Italy Held To A Disappointing Draw
Italy was playing against Switzerland in a playoff for the top spot in the group and with that came automatic qualification to the 2022 World Cup. I remember the first time I heard of Switzerland and found out that they were no pushovers in the qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup. We drew 2–2 and lost 0–1 at that time but qualified top of the group. Fast forward to 2021 and we beat them well in Euro 2020. We drew 0–0 in Switzerland, missing a penalty. After the result in Euro 2020, I was confident that we could win and seal the deal but that wasn’t the case.
Sluggish Start, Lacking Intensity In The Final Third
We were held to another draw. Since beating Belgium in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals, we have drawn four matches over 90 minutes, lost once and only won twice. We were not at our best and were sluggish from the start. Our control of midfield and possession has been a key feature of this new-look Italy and that was what was lacking in the game. We kept misplacing passes and our passes were getting intercepted. There was no intensity in our attacking play as we kept a lot of possession without creating too many chances. Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Insigne were subdued; Insigne was responsible for our equalizer with a great piece of thinking on the set-piece while Chiesa had an effort saved and another that was blazed over from a better position than the first.
The Number 9 Conundrum
Italy has struggled to find the back of the net with more regularity due to the absence of an elite Number 9. Ciro Immobile has struggled to replicate his Lazio form and was injured for this round of fixtures as he was for the last one. Andrea Belotti worked hard to try and chase down opposition defenders but offered very little otherwise. He was also just returning from a long spell out and was short of form and match fitness. Giacomo Raspadori and Gianluca Scamacca are still young and need to play more matches from the start to be considered more regularly as starters. Moise Kean is another contender that needs to play more often and find form but was missing again due to injury.
Midfielders Off Pace
We looked better in attack when Domenico Berardi came on and we played with a False Nine. In midfield, Manuel Locatelli looked off the pace and this could be a result of the situation he finds himself in at his new club. Nicolo Barella was also not his usual self for Inter but that could be due to an injury that he still has. Sandro Tonali came on for Locatelli and immediately made an impact. Cristante came on for Barella and he too did well.
Jorginho was tidy in possession as usual but didn’t make much of an impact in the offensive half as his passes went sideways and backwards more often than forward. He missed the penalty in the corresponding fixture which turned out to be crucial as it denied Italy three points. Italy got a late penalty and I thought this was the time for him to redeem himself for that miss; time to prove that was just a blip. Instead, I was left disappointed when he blazed his penalty over. This is his third consecutive penalty miss for Italy. He was left devastated with his miss, and we nearly conceded a second after Gianluigi Donnarumma made a mistake in possession.
High Pressure In Belfast
The pressure will now be high in Belfast when we play against Northern Ireland, who will make it difficult for us with a physical game. We don’t only need to win but win and maintain the current goal difference. It would be great if we can get a helping hand from Bulgaria in their match against Switzerland but that is secondary as we need to focus on ourselves first. There is no doubt that the dark clouds of 2017 are gathering over our heads as we face the real possibility of going through the playoffs route again. Roberto Mancini has to work on the team mentally and emotionally as well as their physical recovery in the coming days to ensure that is not repeated.