Can Giorgio Chiellini-Andrea Barzagli Partnership Equal The Level Reached By Italy's Past Great Defenders?

By Riccardo Di Julio
Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli
Picture provided by the FIGC official Facebook page

In the eyes of every single soccer fan in the world, Italy has always been recognized for its great tradition of glorious defending. As a matter of fact, over the course of its history, the Nazionale has constantly been characterized by the presence of magnificent individuals who have been capable of interpreting the role of defending as an authentic art more than any other country in the world.

This belief is only a result of the great school of Italian soccer which believes that without a strong defense and tactical organization, winning titles would be almost impossible, especially when talent is not the main quality of a team. Such is the case of Italy who is not usually as skillful as other nations might be.

As a consequence of this, every single glorious victory ever achieved by the Azzurri and Italian clubs as a whole has been achieved with great performances in the defense and midfield lines. However, unlike it’s mistakenly believed, this point cannot be straightly related to the simple catenaccio system which is very different from defending well.

As a matter of fact, while the catenaccio is just an old tactical approach that hasn’t been used for years, the simple concept of defending well doesn’t necessarily mean that a specific team is playing defensively. Instead, it only means that even if the players have an offensive style they are still able to defend well.

However, it is also not surprise that in the last few years this great tradition of Italian defense has considerably lowered its level. In fact, it is only enough to think about the glorious names of the past — such as Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Fabio Cannavaro, and Gaetano Scirea — to understand that the names of today are not even close to be at the same level.

Nonetheless, considering the regular level shown so far by the youngest defenders of today, it can be said that the Juventus players Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli are the last two representations of the great Italian defensive tradition even though they might not have reached the levels of their predecessors.

However, the upcoming World Cup in Brazil might be the last chance for them to achieve the final consecration to remain in history as legendary defenders. Of course, this would happen only if their performances would help the Azzurri reach important results.

Unfortunately for them, they happened to live in a time in which their qualities perhaps might not be enough to succeed, considering the overall crisis of Italian soccer as teams have organizationally stayed behind compared to other countries. Despite this, they have already been able to obtain decent results as a couple both at Juventus and in the Nazionale.

With the Old Lady, they have been main characters of the group that has greatly dominated in Serie A for two and a half years, including the unbeaten title of 2012. That year, along with Leonardo Bonucci, they made up the best defense among the top leagues in Europe. Moreover, in the same year they also had the merit of helping Italy reach the European Championship final where they lost to Spain.

Separately, ever since they were young players they were also given the tough responsibility of being the ones who would have to take on the role of continuing the Italian defensive tradition. Barzagli even had the honor of being a member of the group that won the 2006 World Cup where he even got to play in two games to replace  Marco Materazzi and Alessandro Nesta.

In addition, young Chiellini was also one of the main additions to the group right after that same World Cup. If he had been only a few years older his chances of having been a member of that victorious team would have very high.

For Brazil 2014, the Nazionale’s aspirations of doing well will greatly depend on the form of both Chiellini and Barzagli, each of whom will have to take on the leadership role like they have never done before. Along with Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, and Daniele De Rossi, they will be required to perform as best as they possibly can for Italy’s success. Immortality awaits for them.

Riccardo Di Julio is a Soccer Writer for Follow him on Twitter @Italcatenaccio and add him to your network on Google.

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