Why are Italian coaches so good?
We should also not forget evergreen Giovanni Trapattoni, whose modest yet undefeated Ireland side are just three points behind world champions Italy in Group Eight.
It is not sheer coincidence that these three coaches are getting results. There is a lot of talk about “a winning mentality” these days and although it seems a rather obvious commodity for football, the Italians have it in bucketloads.
Italy’s 2-1 win over Montenegro on Wednesday meant Lippi, over his two spells in charge, has equalled 1934 and 1938 World Cup-winning coach Vittorio Pozzo’s record of 30 games without defeat.
The Azzurri were average against a very decent Montenegro but once they went 2-1 up after half an hour following a flukey deflection, you just knew they would end up winning 2-1. In fact, I had written my full match report at half time I was so sure of the outcome.
It may be seen as boring, but Italian club sides dominated Europe in the 1990s because of the cautious approach of these three old heads. Most losing sides wouldn’t care if players were running the ball towards the corner flag on 70 minutes if it meant they won.
Capello’s England have won four qualifying games out of four following the 3-1 win in Belarus. The players have been quick to credit Capello, with Rio Ferdinand saying previous regimes under Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren were like a “circus”.
Confident Capello doesn’t want to be the players’ friend like McClaren tried to be. The tactical technician is the headmaster and what he says, goes.
“In the first half sometimes it was Gerrard in the midfield and sometimes it was Rooney and sometimes it was Emile Heskey – they interchanged a lot. In the second half I fixed the positions of the players,” he said.
The emphasis here was definitely on the ‘I’.
PHOTO: Italy coach Marcello Lippi smokes a cigar as he inspects Larnaca’s stadium in Cyprus. Sept. 5, 2008. REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis