotelli's ego to take his Italy side to the EURO 2012 final. Here's why he's my manager of the tournament.

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Cesare Prandelli's Handling Of Manchester City's Balotelli Makes Him The Manager Of The Tournament

In the end, it was a step too far for Italy. Spain deserve great credit for their performance in the Euro 2012 final, and for the first time actually seemed to hit full throttle. However, Italy were never really at the races.

It was a pity to see Italy struggle, despite the magnificence of Spain. The Azzurri had been great to watch throughout the tournament, with several interesting sub-plots developing – the apparent maturing of Mario Balotelli, the twilight of Andrea Pirlo, and also, the mastery of Cesare Prandelli.

His side went into the tournament, and went through it, with a number of problems. Injuries played a part in the run-up; Giuseppe Rossi, arguably his star striker, was ruled out, but mostly the build-up was mostly marred by off-field problems.

Not only did Prandelli confound the majority of expectations for his side by getting to the final, he did so in a style not usually associated with Italy

The betting scandal from the 2011/12 Serie A season followed the 2005/06 one – after Calciopoli came Scommessopoli. In the past, similar issues have seemed to spur Italy on in the following tournaments, but this shouldn’t make Prandelli’s success seem ordinary.

Not only did he confound the majority of expectations for his side by getting to the final, he did so in a style not usually associated with Italy – the style and substance of his side greatly surpassed what most on-lookers were expecting. A run of defeats going into the tournament only served to worsen the overall pessimism surrounding Italy, so Prandelli deserves great credit for taking his side to the final.

Injuries and fatigue probably took more out of Italy than any country while it was going on. Chiellini, De Rossi, Maggio, Barzagli and more all suffered from one or the other – some struggled with both.

Thiago Motta was another who had fitness issues. As well as previous problems, just minutes after coming on as Italy’s final substitute, he pulled up while running, and had to be stretchered off with a hamstring problem.

Italy under Prandelli at Euro 2012 have been more than a few great individual performances though. The former Juventus midfielder made them into a functioning unit

At 2-0 down Italy had to finish the game with 10 men, most of those 10 absolutely shattered from the exhaustion of playing Spain; the best in the world at keeping the ball. They’d already played Xavi, Alonso, Fabregas and co earlier in the tournament, which could only have added to the fatigue.

While they were extremely impressive that night, clearly they were unable to put in such a superb performance again in the final. The passing was less incisive for one, but most of all the immense energy was nowhere to be seen.

But despite their understandable yet disappointingly limp performance, Italy can hold their heads high. Daniele De Rossi had a superb tournament, and as most have said, Andrea Pirlo was simply imperious.

Italy under Prandelli at Euro 2012 have been more than a few great individual performances though. The former Juventus midfielder made them into a functioning unit who were great to watch on the counter attack yet compact in defence, and should be praised for doing so.

As well as his management of Italy on the field, making them into a cohesive unit, and helping the overall team spirit, his management of Mario Balotelli was impressive.

The group game against Spain summed them up – they did what they had to do to stop Spain, but didn’t exactly play negatively. They were superb going forward, and a joy to watch. The match finished 1-1, but Italy would have been deserving winners.

There was, however, a huge gulf in class when it came to the final. The road ended there for Italy at Euro 2012, but Prandelli’s journey is not over yet, as he confirmed he would be staying on after the final.

As well as his management of Italy on the field, making them into a cohesive unit, and helping the overall team spirit, his management of Mario Balotelli was impressive. Other than different coaches, Prandelli wasn’t too strict with Balotelli, and it seemed as if he created a siege mentality for the striker; telling him to prove his critics wrong.

Whatever Prandelli did for Balotelli, it clearly worked, as he seemed to keep himself out of much trouble. He was also joint top-scorer with three goals, and each of them was superb.

Even though his side were humbled at the hands of Vicente Del Bosque’s Spain in the final, Prandelli deserves huge praise for the success of Italy’s campaign. It’s a lot more difficult to form a cohesive side at international level than at club level – although the strong Juventus contingent helped (they say in Italy that strong Juventus means strong Azzurri), Italy owe a great deal of their success to their manager.

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