This chapter is updated by Novels.pl
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
“Our team needs to attack in the second half. However, I need to remind all of you to watch out for England’s counter-attacks.”
Lippi could already guess what sort of tactics Twain would employ in the second half. He had studied Twain’s tactics prior to the match, and he would not be surprised if Twain chose to sit back and wait for Italy to attack them before going on the counter-attack. If his team had taken a one goal lead just like England, he would have instructed his team to play counter-attacking football as well.
Italy not only needs to focus on its offense in the second half, but they also need to be wary of England’s quick counter-attacks as well.
“I want all of you to snatch the ball back if you lose the ball, and I want everyone to retreat backwards and defend if England gets the ball. You can foul them when necessary, but make sure you only foul them when they are in their own half of the pitch. All in all, do all you can to stop them from launching their quick counter-attacks.”
Throughout the entire halftime break, Lippi only conveyed his tactics to the players. He did not give them a pep talk or say things such as ‘hang on for another 45 minutes, the trophy would definitely be in our hands’. The man who is about to turn 70 knows very well that those words would not benefit the players in any way. To the Italy team, tactics were more important than the players’ psychological states.
Tony Twain was still speaking to the players, but James Vaughan did not hear a single word that he said. He was certain that he would not get the chance to play in the second half later on. He did not think about why he was not given the chance to play in the match. All he thought about was how he was going to become a spectator just like Mitchell. At least Mitchell knows why he is unable to play in the match. He was barred from playing because he picked up too many yellow cards, and that is something that cannot be helped. But, what about him? He has been forced to sit on the bench without any explanation from his manager…
He found it really suffocating to not know the reason behind why he has been dropped from the match.
Des Walker nudged Twain lightly, and gestured him to look at Vaughan.
Twain glanced over and noticed a depressed Vaughan sitting by the side.
This is not what he wanted to happen…
Twain lowered his head and looked at the watch. It was about time for the second half to commence. He waved his hands at the players and said, “Get out there, lads. There are only 45 minutes left in the match. I don’t want any of you to leave the pitch with regrets.”
Vaughan smiled wryly to himself after hearing those last few words from Twain. The players who are playing in the match later might not end up with regrets, but what about me?
“Vaughan, I want you to stay back for a while.” Twain suddenly called his name.
Vaughan froze in his tracks. His teammates averted their gazes towards the two of them, but they did not start whispering amongst themselves over what had just happened. All they did was to send a glance in their direction before they turned around and left without saying a word.
They all felt that the boss owes Vaughan an explanation. It was really too cruel of him to leave Vaughan on the bench when he has been performing well on the pitch thus far.
The pair stayed behind in the locker room and waited for the players around them to leave. Vaughan looked at Twain, but Twain had his eyes on the outside of the locker room.
Twain only directed his gaze onto Vaughan when everyone else had left the room.
Twain tried his best to make out traces of anger in Vaughan’s eyes. But, to his disappointment, it seemed like disenchantment was the prevailing emotion that could be discerned from his eyes.
Vaughan thought that his boss would explain to him why he failed to start in the match. He did not expect the first few words from Twain to be:
“Don’t take off the shirt underneath your jersey just yet.”
Twain then gestured for Vaughan to leave the room after finishing his words.
Vaughan left the locker room feeling utterly confused. His head was still in the clouds when he walked out of the tunnel, but the deafening cheers from the crowd snapped him out of reveries. A moment later, Twain’s words began registering in his mind. Maybe the boss is trying to tell me that I have a chance of playing in the second half?
But, should he be happy or upset to hear those words from Twain? Why did the boss not make me a starting player if he intends to play me in the match? Why did he put me on the bench? Oh well, at least there is a glimmer of hope that I might be able to play in the match later.
Twain walked out of the tunnel a while after Vaughan made his way to the bench. He walked over to his seat in the dugout and found Des Walker looking at him. “How did the talk go?”
“I told him not to take off the shirt underneath his jersey just yet.” Twain shrugged. The people who sympathized with Vaughan would have blown their tops if they saw the kind of attitude that Twain had towards the situation.
