Well that kinda sucked all around, didn't it?
Cesare Prandelli put out a strangely set up Italy side, electing to field an extremely narrow 4-4-2 in order to give starts to each of Riccardo Montolivo, Claudio Marchisio, Thiago Motta, and Marco Verratti. Normally that might not cause much concern, but against an Ireland side that was sure to pack midfield and look to counter down the wings, it was an odd decision and one that looked sure to make for a dull affair.
That's exactly what Italy got, with the Azzurri rarely able to generate good chances thanks to a lack of space and creativity in midfield. Verratti played well and put in good passes, but was played so deep for most of his time on the pitch that space in the areas he was putting balls into was at a premium. Giuseppe Rossi did his best to be a creative spark in more advanced areas, but a lack of much support left him hanging out to dry too often. When chances did come up, the mostly fell at the feet of Ciro Immobile, who routinely fluffed them up with heavy first touches and poor finishing.
Where they really struggled, though, was when Ireland got the ball back and launched forward on the counter. Aiden McGeady and Wes Hoolahan were able to get forward almost unchallenged with regularity, as Mattia de Sciglio and Thiago Motta struggled mightily in containing the Irish pair all day long. With struggles from Gabriel Paletta and at time Leonardo Bonucci as well, it made for a long day for Salvatore Sirigu in goal, but Italy's number two goalkeeper was well up to the challenge, putting in a number of quality saves through the match.
Things were made worse for Italy thanks to injuries, with Riccardo Montolivo going down with a broken leg and his replacement, Alberto Aquilani, lasting only twenty minutes thanks to a concussion. Marco Parolo came on for Aquilani and put in a pretty good shift, potentially going from being on the outside looking in to being on the bubble when it comes to the final roster cutdown.
Speaking of that cutdown, today's selection choices don't make things look good for Napoli's two representatives on the provisional roster. Neither Lorenzo Insigne nor Christian Maggio took any part in today's match outside of watching on from the bench at Craven Cottage, with their direct rivals for roster spots (Alessio Cerci and Ignazaio Abate, respectively) getting the nod as late subs instead.
After talk in recent days of both players being on the bubble, that's bad news for Napoli fans hoping to have extra reason to cheer on the Italian squad in Brazil during the World Cup. Both had their chances further shortened by strong performances from Rossi and Matteo Darmian, though concerns over fitness (Rossi) and experience (Darmian) could pave the way for Insigne and Maggio to pip some of the last roster spots available.
With the official 23 man roster deadline coming up on Monday, it's expected that Prandelli will announce his squad tomorrow now that he's had today's match to evaluate his options. In the meantime, let's cross our fingers for Napoli's players to get good news, and wish for speedy recoveries for Montolivo and Aquilani.