Despite National Team Woes, The Future’s Bright for Italian Football

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The dust has barely settled on the Italian national team’s disastrous World Cup campaign and the obituaries are still being written. But there is no doubt that Gian Piero Ventura’s spell in charge of the Azzurri will be long remembered as one of the darkest moments in Italian football history.

Not since 1958 had the Azzurri failed to qualify for the sport’s elite competition and, to put things in context, that team was still recovering from the 1949 Superga air disaster involving Torino FC (who had just won four-straight league titles) that robbed them of 10 first-team players. Such was the impact at the time that, as well as missing out in 1958, they also failed to advance beyond the first round of the 1950, 1954, and 1962 World Cup Finals and did not take part in the first edition of the European Championships in 1960. However, there were no such mitigating circumstances for the 2017 debacle. Continue reading

PJACA SET FOR PREMIER LEAGUE

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Marko Pjaca is set to join the English Premier League football clubs according to Dynamo Zagreb sporting director Marko Vukelic. Italian news source Gazetta dello Sport recently claimed that Liverpool were keen on landing the talented player this summer but reports now claim Italian sides Inter Milan, AC Milan and even Fiorentina are also interested in acquiring the services of the 21-year old player.

Pjaca went on Facebook to slam reports that he would be joining Inter Milan anytime soon. “After numerous media articles about my ‘already scheduled move to inter,’ I just want to say that’s not true. After a few days on vacation, I’ll return with my team mates and prepare with Dynamo Zagreb,” the player wrote.

Surprisingly, the sporting director of his club now opens up on the move claiming the Premier League are set to land the player not the Italian sides, even though some hardcore Inter fans had bought tickets to their next home game through this website in an attempt to see Mjaca play firsthand.

Vukelic told FC Inter News: “the boy has been very clear through his Facebook profile that there has been no agreement with inter and he is still a player for Dynamo Zagreb.” The director added that the player was on vacation but that he would be available later.

The player who scored eight goals in all competitions for Dynamo Zagreb in all competition has been coy on his future as interests pour in but the club’s sporting director added that: “I can say that his future could be in the Premier League. The English League is in pole position to buy him.”

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Liverpool is set to sell Christian Benteke to Crystal Palace of they meet their transfer fee. Divock Origi is also set to leave amongst a few other players, as Coach Jurgen Klopp restructures his team for greater success after reaching two finals last season. It is still unknown if he would sign Pjaca as the report claims.

What are Italy’s Chances at Euro 2016?

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When it comes to potential winners of this summer’s European Championships there are probably few who think that Italy have a good chance of taking home the trophy. Although sides will be wary of coming up against the Azzurri it is unlikely that they have the depth and individual brilliance to be victorious.

They will go into the tournament in France as an outside bet to win at best. But is there any way they could cause what would be regarded as an upset? And who are the players who really need to perform this summer? Continue reading

Italy could be the real darkhorses

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Italy will travel to Euro 2016 this summer among the darkhorses to go all the way, and although it is a position that belies the Azzurri’s rich tradition of being a dominant force on the international stage, it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Antonio Conte and his team.

The former Juventus manager, who is poised to step down at the end of the tournament to take over the reins at Chelsea, will view the upcoming European Championship as a great opportunity to prove that Italian football is on the rise once again following a decade in which England, Spain and Germany have led the way in terms of domestic league profile, spending power and success in European competitions. Conte is likely to opt for a combination of youth and experience at Euro 2016, although the Italian FA’s decision to follow Germany’s lead in placing considerable investment into youth systems across the country will reap considerable dividends for the future of Italian football at domestic and international level.

Although it will be down to a new manager to guide future generations of star players who pull on the famous Azzurri shirt, Conte will hope to bow out from international management with his head held high following a strong campaign that not only sets himself up well for the challenges that lay ahead in the Premier League, but also puts Italy back on the map following the hugely disappointing 2014 World Cup campaign which ended at the group stage following defeats against Uruguay and Costa Rica.

Italy have earned a staunch reputation for being one of the most difficult sides on the international stage to break down, with the defensive resilience and willingness to put bodies on the line for the cause a hallmark of what Italy have been all about over the years. This quality will certainly have to come to the fore after the draw was rather unkind to Conte, putting Italy in a potential “group of death” alongside Belgium, Ireland and Sweden.

It may explain why Bookies.com have installed Italy among the darkhorses for Euro 2016 rather than being one of the strong favourites, and with expectancy levels being lower than in previous years, it may allow the players to express themselves more without the pressure to succeed weighing on their shoulders. Lorenzo Insigne and Stephan El Shaarawy are two players in particular who have the ability and skill to make a real impact that Italy need in the final third, and if they are allowed to play with no fear, then both of Conte’s young stars could make a real name for themselves.

