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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Euro 2012: Italy's Prandelli takes over as the Tinkerman

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There's an awful lot of things that make international football tournaments such compulsive viewing - far too many to list here. But for the committed football fan (aka tactics nerd) there's nothing to match the compulsive tinkering by coaches.

Claudio Ranieri hasn't coached at international level, which is probably just as well. Having four or five days between matches to come up with a plan to have his striker playing left back would push him over the edge.

But in the absence of the great 'Tinkerman' his colleague Cesare Prandelli stepped into the breach by sending out his Azzuri selection against world champions Spain with midfielder Daniele De Rossi in the centre of defence.

These events only happen in international tournaments. At club level coaches replace injured personnel with seasoned reserves and have a pattern of play that precludes sudden changes of formation. Prandelli could point to fitness problems for Andrea Barzaghli as reasoning for his decision but he still played two formidable Juventus centre-backs in Chiellini and Bonucci.

No, Prendelli obviously wanted to play with three centre-backs and two wing backs. So much so, that he also went with the uncapped Emanuele Giaccherini in the left wing back slot. That sort of selection is either genius or lunacy but it certainly makes for compelling matches.

But with a squad of only 23 players (and three keepers in that lot) international supremos can suddenly be overcome with an irresistible urge to move their playing resources around.

When Prandelli had his interview for the Italian hot seat he probably didn't mention that part of his game plan at the Euros would be to put a complete novice in the back line against the current world champions.

That is the joy of the big tournaments - managers making on-the-hoof decisions about how to negate the opposition and get the best from just 23 players. And as injuries and suspensions inevitably take their toll, all the other managers will be forced into the same adjustments. Prandelli just decided to start early.

Remarkably his experiment worked well - and it was matched by Vicente Del Bosque's own brainwave to send out Spain without a striker. This almost became the ultimate double bluff as De Rossi admitted that the absence of a Torres confused him.

In most big tournaments, teams that reach finals often have a hero who comes from nowhere or a player operating outside their comfort zone. It happens to Italy more often than most. In 1982 they had the 18 year old Giuseppe Bergomi in their 1982 World Cup Final line up and who can forget Salvatore Schillaci at Italia 90?

Cesare Prandelli has obviously grasped the essential point of tournament football. Coaches need to be at the top of their game as much as players and playing it safe rarely wins the ultimate prize. Bring on the Tinkerman. - Football News & Transfers

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Hugh Larkin



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