Walker smiled wryly. “Aren’t you afraid that he would come to despise you?”
“That’s exactly what I want him to do.” Twain answered grimly.
He did not mind being hated by a player if it meant that he could lift the trophy. Besides, Vaughan would just become one of many people in the world who want him dead.
The Italy players marked the England players closely and performed more interceptions in the midfield in the second half. The way in which Italy defended against the England players made them feel quite uncomfortable. The England players were no longer given the time to think about whether they should pass the ball away or bring the ball forward themselves. The ball would be snatched away from them the moment they hesitate.
The importance of ‘passing the ball quickly’ becomes all too apparent in situations like these. This was also a point that was emphasized by Twain repeatedly at halftime.
The players need to carefully observe the situation on the pitch and have a good grasp of where their teammates and opponents are before they receive the pass. Doing so would allow them to instantly know what their next step should be. They should not be observing the pitch and thinking about what they should do next after they have received the ball.
Twain has been training the England national team players to observe before they receive the pass for two years. It did not matter which football club the player comes from. He has to play in this manner if he wants to play for England. Any player who fails to play in the way that Twain wants or refuses to change his playing style to suit Twain’s methods would be dropped from the team, no matter how talented or famous he might be as a player. Twain would not change his mind and let the player back into the team even if the press lambastes him for it.
That is how he has managed to build an England national team that listens to his every word.
The players were not at a loss either when Twain told them to make quick passes at halftime.
England’s tactics in the midfield became very simple after Italy started to pressurize them and intercept their ball in the midfield. George Wood and Gerrard were both positioned at the middle of the pitch, and their main role was to pass the ball forward. The two side midfielders played more like wingers when they moved forward to attack. Agbonlahor’s position on the pitch was shifted backwards and it became very flexible. He essentially merged the line where the forwards are with the line where the midfielders are.
The entire England midfield would retreat backwards during defense, and all the midfielders will form a line right before the team’s defense line. Their main role is to try and stop Italy’s attacks before they reach their penalty box.
The players from both sides were constantly locked in a fierce battle for the ball, and fouls became inevitable eventually. The managers for both teams have instructed their players to commit fouls when necessary, and thus, the referee’s whistle kept going off repeatedly during the second half. Both teams’ attacks kept getting interrupted, and neither side was able to launch a complete attack.
Lippi soon came to realize that it was a quite difficult to find a hole in England’s defense. Twain appears to have mastered the art of defense just like Italy, though it is unclear who taught it to him.
Even Rooney, who is typically positioned at the front of the pitch, has to retreat to the center circle during England’s defense. There are several different parts to England’s defense, and each and every part is closely linked with one another.
Alberto Paloschi tried attacking down the flanks, but his attacks failed to draw the defenders away from the middle of the pitch. The England defenders stood their ground and did not allow the Italy team any space to attack. Salvatore Foti was closely marked by John Terry the entire time, and he rarely got a decent chance to make his way past the England defender.
Lippi realized that the only way to break through England’s airtight defense was to pin all his hopes on set pieces rather than on a particular player’s moment of brilliance.
He looked down at his watch. 17 minutes had gone by in the second half, and the score remained 0:1. His team was still trailing by a goal. He has to make a change fast. This is definitely not the time for him to consider the pride or feelings of certain players.
He glanced at the players who were seated on the bench before pulling his assistant manager, Ferrara, over to him. “Ask Balotelli to do his warm-ups.”
Balotelli is an attacking player who possesses several unique traits, and he is quite famous as well. His absence from the list of starting players for the match was just as surprising as Twain’s decision to keep Vaughan on the bench. However, unlike Twain, Lippi was not criticized by the press over his decision to not play Balotelli in the match.
The reason is simple. Everything went wrong for Balotelli ever since he made his decision to transfer to Nottingham Forest. He had chosen to transfer to Nottingham Forest because he was unhappy at Inter Milan, but Nottingham Forest has been going on the decline for the past few years, and both his form and fame as a player have been affected as a result. In addition, there is a ‘tradition’ among the Italy national team’s managers - they do not pay much attention to players who play football overseas.
