On Tuesday March 15th, it was announced that Antonio Conte was stepping down as manager of the Azzurri. So far Conte's Italy have not done as well as many have expected. Although Conte's Italy qualified for the Euro's with a game to spare, they needed the final victory over Norway to secure top spot and avoid a potentially dangerous playoff. Conte's Italy have hardly inspired belief in the fans throughout their qualifying campaign. There are many questions being asked about Italy now. Will Conte go out on a high and succeed at Euro 2016? Who is being lined up to replace him? And why hasn't he lived up to expectations so far?
When Conte took over the Italian National Team after a catastrophic World Cup, many believed he was the right man to bring Italy back to their best. One of Conte's ideas was that he would have more national team training camps so he would have more time to work with the players. So far in his time with Italy, Conte has been at war with clubs and The Lega Calcio over not letting players attend his training camps. This has infuriated Conte because he doesn't feel he has had enough time with the players, so much so that at this time last year he was threatening to resign. He said last year, "I expect greater co-operation from the clubs. To bridge the gap to other nations, I must be able to work as a coach, not just as a selector." These extra training sessions most of which Conte has cancelled must be a major factor in his decision to resign his post after the European Championship this summer.
Not many people are expecting Conte's Italy to do well at Euro 2016, most bookmakers have Italy at 16/1 to win the tournament. Conte has been criticized for his squad selection and poor performances in the qualifying campaign. Performances such as two 1-0 wins over Malta and a 2-2 draw with Bulgaria haven't been awe-inspiring. Italy struggled through what should have been an easier campaign but qualified in first place, which is in the end all that matters. It's the performances that worry the fans though; Italy will have to play a lot better if they are to succeed at Euro 2016. Conte must be aware of this himself. In Italy's most recent friendlies he experimented with a 4-4-2/4-2-4 formation but to no avail as Italy lost 3-1 to Belgium and drew 2-2 with Romania. Conte is still trying to find the right formation for Euro 2016 and he doesn't have that much time left to find it. Another aspect Conte has been criticized for is his squad selection. Players such as Bonaventura, Insigne, Sansone and Saponara not featuring in any match during the qualifying campaign has raised eyebrows. Bonaventura and Insigne who are both playing the best football of their careers, surely should be playing for the national team. Conte certainly must bring them to Euro 2016. Also many fans have been left wondering how players such as De Sciglio and Ranocchia who both haven't enjoyed the best of seasons are finding time in Conte's Italy squad. Conte's squad selection for Euro 2016 will be eagerly awaited. Conte needs to succeed at Euro 2016 if he is to leave a lasting memory in the fans of the Azzurri. A semi-final berth would be considered a success but anything less and his time at Italy will not be fondly remembered. Who he decides to bring with him will play a vital role in Italy's performances in France at Euro 2016.
So who are his potential replacements after Euro 2016? Some of the names being mentioned are Capello, Raneiri, Donadoni, Ventura and Mancini. Capello is currently the favorite but he has come out and said that he doesn't want the Italy job. I find it unlikely that Raneiri will leave Leicester with them being in the Champions League next year bar a major disaster. Donadoni is then the most likely with him being interested in the job and in my opinion he will be the next Italy manager. Ventura and Mancini are outsiders especially Ventura, Mancini hasn't had the best of times at Inter so he might consider Italy should they come calling.
The real question for whoever replaces Conte is will they be inheriting a team fresh from success at Euro 2016 or a team in disarray coming back from a hugely disappointing campaign. Can Conte leave with the taste of success in his mouth or will his time with Italy be considered a failure. This summer at Euro 2016 we will find out all the answers.