Following the disappointing exit from the 2014 Brazil World Cup in the group stage, former Italian National Team coach Cesare Prandelli resigned as speculation mounted on who would take over from there. We now know, and it appears that Antonio Conte will be the new man in charge.
While Juventus fans are disappointed to see Conte go (as well as the appointment of Massimiliano Allegri), Italians in general will be pretty pleased with this appointment for the Italy National Team.
Antonio Conte has famously won the Scudetto 5 times as a player, and 3 times as a manager, for an incredible total of 8 Serie A titles. All were won with his beloved club, Juventus, and many consider Conte to go down as a Juve legend.
There is definitely some merit in hiring Conte as the new coach of the Azzuri and his contract will run for 2 years, between now and 2016. He will no doubt get a chance to prove himself at the 2016 edition of the Euros, and it will be intriguing to speculate the types of players he will call upon to grace the national team. Additionally, depending on his success in that competition, he could be signed for another two or three years enabling him to take Italy into the 2018 World Cup in Russia, assuming they pass qualifying, of course.
Traditionally, Conte prefers to utilize formations with two strikers, typically a 3-5-2. Whether he will continue to play this way obviously remains to be seen, but considering the recent trend in the World Cup toward 5-3-2 and 3-2-2-1-2, which are cousins of the 3-5-2 system, it is likely he will stay the course and stick to his preferred style of play. However, as mentioned before, it will also depend on the types of players available in the national team pool for Italy. Many of the “Old Guard”, including Andrea Pirlo, could potentially be retiring by the time the Euros being in 2016.
It will be a time of excitement and uncertainty during Conte’s reign, as Italy will be looking for new blood to bring glory to the nation. It will also be a true rebuilding phase, with a new coach, new outlook, and new players to watch out for. While I don’t think Conte is going to revolutionize the national club by any means, he will definitely inject new life and enthusiasm in a country that has been sorely disappointed with its recent performances in top level competition.
While Conte has been criticized in the past for a seeming inability to switch tactics, especially during the UEFA Champions League against Bayern Munich and Galatasary (where they failed to advance from the group), he brings a passionate voice to the squad, which is in opposition to the typically low-key and pragmatic approach of his predecessor, Cesare Prandelli. Conte will still need to show some more flexibility and nuance with his tactics if he is to win a trophy with the national squad though, as words can only take a coach so far.
More information is sure to follow these recent developments, as well as information on how Conte intends to line-up, but for now, I expect there to be a feeling of rejuvenation (see what I did there?) among the nation of Italy and supporters of the Azzurri abroad.