Balotelli used to be a starting player in the Italy national team, but now he is demoted to a mere substitute. Many Inter Milan fans could not help but lament his fate.
There can only be one reason why Lippi would choose to play Balotelli in the match at a time like this. Balotelli is good at taking free-kicks, and Lippi must be planning to make full use of that. Italy has the upper hand in the match at the moment, and they have been able to gain several free kicks in England’s half of the pitch due to the fouls committed by the England players. Given how the players from both sides have been committing a lot of fouls in the match so far, Italy would definitely be awarded even more free kicks from here on out. Thus, putting Balotelli on the pitch would help Italy capitalize on those free kicks. Balotelli’s free kicks would also add creativity to Italy’s offense and create more chances for the team to attack as well.
Additionally, Balotelli is a Nottingham Forest player, and he might be able to provide his teammates with some insights as to how Tony Twain might direct his players to play in the match…
Balotelli stood by the side of the pitch and waited for the referee to announce the substitution. Lippi had already relayed his role in the match to him half a minute ago. His role was very simple. All he needed to do was to make use of his techniques to create chances for the team to make their way past England’s defense. He would be the player to take all the free kicks and corners in the opposition’s half, and he has to make sure that he makes full use of those free kicks and find the way to break through England’s airtight defense.
Twain began searching his memory for information regarding Balotelli after he saw the Italian player stand next to the fourth official.
Nottingham Forest’s results for the past two seasons have been mediocre at best, but the black player has slowly cemented his place as a starting player on the team. This is hardly surprising, given how he is a player who cost the club 35 million pounds to bring in. Are there any managers out there who would possibly dare to put such an expensive player on the bench? Unfortunately for Forest, Balotelli was never able to make use of his own skills and abilities to boost the team’s results. His form mirrors the ups and downs of his team and has been largely inconsistent.
It has been reported that Balotelli is not happy at Nottingham Forest. There were numerous news stories about how he wanted to transfer to a different club all summer, and it is said that he would prefer a move to Manchester United where he would be reunited with his teacher, Mourinho.
Lippi must have put him on the pitch after seeing how Italy has been given a large number of free kicks in the past few minutes…
Guess it’s time to remind the players to pay attention to where they are committing the fouls on the Italy players…
Twain stood up and walked to the side of the pitch before calling Wood’s name. He wanted the captain to convey his newest set of instructions to his teammates on the pitch.
“Pay attention to where you are committing the fouls!”
The truth was that most people did not have high hopes for Balotelli. Lippi was one of the few exceptions who did, since he was the one who made the decision to put him on the pitch.
Balotelli’s form for this season has simply been too inconsistent. When he is playing well, he would be able to lead his team to victory by performing hat tricks. But, when he is not playing well, he turns invisible on the pitch, and the commentators would be left wondering if Nottingham Forest even played him in the match.
To make things worse, his poor performances occur much more frequently than his good performances.
However, Lippi did not see Balotelli in the same light as the others, and that is why he had given him a detailed analysis of the match before he sent him on the pitch. He told Balotelli about the issues that he needed to pay attention to, and he also advised him on what he should do when he faced those issues. In addition, he also gave him the authority to take every single set piece for the team. It is evident that Lippi has placed high hopes on Balotelli.
Sadly, Balotelli betrayed Lippi’s hopes when he received the ball from his teammates for the very first time after getting on the pitch. He tried to stop the ball at his feet, but he ended up giving it away to George Wood instead.
The England fans at the stands all broke into a laugh after seeing his mistake. John and Bill even started singing a song that praised Balotelli. Their gesture was clearly one that was done with the intention of reminding everyone about the relationship between them and Balotelli.
“Does Balotelli think he’s still wearing a red Nottingham Forest jersey? He actually stopped the ball for George Wood who stood across of him! Even Wood himself looks to be surprised by Balotelli’s mistake! Aha!” Motson criticized Balotelli mercilessly. It was as if he had forgotten the times he had cheered for Balotelli’s wonderful goals in the Premier League.
