Italy World Cup PreviewPosted: Monday May 27, 2002 7:30 PM
How they line up
Even if Giovanni Trapattoni's reputation as a "defensive" coach is neither accurate nor fair, even he admits that his side build on their strengths at the back.
In principle, Trapattoni's Italy will line up in a 3-4-1-2 formation. In an ideal, injury-free World Cup, that means Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini as the defensive anchor. In front of them, there will probably be Gigi Di Biagio in central midfield, partnered by either Damiano Tommasi or Cristiano Zanetti, with Gianluca Zambrotta and either Francesco Coco or Christian Panucci on the midfield flanks.
Acting as the attacking fulcrum will be Francesco Totti, playing behind a front pairing of Christian Vieri and either Vincenzo Montella or Alessandro Del Piero or Filippo Inzaghi.
Trapattoni is the first to concede that his module could change, depending on the opposition. He could opt to strengthen the midfield by bringing in a gritty ball-winner like Gennaro Gattuso and asking Totti to move forward and play as the second striker alongside Vieri. Alternatively, he could strengthen his defense by bringing in a central marker like Mark Iuliano and then moving Maldini forward to a left-sided, defensive midfield role.
Whichever module Trapattoni chooses, the basic style will not change much. Italy will take a cautious approach, hoping their solid defense can soak up much pressure, that their technical skill enables them to hold on to possession and that occasional flashes of inspiration from Totti, Del Piero, Vieri, Montella et al will do the rest.
When it comes to substitutes, Italy seem well-placed. If anything happens to first-choice keeper Gigi Buffon, there is a ready-made world-class replacement in Francesco Toldo. Likewise, if Nesta's recent loss of form with Lazio were to prove something more than a passing moment in an unhappy club season, then Inter's Marco Materazzi could prove a very useful stand-in. Panucci's versatility means he could well feature at full-back, in central defence or on a midfield flank in different games.
Coco provides cover for Paolo Maldini, while either Massimo Ambrosini or Alessio Tacchinardi can step into central midfield. As for Totti, Trapattoni has already explained that Cristiano Doni travels to Japan essentially, but not exclusively, as a stand-in for the Roma captain. Stefano Fiore can also be used in a playmaking or attacking midfield role.
Up front, too, Trapattoni appears to have an enviable range of options. Marco Delvecchio is the obvious stand-in for Vieri, while perhaps the most keenly contested place in the entire team will be the three-way battle between Del Piero, Montella and Inzaghi for the role of partner to Vieri. A good case can be made for any one of the three, though we suspect Trapattoni will probably plump, initially at least, for Del Piero.
These, however, are problems of abundance that other coaches probably wish they had, too.
From World Soccer magazine.