It may have only been a friendly but there were some key points that need to be raised after last night’s game.
Antonio Conte named a relatively inexperienced side last night with only 2 players in the starting 11 taking part in the world cup game between the two nations in last years world cup. Here are some of the key points from last nights game.
Style of play: It was clear to see from the off how Italy planned to approach this game. 3-5-2, sit back, absorb pressure and break quickly. Very Italian. They moved the ball from back to front quickly, using Graziano Pelle to hold up the ball and bring others into play. Though it was the use of the wing backs, especially Mateo Darmian, who troubled England most. Darmian constantly found space down the left hand side ( England’s right) and cuased young full back Clyne a lot of problems. Florenzi did not have quite the same joy down the right flank but Italy’s tactic for the most part worked well. Eder and Pelle combined well upfront whilst Eder was unforunate not to score, Pelle’s neat flick from Chiellini’s cross just before the half hour mark was just what Italy deserved from a good first half performance.
Defending: Italy’s love life with defending is well documented, and last nights defensive performance was no different. They anticipated and picked off sloppy and weak passes by England which allowed them to counter attack their opponents frequently throughout the match. The team defended very deep all game which frustrated England as they tried to force openings, but Italy were clever about their play. Allowing England’s center halves to bring the ball up the field time and time again and then just waiting for a loose pass or a bad touch to counter. Ranocchia was a rock at the heart of the Italian defense winning 100% of his aerial duels, and Bonucci and Chiellini also made sure to keep the likes of Rooney and the inform Kane at bay.
It was a tactic that worked throughout the first half and for the majority of the second, until England changed their game plan.
The second half saw Italy under the cosh with England starting and finishing the half brightest.
Squad depth: If one thing was very obvious from last nights game is that the Italy squad selected lacked depth. Looking at how much the changes England made impacted the second half you have to feel that Italy did not have the same firepower from the bench. Barkley’s powerful run through the midfield left 3 Italian players struggling behind him, whereas the changes made by Conte seemed to hinder the Italians. Immobile’s introduction for Pelle was understandable, but meant Italy lost the tactic that served them so well in the first half. The ball wasn’t being held upfront enough and this just saw Vazquez ( who came on for Eder) drop deeper and deeper all game to combat the English advances. England began to drag Italy around the pitch creating numerous chances, Kane testing Buffon from distance, Rooney forcing two smart stops from the Italian keeper too. Italy could not cope with the pace and direct running that the England substitutes offered up and the gulf in squad depth was obvious. Moretti for Chiellini and Antonelli for Darmian. The depth in both squads was clear to see and these changes underlined that.
Taking chances: It shouldn’t needed to be said at international level but you have to take your chances, and Italy did not. They could and probably should have scored a second, when Eder’s shot was brilliantly saved by Hart, but the clearance was scooped back to Pelle, who hit his shot wide. Poor. Italy created more chances Vazquez just seconds after coming on teed up Immobile chesting the ball down into the strikers path, though inexplicably Immobile opted to take a touch instead of hitting it first time, which led to him loosing the ball. Numerous half chances were created, Antonelli burst forward only to drag his shot wide when he really should have hit the target. In the end Italy ran out of steam.
In the end a draw was a fair result, Buffon coming to Italy’s rescue more than once near the end of the match. A friendly match it was, but the future looks bright for both teams and it will be interesting to see how these teams fare in the upcoming games.