Lippi’s back but same Italian frailties remain
Watching a rudderless Italy at Euro 2008 was like having my teeth pulled out.
Wednesday’s 2-2 friendly draw against Austria in Marcello Lippi’s first game back in charge since winning the World Cup was less painful, but serious problems persist.
Gone are the days of a rock solid Italian defence. Sure Fabio Cannavaro is still injured having missed the stuttering run to the Euro quarter-finals, but even he is not the player he was.
Fellow centre back Giorgio Chiellini, Italy’s sole success story from June, is crocked for their opening World Cup qualifiers against Cyprus and Georgia next month. That leaves Andrea Barzagli, who now plays in Germany with Wolfsburg, as an almost certain starter despite being at fault for both Austria’s goals.
At the other end things are still not right either. Former coach Roberto Donadoni was obsessed with a three-pronged attack in the run-up to the Euros but as soon as the Azzurri lost to Netherlands in the opening match he ditched it.
Lippi reinstated the trident on Wednesday but Alessandro Del Piero is still not suited to the left hand side. Both Italy strikes were own goals, even if the first was charitably credited to hit-and-miss forward Alberto Gilardino.
The midfield was average to say the least.
Lippi has a lot to ponder if he really believes he can lift the World Cup again in two years time. He may also wonder why a game between Italy and Austria was played in Nice in France? (No one has properly explained.)
He probably hasn’t got as much thinking to do as compatriot Fabio Capello, though. England were totally outclassed in a 2-2 draw with the Czechs by all accounts.
Mark Meadows, Reuters Italy Sports Correspondent
PHOTO: Italy coach Marcello Lippi watches his players during their friendly match against Austria in Nice, Aug 20 REUTERS/Pascal Deschamps