Six years ago when the Italian Serie A was rocked by one of the most controversial scandals in world football, the National Team fired on all cylinders to restore pride and honour and clinched their fourth FIFA World Cup trophy. Come 2012 and we’re back to square one! Not as widespread as the Calciopoli, but Italy is once again at the heart of a scandal – the Scommessopoli. Trouble seems to go hand in hand with the nation, but when it matters most, few can handle the pressure as well as the Italians.
Domestic issues aside, the Azzuri paved their way into the tournament courtesy of a superb qualifying campaign that saw them go undefeated, scoring 17 goals and conceding only two. While they have the quality to turn on the style, coach Cesare Prandelli goes for the classic Italian approach which sees his teams frustrate the opposition with concentrated and consolidated defending.
With Turin-based representatives of Juventus in Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci, and Roma’s Danielle De Rossi forming part of the defence, Prandelli may not be wrong in formulating a ‘backs to the wall’ performance that can cause even the best of players to pull their hair out. The architect in midfield, Andrea Pirlo will have to bring the form that saw him play a crucial role in claiming the ‘invincibli’ tag for the Old Lady in the domestic league campaign. His Juve team-mate Claudio Marchisio and Milan-bound Riccardo Montolivo provide quality in the middle of the park, and also help in keeping the unit composed, while handling defensive responsibilities as well.
Known as shrewd opponents, the Italians will go into the Euros with the same approach that has seen them atop world football on many a different occasion. To provide them with firepower upfront, the versatile Milan striker Antonio Cassano will partner the always entertaining Mario Balotelli, with the experienced legs of Antonio Di Natale providing a different dimension should Prandelli decide to field him. It will be interesting to watch if they can finish the Italian job, or the pressure that encapsulates Calcio will get to them. One thing, however, is for certain – Italy are the ‘Immovable Object’ of the tournament.