Changing formation, finding motivation, and Italy-Ireland: Monday’s Euro 2012 B-Side

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Italy has faced Ireland three times since former Azzurri coach Giovanni Trapattoni took over the Republic. They’ve failed to beat them, drawing twice during World Cup qualifying before losing in Belgium last June. Italy’s not worse off for it, qualifying for South Africa without having to go through a playoff, but the results are reason for worry ahead of the team’s Monday Group C finale.

Trapattoni spent 23 years building his coaching legend in Serie A, his nine league titles a testament to his ability to manage and manage against Italian players. Yes, a lot has changed in world soccer since he left Fiorentina in 2000, but if there’s one place that’s willfully holding on to the last decade, it’s Italy.

With the national team, Cesare Prandelli is trying to change that. Italy played more of a possession game through qualifiers, though that’s changed in this tournament. Through two rounds, Italy’s looked little different than the teams they’re used to sending to major championships.

Monday’s their chance to regain their qualifying form. If they can’t – it they approach this game the same way they approached Spain and Croatia – Trapattoni will have them right where he wants them.

Game starts at 2:45 p.m. If Italy wins, the only way they don’t go through is if Spain and Croatia play to a multi-goal draw. If Italy don’t win, their tournament’s over.

Here’s your playlist:

Side 2: Italy vs. Ireland

5. Re-change

Italy shifted to a 3-5-2 formation ahead of their opening match and stayed with it against Croatia. Now that defender Andrea Barzagli is back from injury, Cesare Prandelli’s ready to return to a back four. That will push Giorgio Chiellini to left back, Daniele de Rossi into midfield, and Italy back into a 4-4-2.

The most interesting implication of the switch will be the positioning of Thiago Motta. The former Brazil international is likely to be deployed at Prandelli’s most advanced midfielder – in a role you might call a trequartista if there was anything creative about Motta’s play. He may be positioned at the three-quarter point of the formation, but he’s unlikely to make anybody forget Alessandro Del Piero.

Against Ireland, it’s a plus just to have another player in an advanced position. It’s less certain whether the approach is viable beyond group stage.

6. Time you were gone

If Mario Balotelli loses his confidence, he loses everything. Given how Balotelli took his chances against Spain and Croatia, it seems everything’s gone. The man’s playing like he is first priority is not screwing up. He’s over-thinking, turning off the natural instincts we see when he plays for Manchester City, and predictably screwing up.

source:  Prandelli’s ready to move on, making the move most would have made a while ago: putting Antonio Di Natale in the starting XI. It’s a decision that may have significant consequences. It’s hard to imagine Balotelli being a viable contributor off the bench, part of the reason why Prandelli might have held off for so long. Moving Balotelli out of the starting XI might make Italy’s most talented player useless for the rest of the tournament.

7. Find a way to go on

Ireland was the first team eliminated from the tournament, and having giving up seven goals in two games (as many as they gave up throughout qualifying), the team may be done. It’s one thing to be eliminated. It’s another thing to be humiliated.

There’s a pride that keeps you from completely turning off (even if they try, most athletes find it’s easier to play than completely tune uot), but that’s different than trying to win. With no chance to advance, the Irish may not be up for a fight.

If they come to play, Ireland could get a result. The teams’ recent history attests to that, though it’s unclear how much trouble Prandelli will have with Ireland’s tactics. Under Marcello Lippi, Italy had problems because Trapattoni forced the Azzurri to take the initiative. Under Prandelli, Italy isn’t so reticent to do so.

Still, Italy lacks the speed or passing game to manage Ireland as easily as Spain did. And they don’t have the aerial threats Croatia used to win last Sunday.

They will have a ton of possession and 90 minutes to find a solution, but if Ireland comes to play, those 90 minutes could fly by.

8. Patience is our virtue

Italy may be more used to playing with the ball. That doesn’t mean they’re good at it. They easily won their qualifying group, posting a +18 goal difference, but it’s an accomplishment that’s looking less impressive by the minute. The second place team in the group, Estonia, was demolished in their playoff by Ireland.

Ireland’s best hope is to wait Italy out. Force Antonio Cassano to try to create something, and when that doesn’t work, press for advantages when Italy has to push for a win.

If Ireland can pull off an upset, they finish third in their group. That may not sound like much, but considering what little Ireland has had to hold on to throughout the tournament, besting Italy is more than a silver lining.


ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Manchester United triggers Bailly contract extension

Manchester United triggers Bailly contract extension
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Manchester United has picked up a two-year option on Eric Bailly‘s contract.

The Red Devils now have the giant 25-year-old center back under wraps through the 2021/22 season.

