Italy ponder Pirlo puzzle

2015-09-07 15:07
Italy's Andrea Pirlo (Supplied)
Italy's Andrea Pirlo (Supplied)

Milan - Andrea Pirlo's status as one of Italy's 'untouchables' has been shaken after the Azzurri legend was sidelined by coach Antonio Conte in the wake of criticism following a mediocre performance in a Euro 2016 qualifier.

Pirlo has 116 caps and is widely regarded as one of the world's all-time great deep-lying playmakers.

But the 36-year-old's move from four-time consecutive Serie A champions Juventus to New York City FC has coincided with a dip in form and the 'orchestrator', as Pirlo is often known, has looked somewhat out of tune.

Pirlo looked far below his usual best during a 1-0 win over Malta last Thursday and, although he has Conte's backing, he was sidelined for Sunday's 1-0 win at home to Bulgaria which took Italy to he brink of booking their ticket for next summer's finals in France.

The back-to-back wins sent Italy top of Group H with a two-point cushion on Norway and they require just one point from their next two encounters - away to Azerbaijan and at home to Norway - to qualify for the European Championships.

The Euro 2016 finals will Pirlo's last international tournament, but his performance against Malta last week has prompted debate that even that could be a step too far.

"I think every player has to know when it's time to hang up his boots," said Beppe Marotta. Coming from the CEO of Juventus, whom Pirlo helped lead to four 'scudetti' and the Champions League final last season, it must have been painful reading.

Marotta added: "I don't know if that moment has already come for him. It's a decision only he can make."

Read more on:    italy  |  euro 2016  |  andrea pirlo  |  soccer

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