Archive for December, 2007

L’estate del 2006: Italia – Australia

December 30, 2007 10:16 pm

(The summer of 2006: Italy – Australia)

Since everyone (except Gattuso) has been enjoying some between-holiday relaxation this weekend, there isn’t much to report in terms of news or noteworthy rumors.  Subsequently, for today’s post, I’m going to take a step back and say some things that I’ve wanted to say for quite some time.  Hopefully, I won’t make any enemies in the process.  Here goes:

The Azzurri faithful remember the summer of 2006 fondly, and for good reason.

By way of an undeniable team effort, the members of the Nazionale overcame not only fierce competition in Germany, but also a scandal on their homefront, an attempted suicide by a former teammate, and nagging slander from the host nation’s media.  Nonetheless, despite these obstacles, the Azzurri lifted calcio’s/soccer’s/football’s most highly coveted trophy, and thereby proved their merit to the world.

That is… they proved their merit to much – but not all – of the world.  See… it seems that in many cases, when we – the tifosi – the fans – happily reminisce about the accomplishments of our Azzurri, someone – a friend, a co-worker, a commentator, a journalist, a coach – someone feels the need to rob us of our joy by proclaiming that Italy “did not deserve to win” the World Cup.

From the point of view of the Azzurri tifosi, few comments are more annoying, more insulting, or more blatantly erroneous. Of course Italy deserved to win, we explain patiently.  Did they not see the inspired match against Ukraine?  How about the heroic effort against Germany?  Did they not see the pressure that Italy placed upon the French?

At this point, the nay-sayers seem to enjoy bringing up their counterpoint of choice – which they feel is clear evidence that the Azzurri got through not by merit, but by luck.  What do they bring up?  Of course, they bring up the match against Australia, and the now-famous penalty.

If the Azzurri followers have heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times: Australia were robbed. Italy were lucky. Grosso took a dive. Australia would’ve won.

Well, in response, here’s what I say: Australia weren’t robbed, Italy were not lucky, Grosso fell over an exceedingly stupid Lucas Neill, and unless you have a DeLorean equipped with a Flux Capacitor, you can’t possibly know who would’ve won.

So there.

Don’t worry, I will substantiate those claims in this post, but first, it’s probably a good idea to actually watch the match highlights.  It was, after all, a year and a half ago, and some could probably use a refresher course.  Let’s take a look:

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

First off, let me say that I admire Australia’s team, Viduka and Bresciano in particular.  Both played especially hard, although the entire squad really exerted themselves right up until the end of the match.  That’s actually what I like most about the Socceroos; they’re forever working, and (when they’re not playing Italy) I enjoy watching them.

(Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business.)

Some claim that Australia deserved to win on June 26, 2006, and others will even contend that Australia were the better squad.  To those who make such claims, I say this: Italy were playing a man down for half the match.  If your 11 players can’t even manage a goal against a 10-man Azzurri squad, you’re not exactly building a strong “better squad” case, and sorry, but you sure as hell don’t deserve to win by any stretch of the imagination.

Speaking of the Azzurri being a man down, why is it that everyone questions the penalty, but nobody questions Marco Materazzi’s sending off?  Take a look again at his tackle in the video posted above. (It’s 1 min. 19 sec. in.)  Granted, it wasn’t the cleanest of tackles, but at the same token, it was not worthy of red.  (Hell – he actually collided with Zambrotta for the most part.)  Had Materazzi not been (wrongly) dismissed, who knows?  A full-strength Italy may have put one or more in before the penalty!

That “what if” thought brings me to my next point: People talk as though Australia were sure to win the match, had the famous penalty not been awarded.  In response, I’d like to ask these individuals the following question: How the hell did you get a time machine?  In truth, there’s no telling what would’ve happened had Lucas Neill not gone to the ground in Grosso’s path.  Italy may have won anyway.

Speaking of the penalty-prompting incident, the only question I have is why the hell Neill would go to the ground in a situation like that.  I will admit that Grosso may have added a touch of drama to his fall on the way down, but there is no doubt in my mind that he made contact and actually fell over Lucas Neill, who (unbelievably) took to the ground where there was no need to do so.  Take a look again at the video above. (It’s 2 min. 10 sec. in.)  If I suddenly lay down in front of someone that’s running just as they’re practically on top of me, chances are, they’re going down.  Sorry, but that’s the way it works.  If you don’t want the person to fall, don’t lay the #*%& down in front of them!  Honestly, if it makes Australia feel any better to have a scapegoat, they need look no further than Neill.  The rules are simple – you don’t take someone down in the box.  Neill did just that.  A penalty is the result.

