Friction between players and coach Jacques Brunel could threaten to derail Italy's hopes of making the quarter finals at the World Cup
By Paul Eddison
Of all the injuries suffered in the build-up to this World Cup, it’s hard to find one more catastrophic to his team’s chances than that of Sergio Parisse.
The heartbeat of the Italian side will miss the opening encounter with France, at least, and a heavy defeat could all but end Italy’s quarter-final hopes before the competition gets into full swing.
To call it a headache for head coach Jacques Brunel would be an understatement, but it’s hardly the only distraction facing the Azzurri boss.
With the Italian domestic game in disarray, Brunel has seen the national team’s form dip alarmingly, and now he’s come under fire from veteran centre Mirco Bergamasco.
The younger of the instantly-recognisable brothers missed out on selection for Italy‘s World Cup squad, and has since revealed that Brunel has struggled when it comes to communication with the squad.
The Frenchman speaks Italian, but according to Mirco, whose older brother Mauro is appearing in his fifth World Cup, Brunel restricts himself to communicating with just four or five senior players.
The absent Parisse is of course one of those, but the worry is that with the split between senior players and the rest of the squad, Italy are not making the most of their potential.
And Bergamasco admits it’s unlikely the Azzurri will make it to the last eight for the first time in their history.
“To be honest, I’m not very optimistic,” Bergamasco said this week on French radio.
“The squad is lacking serenity and belief. And I want to be clear: I’m not saying this because I’ve been left out of the squad.
“The coach doesn’t have relations with the players, he doesn’t speak and he doesn’t communicate with them,” he added.
“He has failed to create a group, both on and off the pitch. He usually only refers to four or five players and forgets the rest. And that’s not enough when there are 31 (players).
“When one of these four or five players is missing, the squad loses belief and collapses.”
Of course discord between players and coach doesn’t necessarily spell disaster, four years ago Marc Lièvremont famously invited his players out for a beer after their loss to Tonga and was stood up by the whole squad.
They went onto reach the final and came within a whisker of winning the title, but it’s impossible to see Italy doing the same, especially if their talisman Parisse doesn’t come back soon.