Archive for November, 2007

Di Natale, GrassoRon, e un ragazzo dalla California

November 30, 2007 7:50 am

(Di Natale, FatRon, and a boy from California)

 

Boy… Di Natale’s gonna be expensive!

Regular serieAmerica visitors may remember my two posts (#1 & #2) about a Roma – Di Natale connection. Well, there’s more to report on that front. Apparently, Udinese’s sporting director, Pietro Leonardi, says that Di Natale isn’t for sale at the moment.

There are two feasible interpretations of his comments, but no matter how you slice it, Mr. Leonardi is a smart cookie: If his statement about Udinese not being willing to give up one of their “best talents” is genuine, then he obviously realizes Di Natale’s value and is wise in his desire to keep him. If it’s just talk (and I think it is), my guess is that Leonardi is attempting to dangle a carrot just out of Roma’s reach, in order to better justify an astronomical asking price for Di Natale, once negotiations actually begin.

FatRon is hurt… again.

Well, it’s the eve of Milan-Juventus (easily the most talked about match this week… to the point where it’s almost annoying), and FatRon is hurt. Again. That’s OK. FatRon would’ve been laid out by Chiellini anyway, I think. Unfortunately, Ron’s absence leaves Gilardino to get knocked around… and frustrated, I’ll bet.

On a related note, the Corriere dello Sport had an interesting headline today:

Milan, goodbye Ronaldo, hello Amauri – The Rossoneri are ready to give up on El Fenomeno and already have their hands on the Palermo hitman

Amauri, huh? That won’t be cheap. (Although the connection has been reported elsewhere, so who knows.) What’s up with the Brazilian obsession, Milan?

And introducing… The California Kid

Now this one, I can’t believe.

Apparently, an 18 year-old high schooler from California has been offered a contract with Cagliari. Yes, that Cagliari.

What does Cagliari want with a high school kid from California? Your guess is probably better than mine; I’m certainly scratching my head over it. I can’t even get over the fact that they were scouting in North Carolina. Did they make a wrong turn or something?

Anyway, this kid (David Bingham) is passing up a full ride at UC Berkley (That’s no joke, David!) for the opportunity to (possibly) have Kaka / Totti / Zalayeta / Quaglia / Gila / Rocchi / Mutu / etc. fire missiles at him. I’m not going to criticize his decision, as passing up one sweet deal for another is never easy. Remember the name Bingham; we’ll have to watch this California Kid.

Due Vecchi Uomini

November 28, 2007 1:51 am

(Two Old Men)

While I’m too young to remember seeing Babe Ruth calling out a home run, I’ve heard of the phenomenon, and always chalked it up to coincidence. I mean… how the hell can a guy be sure that he’s going to hit a home run, let alone call out the area of the ballpark that he’ll end up sending it to?

Likewise, how the hell can a guy know that he’ll score a goal in a match, let alone predict that he’ll score two? I suppose we should ask Alessandro Del Piero, who allegedly called out his brace prior to this weekend’s Juve – Palermo match. Come to think of it, this isn’t the first time that there was a spooooooooky pre-match Del Piero-related premonition; some tifosi may remember that Marcello Lippi supposedly predicted Del Piero’s goal against Germany in the ’06 World Cup semi-final.

Whether or not one chooses to believe the stories of premonitions, most of us will concede that Del Piero had a strong match on Sunday, adding an assist to his pair of goals (one of which was a nice cruise missile of a free kick). Unfortunately, Del Piero (who is the first of the two old guys I’m discussing today, in case you haven’t guessed) isn’t exactly consistent. For instance, prior to this weekend’s impressive performance, he was silent in Week 12′s draw with Parma. Nonetheless, he is “hoping to convince Donadoni” that he’s worthy of a spot in Italy’s Euro 2008 squad.

Speaking of Euro 2008, despite Del Piero’s flashes of brilliance, I wouldn’t be crushed if he was left behind this summer. His lack of consistency, coupled with his primadonna-like insistence on playing up front, makes him a less-attractive option in a country with no shortage of attacking options. On the other hand, if The Don does select Del Piero for the tournament, I won’t cry foul, so long as (and this is key) Del Piero is utilized as an off-the-bench striker, rather than a starter. My rationale here is that 1) he’s been better off the bench as of late anyway, and 2) playing him in as a sub is the one way that The Don appease Del Piero’s desire to play in a pure striker role while mitigating his age and lack of speed. (Think about it: If he comes in during the final third of a match, he’ll be working on a full tank while many are running on fumes, and his age will be less of a factor.)

