Hey, Cesare Prandelli? We need to have a conversation.
Costa Rica shocked everyone last week when they beat Uruguay, but they did it playing the way they always do: staying compressed in defense and midfield, and hoping for a moment of magic or two from Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz. It was as obvious as day that they would play that way against Italy, because that's how they always play. Their formation might vary a little bit from match to match, but the tactic is always the same.
So with that in mind, you were obviously planning to take the match to them early, right? Two strikers if not a full-on 4-3-3, taking advantage of Italy's advantages in speed and technical skill? A central midfield of Andrea Pirlo, Danielle De Rossi, and Claudio Marchisio supporting a front line of Mario Balotelli and, say, Lorenzo Insigne and Alessio Cerci could have played merry hell with Costa Rica's setup early on, getting an early goal and forcing the CONCACAF side to come out of their shell to chase and equalizer, opening them up for further attacks.
Seems reasonable right? Well, apparently not to you. No, instead you went with the same weird one-striker-diamond formation as against England, except you replaced a moderately-effective Marco Verratti (who's long passing might have been helpful this time) with a totally-inept Thiago Motta. You set the squad up to sit back and let Costa Rica come to you, hoping to force them in to mistakes and punish them on the counter. That worked a treat against England, but a side like Costa Rica won't commit hard enough or leave enough space at the back for that to be effective.
And guess what? It wasn't.
Antonio Candreva was so poor that Costa Rica just ignored him after awhile, focusing their efforts on blocking Balotelli's space and marking out Pirlo, both of which they did with aplomb. That left Italy broken and disjointed, relying on Marchisio and Motta to try and break their opponents down, which predictably failed miserably.
The response was to throw on Antonio Cassano for Motta, which seemed like a decent idea at the time. Then Cassano turned the ball over. Then he turned it over again. Then he turned over again. Then he turned it over again. And again. And again. And again. Again. Again. Again.
Napoli fans greeted the introduction of Lorenzo Insigne with excitement... but then he barely got any decent service and was constantly offside just like the rest of Italy's attack. Ditto Cerci when he replaced Marchisio.
On a whole, it was a terrible performance, and we haven't even touched on the defensive deficiencies that lead to Bryan Ruiz's goal. Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli had a terrible match, especially Chiellini. Frankly, the only good performer Italy had on the night was Giuanluigi Buffon, and the next best, Matteo Darmian, was only decent.
If Italy want to make it out of the group, they need to get at least a draw against Uruguay. They'll have to play markedly better than today in order to achieve that, and right now that seems like a fingers-crossed proposition at best. Do better, Italy.