Bailly is nearing full fitness after his latest injury setback, knee and ankle injuries costing him dozens of matches since arriving from Villarreal in 2016. He underwent knee surgery in late July.

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There’s little reason for United not to pick up the option, as Bailly could’ve left for free in the summer and the extension allows for a possible transfer fee.

That said, Bailly has been very good with healthy and in-form, especially in an exceptional debut season at Old Trafford. He has 34 caps for the Ivory Coast, and is nearing the prime age for a center back.

United visits Liverpool at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday, and Bailly is not expected to play.

The center back may get a chance to get to know Bruno Fernandes, who is being tipped for a $77 million transfer. He likely won’t see Ashley Young, who’s arrived in Milan ahead of a transfer to Inter.

Report: Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United after Lisbon Derby

Manchester United lands Bruno Fernandes
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Bruno Fernandes may get his move.

The 25-year-old Sporting Lisbon midfielder wants a move to Manchester United, and Sky Sports is reporting that the two clubs are close to agreeing on a fee.

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The move will cost $56 million and could escalate to $77 million with incentives, and that it could happen as soon as the end of Friday’s derby between Sporting and Benfica.

From Sky Sports:

Part of the negotiations over a deal for Fernandes included Manchester United not wanting him to play in Friday’s game but the player and Sporting insist that he was going to play in order to say a proper goodbye to the club and the supporters.

United will be crossing its fingers over Fernandes’ health during the 4:15 p.m. ET kickoff is Lisbon.

Sporting is already 12 points off the Champions League places, and 16 off Benfica’s title pace.

Fernandes has been red hot for Sporting, notching 15 goals and 13 assists in 25 appearances, including five and three in five Europa League outings.

He scored 32 times with 18 assists in 2018/19, and could take United’s Top Four push to a whole new level.

Liverpool’s Klopp rips AFCON move, says FIFA needs to step in but won’t

Liverpool's Klopp rips AFCON move
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Jurgen Klopp is furious about Cameroon moving the Africa Cup of Nations to January 2021, something that would hinder the Reds’ likely title defense.

(No, Klopp is not counting his title chickens before they hatch, even if it’s a foregone conclusion).

Cameroon moved the tournament from summer to winter due to its climate, which seems like a decision that could’ve been made ages ago. The nation had hosting rights stripped away for the 2019 tournament, but will host in 2021.

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The Reds could be without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita for the better part of a month should Senegal, Guinea, and Egypt all qualify for the tournament. Joel Matip could be there with hosts Cameroon if the federation is successful in convincing him to return to the international fold.

Klopp went on a lengthy and mostly understandable diatribe against the move. We write mostly because there’s something lost in translation regarding the import of the tournament.

He’s upset at how it will tax his squad and how he keeps the players happy if he needs to add players just to deal with one month of the schedule.

“Do we really want to open this book? I couldn’t respect Africa Cup of Nations more than I do, I like it, I’ve watched it a lot. Difficult circumstances a lot of times,” Klopp said, via The Liverpool Echo. “It is another tournament, there are too many of them. Other thing is it doesn’t help African players. We won’t sell Naby, Mo or Sadio because of it but if we bring someone in, it affects the decision. Normal process. We have to think about that. Players aren’t asked. … FIFA, who should [step in] doesn’t look like being involved. It’s a strange situation. If we want lesser games they will say take less money. I will say, I am ready to do so. Yes.”

He continued.

“For us it’s a catastrophe, If we say (a player) can’t go, he’s suspended. How can the club who pay his salary not decide. If he’s injured and we say he cannot play for us, we have to send him to Africa so they can have a look. We don’t have any say. We just plan the route. These are all things that should not be like this. I speak about it now and no one will listen. The moaner from Liverpool again. It’s a complete waste of time. As long as nothing changes, I will keep saying it. It’s about the players, not me.”

Manchester City (Riyad Mahrez), Arsenal (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), and Leicester City (Wilfried Ndidi) are among the many clubs who could lose stars for a month.

Premier League tells referees to view replays for red cards

Premier League tells referees to view replays for red cards
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LONDON (AP) The Premier League has advised its referees to use sideline monitors to make a final ruling on red card decisions.

Through 22 rounds of the first Premier League season with video review, referees have not gone over to the screens at any point to watch replays after being told to use them sparingly. Instead, referees have been relying on feedback from the video assistant referee in a London control room.

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But officials were reminded at a meeting of Premier League referees this week that they should go over to what is known as the “referee review area” when VAR suggests upgrading a yellow card to a red or downgrading a red to a yellow.

It has been a more familiar sight at games in other European competitions, like the Champions League, to see referees watching replays in the stadium.

More AP soccer: and