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Saturday, 8 June, 2002, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK

Italy lacking midfield drive

By Paul Elliott
BBC World Cup pundit

Italy need more creative thrust from midfield if they are to win the World Cup.

Certainly defensively they are very strong and have an excellent goalkeeper in Gianluigi Buffon.

They also have one of the world's top coaches in the tremendously experienced Giovanni Trapattoni.

What I like about Trapattoni is the fact he is friendly and approachable - a stark contract to the traditional ultra-serious approach associated with Italy's national team.

Trapattoni has brought a smile into the dressing room and has an excellent relationship with the press.

But at the moment they are a little bit too functional in midfield.

Luigi di Bagio and Damiano Tommasi are excellent players but the team needs more creative ability on the ball to support the front men and increase the pressure on the opposition defence.

I think they should play a 3-4-1-2 formation - with Christian Vieri and Filippo Inzaghi up front and Totti in the hole just behind the strikers.

We know all about Vieri but Inzaghi is quality as well.

He has tremendous instinct inside the box and with Totti roaming behind them - and linking up play - I can see them giving teams a lot more problems.

I would also like to see them work the ball into wide areas and get dangerous crosses into the box.

We saw against Croatia how clinical Vieri is when he receives service from out wide.

And I think that if Italy are to win at the very highest level - which the World Cup is - they are going to need to show more improvised play of this kind in the last third.

They should be able to do this as the tournament progresses.

For a long time there has always been an ultra- defensive culture in Serie A - but the number of goals scored last season it was spectacular.

Positive mentality

The mentality has changed somewhat since I played in Serie A - teams are playing with a more offensive attitude than ever before.

At the moment the national team aren't quite doing this - but they have the players to do so.

A good illustration of this was the match against Croatia.

Italy led 1-0 but did not really go in search of a killer second goal.

Against an ageing side they could have stretched Croatia, finished them off and sent out a positive signal of intent.

Their failure to do so was ultimately punished - and they now a positive result against Mexico.

The Central Americans are a decent side with Luis Hernandez and Cuauhtemoc Blanco - who has good technical ability - posing problems in attack and the Italians will have to guard against any lapses of concentration at the back.

But I am confident Italy will win that game and grow stronger as the tournament progresses.


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