De Rossi Would Dominate At Manchester United And Other Talking Points From Italy v Ireland

Moved from defence back to his usual midfield berth, Rome's finest was back to his dominating best last night and would thrive in the Premier League. But what else did we learn?
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Moved from defence back to his usual midfield berth, Rome's finest was back to his dominating best last night and would thrive in the Premier League. But what else did we learn?

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De Rossi Would Dominate At Manchester United And Other Talking Points From Italy v Ireland

Daniele De Rossi Is A Midfield Maestro

After performing superbly in the libero role against Croatia and Spain, Daniele De Rossi reclaimed his usual spot in midfield and was extremely impressive against Ireland. Whilst Italy’s other midfielders struggled to adjust to the change in formation, De Rossi put in a dominant performance; he used the ball well and seemed to relish the physical battle with Andrews and Whelan, snapping in to tackles and protecting the back four effectively. His versatility and consistency make him a vital part of Cesare Prandelli’s side, and his strong displays throughout the tournament only cement his place as one of Europe’s elite midfielders. As with Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, he has stayed loyal to his hometown club when he could have gone elsewhere, and it would be a shame if he were unable to add more winners medals to his collection whilst in his peak years. Manchester United and Manchester City were both linked to him last year, but is United who need him. A player in the Roy Keane role without being as mental, he would provide them with everything they have lacked since the glowering Irishman retired.

3-5-2 Is The Way To Go

Italy started the tournament using a 3-5-2 system, which seemed to get the best out of their key players, but against Ireland Cesare Prandelli reverted to the 4-3-1-2 formation that was successfully used in the qualifying stages (in 10 qualifiers Italy won 8 and drew 2, scoring 20 and conceding only 2 goals). Whilst they secured the win to send them through to the last eight, Italy looked disjointed and unbalanced for large periods, and their performance was nowhere near as assured as the previous outings against Spain and Croatia, both of whom are significantly stronger sides than Ireland. More than half of the starting line-up against Ireland played for a side that last season used a 3-5-2 (or close variations of it), and on the basis of this tournament that seems by far the better formation for the Azzurri to use. Andrea Pirlo in particular struggled against Ireland, and it is no coincidence that he shone when Italy played with the same system that Juventus use, yet when deployed in a 4-3-1-2, the same formation that Max Allegri uses at Milan, he looked vulnerable and was unable to dictate the game in his usual fashion.

The two Antonio’s, Di Natale and Cassano, finally started a game together and, thankfully for Italy, the diminutive duo didn’t disappoint

It’s Time For The Old Guard To Pass On The Torch

For all Ireland’s endeavour against Italy, they sorely lacked genuine quality all over the pitch. Damien Duff, Robbie Keane and John O’Shea have all been fantastic servants for The Boys in Green over the course of their careers, yet they are simply not the players they once were and all three failed to have any positive impact on the tournament. Meanwhile, players such as Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy, Darren Gibson, James McClean and Shane Long have all impressed in the Premiership and, with their best years ahead of them, now is the time for Giovanni Trapattoni to integrate them in to the national side. If the aforementioned players can perform for their country as they have for their respective clubs, then Ireland won’t have to wait another decade after this to feature in a major international tournament.

Balzaretti Is The Best Option On The Left

After Domenico Criscito pulled out of the Italy squad amidst accusations of match-fixing, it looked likely that Federico Balzaretti would be the Azzurri’s first choice left-back going in to EURO 2012. However, as they went with a 3-5-2 formation, Prandelli instead chose to give Emanuele Giaccherini - an attacking midfielder by trade but one who has played on the left a few times for Juventus this season - the starting berth for the first two group games and, unsurprisingly, he struggled to assert himself – although it was against the two toughest opponents in the group. Balzaretti was finally given a start against Ireland and his impressive performance showed why he should have been first choice from the offset. His inclusion gave Italy natural balance on the left and not only was his defending reassured throughout, but he got forward effectively, constantly providing an outlet on the left flank, and he gave John O’Shea a torrid time all game. He couldn’t have made a much stronger case to keep his place in the side for the remainder of the tournament.

The Toto and Fantantio Show Was Well Worth A Watch

The two Antonio’s, Di Natale and Cassano, finally started a game together and, thankfully for Italy, the diminutive duo didn’t disappoint. They linked up effectively, complemented each other’s game well, and looked dangerous whenever they were in possession. Their intelligent movement caused Ireland all sorts of problems, with Cassano dropping in to pockets of space between the lines whilst Di Natale often drifted out to the flanks, creating space in the central areas for Italy’s midfield to exploit. Whilst Mario Balotelli came off the bench to score a sensational volley late on, there is no doubting that Cassano has struck up a much stronger understanding with Di Natale than he has with Mario - and Italy look a more dangerous side for it.

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