Del Piero and Panucci

Panucci! Panucci! Panucci! What can you say about an aging defender who scores three goals in as many matches? The first was surprising. The second was a stunner (i.e. Did that just happen again?). The third probably has people wondering if this will be a regular occurrence. One can only hope, or more specifically, with an attack wrought with injuries, Roma can only hope. At this stage, a healthy Roma player is enough of a curiosity; a healthy Roma defender who scores match after match is a friggin’ unicorn.

Look… Christian Panucci is 34 years old. As a defender, even if he was 25 years old and scored every five matches, it would be noteworthy. To do what he’s doing at his age and in his position is remarkable. In truth, (being a pessimist) I don’t expect it to continue… at least not at the current pace, but if it does, The Don had better include him in the Euro 2008 squad. Between The Old Man, Grosso, Materazzi (assuming he gets back into the swing of things) and Chiellini, Italy will have four scoring threats on defense… and yes, I just typed that without laughing.  Send some high crosses into the box (from Pirlo with love), and it’ll be an Azzurri gol di testa-fest!

Perché è ognuno felice per il sorteggio?

November 26, 2007 4:20 am

(Why is everyone happy about the draw?)

OK, maybe “happy” isn’t the right word. “Relieved” may be more accurate. Either way, a quick jog around the Internet could leave the casual observer thinking that qualifying for World Cup 2010 will be a walk in the park for Italy.

So… Should we feel so fortunate? Should we be so optimistic?

 

I say absofrigginlutely not!

Allow me to explain. First let’s look at Italy’s groupmates:

  • Bulgaria (FIFA Rank – #18) – Donadoni remembers that they went on a wild tear back in ’94. Does anybody else? It took Baggio’s heroics to stop their run. That was then this is now, you say? Well, that may be the case, but in the now, Bulgaria missed qualifying for Euro 2008 by just two points… and Romania and the Netherlands were in Bulgaria’s group. Bulgaria might be the toughest competition here.
  • Ireland (FIFA Rank – #35) – Ugh. Living in an area heavily populated by both Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans, I have to bring up 1994 again, because I still haven’t heard the end of it. (My Irish friends will probably make sure I never do.) For those who don’t remember, Ireland upset Italy in World Cup group play… and for those not in the vicinity of NYC at the time, the Irish loaded into their cars and drove through Little Italy in Manhattan, rubbing their victory in the faces of the Italy supporters. NOT FUN.  Fast forward to today: Like all sides from those islands up yonder, hard-tackling, physical play is their M.O. Hell – it’s going to be like playing Scotland in green shirts, and I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not looking forward to that. By the way, they finished third in their Euro 2008 qualifying group.
  • Cyprus (FIFA Rank – #65) – Cyprus finished near the bottom of their Euro 2008 qualifying group, but that statistic really doesn’t do them credit, as they managed to scavenge 14 points with a 4-2-6 record in the midst of particularly brutal company. I’m not shaking in my boots at the prospect of this one, but I’m not putting one in the ‘w’ column just yet.
  • Montenegro (FIFA Rank – #172) – These are (half of) the artists formerly known as Serbia and Montenegro, and they bring with them none other than Mirko Vucinic. For those unfamiliar with Mirko’s Giallorossi antics, he is one hell of a striker. The guy fills in for Totti and does a decent job of it at that.  So… yeah. While it’s true that one player does not a team make, it’s not like Vucinic is their only guy. Montenegro also fields several Bundesliga players in addition to one from Red Star Belgrade, and another from Sporting. I think that the only reason their ranking is so low is that they’re basically an unknown quantity at this point; a few months ago, the team didn’t exist. (They were a part of Serbia-Montenegro.)
  • Georgia (FIFA Rank – #77) – OK. These guys, we know pretty well, having shared some biscotti and a couple Euro qualifiers with them recently.  Italy won both matches, (3-1 in Georgia and 2-0 in Genoa).  That said, this one doesn’t make my knees shake either, but nothing is guaranteed in calcio.  Georgia DID beat Scotland, after all.