The Italian commentator, on the other hand, did not react by criticizing Balotelli just like Motson did. Instead, he held a hand to his face. He could not bear to watch such an embarrassing scene.
Some of the Italy fans like to come up with conspiracy theories, and after seeing Balotelli’s performance earlier, they would definitely buy into the theory that Nottingham Forest had deliberately bought Balotelli just to ruin him as a player. They have been laying the groundwork for their victory in this finals match since two years ago! Everything that they did back then was all for today’s match! They have been plotting to render a gifted Italian player useless by buying him over!
And, it looks like they have succeeded!
The conspiracy theory caused several Italy fans to be furious at the England fans. The fact that Tony Twain was the manager of both Nottingham Forest and the England national football team also lends credence to the theory. Tony Twain could have been the mastermind behind all of this! He knew that this day would come, and that is why he got Nottingham Forest to buy Balotelli! We thought it was odd that Balotelli did not go to Manchester United where his teacher, Mourinho, is at, but now we know why!
Tony Twain truly is a man who would do anything to win…
Laughter would erupt from the stands every time Balotelli received the ball. The laughter comes from the England fans, and they are all intent on making fun of Balotelli after seeing the mistake that he committed earlier.
One cannot help but wonder what Davide Lanzafame is feeling at the moment. He was the player who got substituted for Balotelli after all. But, what people are most curious about must be what Lippi is thinking about right now…
Twain began laughing along with the crowd. He felt a little proud. Balotelli’s mistake had delivered a blow to Italy’s morale, and it had also caused his teammates trust in him to waver.
He did not understand why Lippi would risk playing Balotelli in the match. Balotelli might be skilled at taking free kicks, but his flaws as a player still outnumber his strengths. Balotelli did not play in many games in the Euro Cup so far, and his performances when he did play have also been decent at best. His most noteworthy contribution to the team has been an assist.
Then again, Lippi is a man who is referred to as the ‘Silver Fox’. Did the ‘Silver Fox’ really make a mistake, or does he actually have something up his sleeves?
“I think putting Balotelli on the pitch is an absolute mistake. If Italy goes on to lose this match, Lippi would definitely be criticized heavily by the press for that substitution.”
“I think this is a chance for England to go on the offense and attack Italy even more ferociously than they are now. They should fight to get that second goal. The game would be over the moment they score, and the British would be able to celebrate winning their first ever Euro Cup trophy early.”
“Balotelli’s performances as a Nottingham Forest player have been mediocre. The relationship between him and the club has soured over the summer, and he is looking for a move away from the club. All the various transfer rumors surrounding him must have affected his state of mind and his form as a player. I think Lippi made the wrong decision to play such a player in the match…”
“Lanzafame was not outstanding in the match earlier, but he still made lots of contributions to the team’s defense. I wonder what exactly was going through Lippi’s mind when he made the decision to take off a player like Lanzafame, who had put in a solid performance thus far, for a problematic player like Balotelli?”
The commentators working for different countries did not miss out on the opportunity to criticize Lippi.
“Lippi has truly gotten on with age. I can’t believe he actually made a mistake like this in such an important match… I guess age really spares no man. We have to remember that he’s a 68-year-old man this year…” There were even people who shook their heads and sighed at Lippi’s decision. They made it seem as though Lippi’s decision to play Balotelli was truly a disastrous one.
The man who became the target of discussion sat firmly on his seat at the dugout. Many people expected to see either anger or impatience upon his countenance, but his face remained stoic and emotionless. He did not furrow his brows at Balotelli’s mistake, and neither did he berate his players from the side of the pitch. He did nothing and simply remained still like a statue at his seat.
The aged man sitting at Italy’s dugout resembled Paul Newman. Lippi was really getting more and more handsome the older he aged. He had a refined, gentlemanly air to him that was hard to go unnoticed by others.
Lippi’s lack of reaction was actually able to achieve a positive effect on the players. It boosted their confidence and made them believe that they still had a chance of winning the match.
The manager is not panicking, so why should we?
There were numerous Italy players who thought that way, and Balotelli was one of them.
Liked it? Take a second to support Novels on Patreon!