Alright. I ‘ve said what I had to say.  Azzurri fans, feel free to direct people to this post, should they ever tell you that Italy “got lucky” or that Italy “didn’t deserve to win the World Cup.”  If they don’t like what I have to say, or if they just don’t like listening to reason, have them take a look at these videos (which happen to be by someone else).

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks that Italy are rightful world champions:

-Part 1-

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

-Part 2-

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

NataleMercato

December 27, 2007 2:36 am

As we all stumble out of our respective Christmas hangovers, so goes the calciomercato.

In other words, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, it’s friggin’ slow in the calcio world. Still, slow is not dead, so there are a few items to discuss. Here goes:

Maniche = Available – Portugal and Atletico Madrid midfielder Maniche is apparently ready to leave his club – sooner rather than later, from the sound of it. (His agent has made it pretty clear that they’re entertaining offers now.) Goal.com is reporting that Inter, Juve, Fiorentina and Milan are all interested parties at this point. For those of you unfamiliar with Maniche, he’s only played 24 matches with Atletico, although he has been a frequent call-up for his country. So… no, he’s not the most consistent guy out there, but I still tend to think he may yet have something to offer the right side. If his asking price isn’t too ridiculous, Fiorentina in particular might want to take a look, given their depth issues this season.

Lazio Go Shopping – Everybody knows Lazio’s in trouble, and Coach Delio Rossi is quick to point out why: They need to buy reinforcements. While I’m not disagreeing, I was hoping that there would be a clear resolution to their Rocchi situation before I’d start reading about Lazio transfer rumors. More specifically, I was hoping they’d sort out their best friggin’ player’s contract before hitting the mall. Nonetheless, it’s Lazio, and Lazio makes no sense, so a-shopping they go. Word has it they’re looking at some dude with a name more suited to pro wrestling than calcio, as well as Sampdoria defender Lucchini, and Romanian ‘keeper Lobont, while Stendardo looks to be on his way out following a near kung-fu fight with Rossi.

Spalletti Wants “Substance” & Totti Wants “Change” – With comments that should earn him the nickname “Captain Vague” (or “Captain Obvious,” perhaps) Roma Coach Luciano Spalletti has thrown some vanilla comments out there, as usual:

On a pitch of 110 metres, technique is often not enough. You need running, strength and grit, as we’re not on a 5-a-side football pitch. The squad has been completed, and completed well, but it has not been improved enough, and at times when we miss some players, their absence is felt a lot.

Now… whether he’s making a case for A) more effort from his Giallorossi, or B) a little transfer action, is anyone’s guess, but I’d like to think it’s the latter. Roma can’t let Lazio have all the fun, right? In all seriousness, Roma may not have the depth issues of a Lazio or a Fiorentina, but they don’t exactly have Hernan Crespo coming off of the bench (like you-know-who) either. And yes, while everybody knows I’d love to see Mr. Christmas alongside Il Capitano, I realize that if it ever happens, it won’t be until the end of the season… so what to do now, during the January transfer window? I don’t know, but I heard that there’s some tall dude languishing in the frozen tundra of… well… the Ukraine, and he’s looking for a ticket back to Italy.

OK. So, I mentioned Totti earlier. About that: It seems that Er Pupone has been doing some thinking this holiday season. As a result, he’s calling for several changes. First off, he thinks there should be more than three substitutions per match. Second, he wants to do away with evening matches in the winter. Third, he wants random drug testing.

Regarding the random drug testing, I think it sounds fine. Random is probably better than scheduled anyway, so long as they’re still testing everybody, right? As for the evening matches in the winter, um… OK? I honestly don’t know. I’ve never been in Italy during winter, so I really don’t know what these guys are up against, but I have noticed that those neck-warmer thingies have gotten increasingly popular as of late. Maybe there’s something to it.

Now… regarding increasing the number of substitutions during a match, isn’t the international standard three? If nobody else is increasing theirs, why should Italy be any different? I’d hate to see Italian players get soft because they’re out there changing lines like a hockey team, while the rest of Europe is slogging it out for 90 minutes. Come on, Francesco. You already got out of Azzurri duty. Now you want Roma to sub you out more often too?

Kaka + Dida = Homies – Or at least… they must be. I mean, why the hell else would Kaka defend a mistake-prone diver? It must be a Brazilian thing. Speaking of Brazilian things, La Gazzetta dello Sport published a photo of Adriano and Ronaldo (and some fat rapper-looking dude) looking all buddy-buddy at some Brazilian concert, along with an article stating that Brazilian side Flamengo wants FatRon. I wasn’t a fan of FatRon coming to Milan to begin with, so I’m all for it. (By the way, that photo was apparently somewhat controversial.) Stay in Sunny Brazil, Ronnie. Get your pal Adriano to stay too, while you’re at it, mmmkay?

Solo due Italiani?

December 23, 2007 3:52 pm

(Only two Italians?)