Writing off one of just three teams who came through their qualifying campaign without losing a single game (England and Austria being the others) would be rather unwise, particularly given Italy’s ability to deliver big performances during major tournaments. However, Conte will be under no illusions as to the difficult nature of the group that lies ahead for his team, particularly with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eden Hazard and Shane Long standing out as real threats to Italy’s chances of progressing from Group E. Using the disappointment of 2014 may be the motivation that Italy need to not only avoid making the same mistakes, but also come back even stronger and provide the foundations for future generations to take the national team forward.

This summer may prove to be the final European Championship swansong for Gianluigi Buffon who has been a wonderful servant for the Azzurri over the years. Very few would begrudge the 38-year-old of the opportunity to go all the way at Euro 2016 – an achievement which may present good value through a Paddy Power free bets offer that is covered on Bookies.com’s review – with Buffon likely to play a key role in France. He could be part of an all-Juventus rearguard if Conte stays true to his preference for three centre-backs, with Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli all in contention to start in their opening fixture against Belgium. They form the defensive framework which epitomises the hard work and organisation qualities that Italy must maintain throughout Euro 2016 if they are to have a chance of reaching the latter stages.

The big question marks that hangs over Italy is whether the vast experience and nous at the back can be match by the required flair and combative qualities further upfield, with Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti likely to be hugely missed at the heart of midfield. Antonio Candreva and El Shaarawy certainly bring a touch of flair and creativity, but although Conte will be pleased at the recent form of Insigne, his other options upfront (Eder, Pelle and Zaza) have endured limited time on the pitch this season.

Some would argue that Italy have lacked firepower upfront since the days of Roberto Baggio, Filippo Inzaghi and Christian Vieri, and although the likes of Domenico Berrardi and Sebastian Giovinco have been mentioned as players who could make a late push for a place in Conte’s 23-man squad, the Azzurri could go into Euro 2016 without a proven goal-scoring striker. It may come down to organisation, determination and discipline that are hallmarks of any Conte team to carry Italy forward this summer, and if the more advanced players can find a spark to compliment a rock-steady defence, then there is every chance that Italy could make a bigger impact than some may expect.

Italy boss set to join Chelsea as manager

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The current Italy head coach, Antonio Conte is set to be announced as the next Chelsea manager. He will be the successor to Guus Hiddink, who will stay until the end of the current season.

Hiddink replaced Jose Mourinho, who was sacked by the Chelsea board earlier this season because of poor performance.
Antonio Conte has declared that it is an honor to be managing a club like Chelsea especially after having been able to lead his own country’s national team. Continue reading

Juventus on course for record season

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Serie A leaders Juventus are on course to make history in Italy this season, provided they can keep their run of wins going for a few more games.

The reigning Italian champions brought their consecutive winning streak to 15 games with a 1-0 victory over Napoli recently. Simone Zaza’s goal ensured they picked up maximum points once again in a game against their title rivals, a win which allowed them to leapfrog Napoli to the top of the Serie A standings.

Juventus will now have Inter Milan’s record of 17 consecutive wins in their sights. Inter set that mark during the 2006-2007 season. Their run began early in the campaign in October when they defeated Livorno comfortably 4-1. It then stretched all the way through to late February when they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Udinese.

This latest stretch by Juventus is the fifth time in the club’s history that they have embarked on a winning consecutive run of 10 games or more. They first did so during the 1931-32 season, and have achieved the feat four more times since 2013.

The 2015/16 season did not start very well for Juventus under manager Massimiliano Allegri. They failed to win any of their opening three games, with defeats coming against Udinese and Roma in week one and two, respectively.

In September, Juventus lost further ground on the league leaders as they dropped points against Chievo, Frosinone and Napoli as their slow start to the campaign continued. Their poor run of form meant they had dropped all the way down to the bottom half of the standings, a position they are not used to being in.

After losing on the road to Sassuolo on October 28, Allegri was starting to come under pressure for his job. Large sections of the Juventus crowd were running out of patience with the 48-year old as the Old Lady looked to be losing their grip on their title. That pressure would have been further intensified if Juan Cuadrado had not scored the winner in the 93rd minute in Juve’s 2-1 win at home to Torino in their very next game. That victory began their 15 game winning streak, a run which has allowed them to climb back to the top of the table in Italy.

The league championship now looks to be a two horse race between Juventus and Napoli as the pair are nine points clear of third placed Roma. Although Juve have stolen all the headlines recently for their consecutive winning run, Napoli have had a fantastic campaign themselves as they have only lost three times in Serie A, with one of those losses coming recently against the defending champions.

Juventus are 8-15 in the latest Serie A odds as they bid for their fifth league championship on the spin. The Old Lady also have a two-legged last 16 Champions League tie with Bayern Munich to contend with in the near future, while they look set to reach the final of Coppa Italia as they beat Inter 3-0 in the first-leg of their semi-final clash.