Hopefully, at this point, everyone will agree that there are no pushovers in Italy’s group (which is Group # 8, incidentally). Since that’s out of the way, I’d like to point out the fact that as of late, the Azzurri have intermittently played like crap any time they sense that their backs are not against the wall. Now, with a group that many are already writing off, I am hoping that our ragazzi don’t sit on their laurels. Overconfidence kills.

I would also like to point out the fact that there is only ONE automatic qualifying spot per group. One. After that, eight second-place teams will face each other for the remaining four spots, but I don’t even want to think of that as an option. Win the group, and go to South Africa. Don’t win, and stay home. Italy must win. Period.

By the way, here are the rest of the groups, just in case anyone’s interested:

  • Group 1: Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Albania, Malta
  • Group 2: Greece, Israel, Switzerland, Moldova, Latvia, Luxembourg
  • Group 3: Czech Republic, Poland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia, San Marino
  • Group 4: Germany, Russia, Finland, Wales, Azerbaijan, Liechtenstein
  • Group 5: Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Armenia, Estonia
  • Group 6: Croatia, England, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Andorra
  • Group 7: France, Romania, Serbia, Lithuania, Austria, Faroe Islands
  • Group 9: Holland, Scotland, Norway, FYR Macedonia, Iceland

Serie A ha rinviato!

November 24, 2007 9:15 pm

(Serie A has returned!)

Aaaaannnd we’re back to our scheduled programming. So, what’s going on, you ask? Well, here’s my best attempt at a round-up:

First off, two matches were played already:

Genoa 0-1 Roma

  • There are actually two things to talk about here. First off, Cristian Panucci (a.k.a. The Old Man) – the guy responsible for the Azzurri’s game-winner in Scotland – saved the day here as well, this time with a header in the 89th minute. Whatever you’re doing, Old Man, can you please get your teammates to start? Thanks.
  • Speaking of which (and this brings me to our second talking point), Roma need to start taking vitamins or something. As Chris at Offside pointed out before the match, to say that Roma has caught the injury bug would be a gross understatement. Injury bear is more like it.

Inter 2-1 Atalanta

  • Everyone, your attention please! ArgentInter fielded an Italian today, when Materazzi came on for Dacourt in the 88th minute. [crowd]Oooooohhhhh! Aaaaaaaaaahhhh![/crowd] Thank you. That is all.
  • Actually, that’s not all. I have to point out that Inter got lucky… again. With all of the non-Italians on the team, I’m starting to wonder whether or not there’s a lucky Irishman in the mix somewhere. They are that lucky. If one of them starts riverdancing, or if someone mentions a pot o’ gold or charms of any kind, (is that how they pay for The Great Zaltan and the Argentinian Superstars?) we’ll know something is afoot. Seriously, Atalanta should have at least drawn level. Actually, if you read between Mancini’s words, you can tell that he soiled his pants during the match.

Elsewhere in the Lega Calcio:

  • FatRon is set to return against Cagliari… maybe. Ugh. In the same match, Pasquale Foggia of Cagliari may play the role of trequartista. If there’s any action from the home team, expect Foggia to be involved. Unfortunately, Gattuso will probably scare the poor kid off of the pitch.
  • I fully expect Fiorentina to leapfrog Roma and slip into second place, as they face Reggina tomorrow. If not, the Viola could go on an untimely slide, as they were upset by Udinese back in Week 12.
  • I think Juventus will have a hard time with Palermo, but will come away with the win in the end. Juve will be without Lanky Chiellini, but they’ll be looking to pick up the pace after drawing in their last two matches.
  • Catania are visiting Napoli this week, and although they’re a solid side (relatively speaking), they’re 0-5-1 on the road. That said, I am expecting a win for Napoli.

It sure is nice to have calcio back, isn’t it? I know it was only a couple weeks, but it feels like we were caught in an international wormhole or something. (Speaking of international stuff, the draws for World Cup 2010 qualifying groups are set to take place tomorrow; it’s going to be a busy day.)

