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Italy defeats Mexico despite Giaccherini.

by Marco Fumagalli
Jun 17, 2013 2:33 PM BST

Italy defeated Mexico 2-1 in the first game for both teams in the 2013 Confederations Cup in a match played in the Maracana Stadium.

Strange 4-3-2-1 tactic at the kickoff for the Azzurri, with Balotelli alone up front, supported by Marchisio and Giaccherini in the “trequartista” position; this was the tactic that made Ancelotti King with Milan and which in Italy is called “Christmas Tree Formation”.

Buffon obviously in the goal, the four men defensive row from right to left at the kickoff had Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini and De Sciglio; the rumor is that Prandelli was afraid of Chicarito and moved Chiellini back to the center of the defense instead of Bonucci. De Rossi, Pirlo and Montolivo began the match in front of the defense with the support of Marchisio and Giaccherini to whom Prandelli asked to continuously get back to have at least the same amount of players in the midfield.

Yes, you read correctly, Giaccherini! How is it possible that a substitute in Juventus is a starter with the National Team? That is the question that the entire Nation and Foreign Football lovers asked themselves. The only answer that I give myself to these kinds of dilemmas every time that Italy plays is that big coaches sometimes take decisions on purpose just to show off, wanting to let everyone know that their ideas are not what common sense would expect it to be. Unfortunately it seems to happen quite often when the Italian National Team is on the field.

Don’t get me wrong, no complaints against brilliant Prandelli who has done an excellent job so far, however it’s sad that Italy did not start with a 4-3-3 or with an offensive team as seen recently and had to leave players such as El Shaarawy and Giovinco on the bench. Not that the wings are missing either, Maggio can cover the entire right side while Cerci is in great shape lately and deserved a chance too.

Modern 4-2-3-1 for Mexico with a scary offensive trio in support of striker Hernadez: Aquino, Dos Santos and Guardado. Corona in the goal, Flores, Rodriguez, Moreno and Salcido in the defense, Zavala and extra experienced Torrado in front of them for coach De La Torre.

Classical Adidas green jersey for Mexico while Italy was wearing the horrible white Puma uniform that no one like.

The tactical scenario for Italy has Pirlo staying low and acting as playmaker in front of the defense while De Rossi and Montolivo are a step higher when in ball possession; the game-play is rather slow since the Azzurri have to wait for the full backs to move up before having a man on each side and being able to open the opponents lines. Balotelli was tasked to come low and get the ball in the midfield, leaving open spaces behind him for Marchisio on the center-right and Giaccherini on the center-left to dive in. The Italian defense was asked to push up in order to try to recuperate the ball quite high in the center of the field to easy quick offensive maneuvers.

Mexico had trouble creating plays when the ball was in the feet of any defender since both Torrado and Zavala were not tasked with starting the play; solutions were given by the offensive midfielders who kept moving between the Italian lines. Truth is that each time that Mexico managed to recuperate the ball in Italy’s half they had potential to be dangerous with quick combinations against a static defense; the prove came at minute 10 when Guardado hit the bar with a beautiful left shot from inside the box. Hernandez was also moving a lot with the purpose of confusing the opponents’ defense.

The match was in the feet of Italy since the beginning, with the impression that Balotelli was adjusting the aim after three shots ending with no luck but the goal seemed in the air, especially after Pirlo got tackled in the box on minute 16 for what seemed to be a clear penalty but not judged so by the referee.

As usual in football, Italy’s first goal came shortly after a missed 2vs2 counter attack chance for the Mexicans; free kick for a foul on Balotelli, Pirlo placed the ball right where he likes under the bar even though the impression is that the Mexican goalkeeper didn’t make an extra effort to save it and gave up too quick as he saw the ball coming his way.

Everything seemed smooth already for the Italians, until Barzagli though of himself being Pirlo, tried to dribble an opponent in front of his box, lost the ball and pushed down a quick Giovanni Dos Santos: penalty. Chicharito placed the ball: Buffon dived to his right side, the ball touched the net on his left.

The first half ended 1-1.

It was pretty obvious that 4-3-2-1 was not effective, especially with Giaccherini who doesn’t have the skills to play at this level; Giovinco, Diamanti or even Candreva could have done better than him if Prandelli wanted to stick to this tactic.
The regret is that with El Shaarawy on the right wing and Cerci on the right ones, Italy would have been way more dangerous against a weak defense especially on the sides, the supporters expected a 4-3-3.

The second half began with no tactical changes and with the same players, but since the first minutes it was clear that the rhythm of the match had changed to a slower pace, with Mexico happy of the tie and trying to resist the opponents and perhaps sting on a fast break.

The matched seems destined to end with a tie until minute 77 when Balotelli managed to control a ball in the middle of the box and tossing it in the net despite the presence of three Mexican defenders around him. Coach Prandelli took him out at minute 85 for a deserved standing ovation and to let a few minutes of glory to Gilardino.

Thankfully at minute 87 the shame of watching Giaccherini playing the entire match was safe: Aquilani took his place for the joy of the Nation!

After 3 minutes of extra time the Chilean referee Osses put end to a boring derby of the flags. Unfortunately Mexico in the second half did not play and seemed completely out of gas.

Not a good game for Marchisio, who perhaps is not in the best mental status since he seems to have issues with Juventus about the renewal of his contract and perhaps the gossips about a possible transfer. Cerci did better than him in the few minutes he had on the pitch.

A positive note for Italy was De Sciglio: 20 years old, he could be in Israel playing the final of the 2013 Euro Championship but instead he’s in Brazil for what hopefully will be a long and successful career with Italy’s jersey; good game on the left side, both defensively and offensively with some dangerous crosses.

The decision of having Chiellini in the center of the defense was also correct, he had an excellent match and was able to stop the few Mexican offensive plays in the second half.

Once again, the common feeling in Italy is that we are tired of winning this way, suffering until the last minute when we finally have enough offensive players to scare everyone doesn’t make sense. Prandelli was our last hope, my wish is that he doesn’t turn into another fan of catenaccio.

Japan is next. Hopefully it’ll be a different story.