So Italy, the reigning World Champions, begin their Euro’ 2008 campaign, in the worst possible way. A three goal defeat to Holland, followed by stories of unrest within the Italian camp. Players, apparently, sending text messages, disrespectful of the manager Roberto Donadoni, with indications that felt they were mentally unprepared, for the Dutch challenge.
And of course, the notorious Italian press, have been calling for the new managers head and have even been criticising him, for the tone of his voice! Which in many ways is perfect for Donadoni.
We know how the bribery scandals in Italian football, created a sense of unity in the 2006 World Cup winning squad. Brought the family together, to demonstrate how mentally tough the Italians were in adversity.
Now this Italian team has hit rock-bottom so early in this competition. It creates an opportunity for the manager, to draw his under-fire team, closer together.
Obviously he will need to work through any tactical, strategic or team problems, that contributed to the defeat on Monday. But then, he can use the external criticism, to create a siege mentality within the camp.
Use the Italian media to create a THEM. An external enemy, looking to destabilise the Italian team. And to counter the THEM, draw closer together a powerful US. The stronger the THEM, the more focused the US can become. Focused to ensure, that the THEM do not win this mental battle.
Of course Donadoni, has to make sure that there are no THEM’s within the US camp. That is, players with unresolved issues against the manager. It becomes very difficult to create a united US, when cliques of THEM’s have formed up. But, the stronger the US becomes, the harder it is for THEM’s to gain internal momentum.
It takes a strong manager to handle these kind of team issues and dramas. But then, nobody becomes Italian manager, without a great deal of mental strength. Friday night’s game against Romania. will tell us how successful Roberto Donadoni has been, in using adversity to his advantage.