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Following the quick exit from the World Cup, and a number of uncertain displays by the Italian team in the European Championship qualifying stage, many criticized Trapattoni's defensive approach. Italy was never known for playing offensive and attractive football, but their opportunism in taking home the result without too much effort, was their best asset.

As long as the results arrived, everyone was happy, but once the results stopped coming, all critics (and most fans) were ready to jump on the bandwagon of the "let's get a new manager". Trapattoni has made lots of mistakes, but changing a manager in the middle of the qualifying stage is a risky business. The players still respect and defend him whenever the critics have something to say about his choices, but then again that's what critics are for.

In his defence, some dodgy referee decisions undermined their world cup chances, but on the other hand, Trapattoni had some of the deadliest strikers at his disposal (Vieri, Inzaghi, Del Piero & Montella), yet his stubbornness of playing with just one striker was very frustrating. Probably if Italy had played with two attackers rather than one, they might have scored more goals; therefore no bad referee decision would have affected the team.

What seems to be the best solution, and the one that looks most plausible, is that of Trapattoni remaining at the helm of the national squad up to Euro 2004, and after that, irrespective of the result achieved, Lippi will take over. The latter likes playing with a more balanced formation, rather than the defensive mentality Trapattoni likes to adopt, so will probably go down well with the Italian fans.

In the last match against Portugal, Trapattoni tried being more offensive, and the result was encouraging. Hopefully this will not be just an experiment, but a tactic that will be used more in the future. Zambrotta as a full-back was quite successful and new faces Miccoli and Corradi proved Italy's offensive power is excellent, even when the three Serie A top-scorers are missing (Vieri, Del Piero and Totti).

The problems remain in the midfield, where lack of creativity is evident. Most Italian midfielders are more of the defensive type that break the opponents attacks, rather than creating chances. Young players such as Perrotta and Brighi might be the future solution, but as of yet, no current squad member can offer that.

Baggio is still loved by all Italians, but he still does not find any place in the national team. He is playing very well for his club at the moment, but the Italian coach deems him too old to wear the Italian shirt. Trapattoni says he wants to have a squad of players for these qualifiers that will keep going to the Euro 2004, so to create a compact team. He might be right about that, but to arrive to Euro 2004, he should currently play with the best players that are in their best form, not keep choosing players such as Inzaghi or Montella who are totally out of form and cannot score a goal to save their own life.

Much debate was raised by the inclusion of Argentinean Camoranesi, but the quality he expressed on the field might have silenced his critics. Traditionalists want an Italian team full of Italian players, and frankly that is what national teams are. However, in these days, many players have dual citizenship, therefore eligible to choose to play with which national team they want. France won the world cup and European championships with half of their team coming from French colonies, and just the other half real French. I do not think it is a big deal, still you will find people who will complain regardless.

The Italian chances of qualifying for the Euro 2004 were boosted on Wednesday, not only thanks to their good performance against Portugal, or by the excellent inclusion in the team of Camoranesi, Miccoli and Corradi, but mostly because of Yugoslavia only achieving a 2-2 draw against Azerbaijan, which leaves the Italians hopeful and Trapattoni safe on his bench.