Is this Italy team washed up?
It is a question that would have seemed absurd heading into the European Championships, but a fair one after watching the Italians drag through Monday’s 3-0 loss to the Netherlands. Yes, a few calls and bounces going the other way might have made it a different game, but the Dutch dominated from start to finish, leaving plenty of questions about The ‘Azzurri’.
First and foremost, is it time for major midfield changes? When the AC Milan trio of Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso and Massimo Ambrosini took the field I’m sure some non-Milan fans asked why the entire midfield of a team that couldn’t qualify for the Champions League was guiding Italy. Fair point indeed. Robert Donadoni will have some tough decisions to make before Italy’s second match against Romania. Can he break up that Milan trio and start Alessandro Del Piero and Daniele De Rossi? I don’t think too many people will criticize him if he does.
What about the back-line? When a team gives up three goals you tend to look at the defense, but I’m not sure the back-line was as bad as the midfield. Consider the three Dutch goals. The first came on a freaky play where Christian Panucci was on the ground out of bounds, playing Ruud van Nistelrooy onside while his teammates thought Ruud was offside. The second goal was a defensive breakdown, but the third goal came directly on a late-game counterattack after the Italians had already switched to a three-man defense.
In other words, the defense wasn’t the issue (though I wonder if Marco Materazzi will be fit for Romania). The issue was a midfield that just couldn’t match the Dutch team’s energy, creativity and ability to hold on to the ball. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t think the Dutch had defensive midfielders who could protect that shaky Dutch defense, but Nigel de Jong and Orlando Engelaar did an amazing job shutting down Pirlo and Co.
What do you think? Can Italy regroup and survive Group C? Is it too late? Is Italy just too old to survive this brutal group? Share your thoughts below.