L’Uomo che Parla al Suo Gamba

November 23, 2007 9:38 am

(The Man who Speaks to His Leg)

  • He’s Inter’s only Italian starter, and may be Serie A’s most infamous defender.
  • He leveled the score with a righteous header in the World Cup final.
  • He was the recipient of the most famous headbutt in sporting history.
  • He talks to his leg.

Wait… what?

Everyone knows that Marco Materazzi has a touch of the pazzo, but did anyone know (until now) that he speaks to his leg? Well… in all fairness, he may not speak to his leg anymore, but he did while recovering from his thigh injury, apparently.

Leg-talking or not, many will be happy to see Matrix back in action when Inter face Atalanta (with no Atalanta fans in attendance) this weekend. Even more will be happy that The Don now has another rock-solid defender at his disposal (assuming he’s the same ol’ Matrix).

Welcome back, Marco!

Poor Montella! Poor Sampdoria!

I can’t think of anything worse that could possibly happen to Samdoria. With Cassano typically either hurt or acting like a complete jacka*s (or both), I saw Vincenzo Montella as the blucerchiati’s only hope. Now, due to an injury picked up last week, he’s headed for a surgery that will sideline him for two months.

Sorry Montella. Hopefully, you’ll be back on track in January.

Totti In… No… Totti Out

I haven’t been posting much about Totti’s injury, mainly because it’s been misinformation since day one. Whether it’s mind games from Spalletti or honest confusion, I don’t know.

First, we were told that Il Capitano’s injury was minor. Then, for weeks, we were told that he’d return against the next opponent, only to be let down as each match approached.

Anyway, he’s out again for the Genoa match, and I’m not even going to mention his name again until he puts on the maglia Giallorossi and steps onto the pitch ready to play.

So there.

Everyone Loves Pirlo

Maybe it’s because Andrea isn’t a vocal guy, and others feel the need to make sure his presence is known. Maybe it’s because he is the second coming of the Codino (well… sort of). Whatever the reason, the big guns of calcio have been keen on pointing out the greatness of Andrea Pirlo as of late.

Most recently, Gianni Rivera has made a case for Pirlo, and not long ago, the normally reclusive Roberto Baggio (only like… the greatest Italian footballer ever) has given Pirlo his endorsement.

I’ll say one thing, if there’s a dead-ball specialist in Serie A, it’s Pirlo for damn sure:

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Congratulazioni, Cannavaro!

November 22, 2007 2:13 pm

(Congratulations, Cannavaro!)

Yesterday’s 3-1 victory over the Faroe Islands marked Azzurri Captain Fabio Cannavaro’s 113th cap, placing him in second place behind Paolo Maldini (who has been capped 126 times).  Barring the unthinkable, Fabio should overtake Maldini either during or just after next summer’s Euro 2008 tournament.  (Incidentally, the group draw for the actual tournament is slated for December 2; I’ll list the groups here on serieAmerica once they’re set.)

Now, since it’s a national holiday (Happy Thanksgiving!) here in the United States, I’m going to leave you with some video from the Faroe Islands match.  Luca Toni’s goal is first, followed by Giorgio Chiellini’s. (Click these links if you want to see Faroe Islands’ own-goal, or “the carpenter’s” header.)

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Ancora! Totò con Totti!

November 20, 2007 5:57 pm

(Again! Totò con Totti!)

About a month ago, following an interview in which Antonio Di Natale said that he was pleased to be linked with Roma, I noted that a Di Natale / Totti combination could bring Roma another Scudetto.

Well… I still believe that pairing Totò with Il Capitano could give Roma an undeniable edge [Miyagi]“If do right, no can defense!”[/Miyagi] so, with that in mind, I was pleased to see Di Natale’s name mentioned on ilRomanista.it today.

To make a long post short (because I’ve already made a case for bringing the player on board) , Di Natale’s agent says that his client isn’t going anywhere in January, but he implies that he may be ready to roll this summer. He concedes that a move would not be easy, since 1) Totò isn’t getting any cheaper, and 2) things are apparently going well at Udinese. That said, he also reiterates that Di Natale likes working with Roma’s bald-is-cool manager Spalletti, and he hints that anyone interested in Di Natale had better start negotiating now.

Do you hear that, Roma? Now!