A constant experimentation of formations and rotation of players during friendlies and dead-rubber qualifiers is hurting the national side’s under-valued FIFA ranking which is always important for tournament seedings
Since the start of Cesare Prandelli’s regime at the helm of the Italian national football team, he has never backed-away or feared the prospect of not winning a game if it meant exposing youngsters or older players who had constantly been overlooked to gain experience at international football.
In friendly games especially, Prandelli has experimented with several different formations, new combinations to ensure all bases had been covered ahead of both the European Championships in 2012 and the Confederations Cup a year later. To his credit, Italy achieved podium finishes at both tournaments with the majority of the squad being together for only a few years after the debacle of the 2010 World Cup and the disaster of Marcelo Lippi’s second stint in-charge of the Azzurri, where he showed too much faith in the out-of-form and aging 2006 veterans ahead of those who had been in form going into the two tournaments he oversaw.
However, Prandelli may be going too far. As seen with the FIFA rankings which determined the groups at the World Cup, it may have come at a cost. Instead of being in the top seeds bracket of teams – where a four-time world champion should be – Italy were placed in the European pot, ending up in a group with Uruguay and England.
Italy could have ended up with the groups that Colombia or Belgium received. But they won’t.
The importance of the FIFA rankings in determining seedings in qualification and the actual tournaments themselves for both the European Championships and the World Cup are often vital and crucial to determining who can progress with a favourable draw. One looks at Germany and Argentina who are placed in the bottom-half of the World Cup draw and will avoid many of the other top sides who will be knocking each other out in the group stages in groups A,B, C and D and will continue to do so in the last-sixteen and quarter-finals to realize how vital the seedings and luck of the draw really are.
Whilst the bravery of any national team manager to try untested players and use different formations must be applauded and praised, especially with the wide net of player selections Prandelli has cast since taking over from Lippi, the need to win friendlies are vital and important.
Drawing games to Luxembourg, Nigeria, Armenia, Republic of Ireland when in truth Italy should be winning are hampering the team when the calculations of pots and seedings comes about.
Whilst friendlies effecting FIFA rankings might be as dubious as the performances in the Europa League having an effect of how many Champions League spots a league has, it is a reality one has to embrace and handle better for success at future tournaments.