Archive for June 10th, 2008

Post-Dutch Debacle: Roberto Donadoni Speaks

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

(From La Repubblica): Monday night’s 3-0 loss to the Netherlands was Italy’s worst defeat in an European Championship. Ever. Needless to say, the mood wasn’t exactly jovial in Tuesday morning’s press conference at the Azzurri training ground, and plenty of criticism was reserved for the big man in the dugout. Among the Don’s charges: bad tactical choices, underestimating the extent of Italy’s humiliation, inability to read the game, and inadequate fitness preparation for his players. With his usual calmness and politeness, Roberto Donadoni however defended his choices and declared not to be surprised at headlines calling for the return of Marcello Lippi. “I was expecting it“, said Donadoni. “I’m not foolish enough to think people would not have made the comparison. This defeat however does not alter my convictions“.

The main focus of the journalists’ questions this morning was targeted at the choice for Italy’s starting eleven, and the embarassing performance of a wide number of players (the backline in particular). “Based on Monday’s final result, one could say the formation was completely inappropriate, but there are no means to verify the alternative. In my view tactics weren’t the mistake. The mistake was not scoring with the chances we obtained and conceding on our defensive errors. Different players and tactics don’t guarantee you avoiding missed chances or making mistakes.” Regarding the two center-backs (the most heavily criticized part of the starting eleven), Donadoni backed up his initial choice. “I envy those telling me that during practice, they noticed Barzagli and Materazzi out of shape” said Donadoni sarcastically. “My choice was based on the current roster availability and the experience I have had with these players in the past 2 years. Did Barzagli always play poorly? I don’t think so, it may happen that he will play one match poorly, but this doesn’t cancel all of his previous performances“.

Other attacks toward Donadoni included his of the midfield trio (Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini), made up exclusively of AC Milan players aka the most disappointing team of the season, while the protagonists of one of AS Roma’s best seasons ever (De Rossi, Aquilani, Perrotta) were left on the bench. “If I reasoned that way” replied the Italian coach, “I should have left everyone from AC Milan at home. We are talking about quality players here. You are free to say that De Rossi, Chiellini, and Aquilani should have all played. However that’s a little over-simplistic“.

Despite defending his choices, Donadoni is open to making changes in the Azzurri’s next match. “Changing things” he says” is in the natural logic and order of things. We will have to evaluate the physical recuperation of the boys, something which will have to wait until tomorrow. Everyone went to sleep at 4am last night, and this doesn’t give us the opportunity of making a clear assessment.” As far as what changes lie ahead however, that’s still an open question. Truth be told, the Azzurri’s second half Monday was not as dramatic at the first, and many are wondering whether a tactical change involving Del Piero and Cassano supporting Toni would be an indicated solution. Perhaps coupled with the other “consoling factor” of Monday night’s performance, namely the utilization of Christian Panucci in lieu of an embarassing Marco Materazzi, and the confirmation of a super-fit Fabio Grosso on the left wing.

I was satisfied with the performance of our substitutes in the second half, and using those tactics against Romania, with Del Piero playing as a second striker just like he likes to do, could be the right choice” said Donadoni. “However, we must also take into consideration that at that point, Holland started focusing on defense in order to avoid taking risks, and that allowed us to push up more freely.” The Don declared that Italy’s formation could also change, perhaps to the 4-1-4-1 that has worked so well on other occasions: “We might use that formation, but there are plenty of other options. Playing with 4 midfielders leaves us the problem of finding someone to play the left-wing role, as we don’t have a specialist in the squad“. Indeed, the player which could probably fill those shoes best is Simone Perrotta, who is right-footed and plays more towards the center. Not the most ideal solution.

In other words, the Don was on the defensive but there were a few issues that, much like the Oranje on Monday, caught the Italian coach wrong-footed. For instance, the fact that on top of Holland deserving their victory, they also dominated the Azzurri in ball possession, passing accuracy, and shots on target. Or the fact that Gigi Buffon himself admitted this was “the national team’s worst match in the past 12 years”. “I won’t comment what Buffon declared to the press. He didn’t say that to me. Playing one match poorly happens, but this doesn’t cancel all past and previous performances. We lost 3-0, badly, and it might even have been our worst match in the past 2, 12, or 22 years. The only thing left to do now is to bow our heads down and start working, pick up and move forward to prevent it from happening again. We must archive this match and roll up our sleeves.”

Editor’s note: It is interesting to note that, just like every bit of news in general, declarations can often be subject to interpretation. I chose to present La Repubblica‘s report here because it is far more optimistic towards our future than… say La Gazzetta‘s (in English).

Below you can find bits of the press conference (in Italian).