It is a well-known fact that many talented prospects don’t turn out, with the mental and tactical rigours of modern football often too heavy a load to carry. It hurts far more, however, when a player has the brains, the technique and the guts to go far, only for it to become clear that his body – and his luck – were never cut out for a career in the pros.
Any analysis of Italy’s downfall on penalties must be prefaced with gratitude: though we may not feel it right now, we’ll eventually be thankful to the Azzurri for a great many things, whether it was for completely outmanoeuvring more talented opponents or Antonio Conte’s touchline lunacy.
This doesn’t, however, mean that our acceptance should be unqualified. Just because he proved us wrong before doesn’t mean that Conte should be exempt from criticism. Ironically, it is because he took Italy to the last eight that we have to ask ourselves what was missing to make the next step.
One could posit that Italy’s Coach went against his own credo against Germany.
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It is a telling sign that many of us would have signed below the dotted line for last night’s Azzurri performance. Was this a sign of how much Conte’s team had achieved, how low our expectations were, or both?
To be truthful, it was a relief that Italy weren’t passed off the park by Vicente Del Bosque’s men, but was this ever likely to happen? Though it was refreshing to see Italy harry Spain’s ball-carriers and never let them find their feet, La Furia Roja has yet to prove that it has moved on from the team that puffed and wheezed in the Brazilian sun.
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It’s tough to talk about La Nazionale these days. There are very few certainties, after an up-and-down qualifying campaign.
Our imaginary Azzurri building blocks are full of red flags. Italy are unbeaten in fifty qualifiers? Sure, against the likes of Bulgaria and Malta. Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci still make elementary mistakes in an Azzurri shirt. Marco Verratti still has developing to do.
There are so many doubts that’s it is worth asking whether we’re asking the right questions, or contextualising them properly. For example, is having a great squad enough to do well?
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