I like the English. They seem to be pretty good people, and after all, they’ve given the world Earl Grey tea, The Office, Arthurian legend, fish & chips, BondJamesBond, and of course, Monty Python. Subsequently, I normally listen to what the English have to say regarding football, and despite the occasional dash of anti-Italian bias that surfaces now and then in English sports journalism, I’m OK with what I hear and read.

Every so often however, the English do or say something that leaves me scratching my head. For instance, I really don’t understand their apparent willingness… even eagerness (some would call it)… to hire a non-native to coach their national team.

Likewise, I don’t understand how English football mag FourFourTwo can include only two Italians (Lucarelli and Chiellini) in their list of the top 100 players that teams should consider during the Janauary transfer window. I suppose that I could just chalk this up to the aforementioned anti-Italian bias, but I think that this one is probably the result of either lunacy or ignorance.

Bearing in mind that this isn’t a list of the 100 best footballers outright, I can see where they’re going with Lucarelli. He sores goals, and he’s made himself quite available, so obviously, someone on the peninsula should pick him up. Chiellini though? I didn’t know he was even remotely interested in leaving Juve.

Chiellini’s inclusion opens up a can of worms for sure; I mean… if we’re going to include players who have unclear intentions and/or availability, there should be a veritable crap-ton of Italians on the list. Rocchi? Calaio? Foggia? Aquilani? Criscito? Come on. Those are just off the top of my head. What’s FourFourTwo thinking?

Actually, forget about what FourFourTwo are thinking. Tell me if you know what the hell these guys are thinking:

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Seriously, those are some crazy-stupid %&@#ers, right there.

Buon Natale a tutti!

Domenech non può fermarsi.

December 19, 2007 6:42 pm

(Domenech can’t stop.)

This guy is addicted to maligning the Azzurri. I mean… he tried to quit cold-turkey at the beginning of the month, but like a crack-fiend, he just couldn’t hack not getting his fix; the lure of the bliss that he clearly gains from talking trash on Italy and Italians was clearly too much for him. He gave in.

I’m not even going to paraphrase or respond to his comments; I think it’s enough this time to point out that he couldn’t resist taking one of his feeble, meandering stabs at our ragazzi, despite (supposedly) intending to refrain from doing so. (If you really want to read what he said this time, go right ahead.)

On some level, I wanted to ignore his words completely (to avoid giving him any additional satisfaction), but it’s not like Domenech actually reads this.

Dear Inter – Step off, fools!

I don’t know whether to laugh or be disturbed by the fact that Inter would even think they can touch Alberto Aquilani.

While it’s true that there aren’t many ‘franchise players’ (to borrow a term from American sports) in Serie A these days, Inter should know that Totti, Aquilani, and De Rossi are as Roman as the Colosseum.

Perhaps Inter’s success on the peninsula has given way to delusional thinking, or perhaps Blatter’s comments have them desperately scrambling to Italianize. In either case, they should look elsewhere.

Actually, never mind transfers… they should be focusing on this weekend’s Derby della Madonnina. If someone can take down ArgentInter, it’s the world champions, although The Great Zaltan will feature for the Nerazzurri.

Here’s to Rino Gattuso and the other six Italians on the field running through The Swede and his Argentne minions. Forza Milan!

Buffon e Del Piero 3 – 2 Lazio

December 16, 2007 12:23 am

Two days ago, I said that “…Lazio… free from Champions League duty, will be focused solely on Italian matches.”

After today’s performance, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that yeah… Lazio look pretty damn focused.  So focused, in fact, that Juve were lucky… and they know it.

Simply put, Lazio played with the energy of kids just let out of school for the summer.  Free from homework, free from essays, free from the difficulties of their Champions League schedule, they appeared rejuvenated, and the numbers show it:

Shots (on Goal) 

  • Lazio – 14(9)
  • Juventus – 10(3)

Time of Possession

  • Lazio – 63%
  • Juventus – 37%

Saves

  • Lazio – 0
  • Juventus – 7

Unfortunately for the Biancocelesti, the statistic that matters the most (der… goals?) went in Juve’s favor, thanks to the heroics of Buffon, and yes, that guy Del Piero. (For more on the match, check out Martha’s write-up.)

Still though, there are 22 weeks left in the season – certainly enough time for Lazio to cause problems for other squads, assuming they can stay healthy.  Looking ahead, March is their tough month, as they face Milan, Udinese, Roma, Fiorentina… and Inter.  That said, if they come out of March with more than three points (Livorno’s in there too somewhere), Lazio are the real deal, boys and girls. Until then, just watch out for them at the playground.

Other Stuff:  From Foggia to Mancini to Berlusconi

Alright. We know that Cagliari has recently played host to WWE-style drama involving top-kid Foggia, but the news today is that said drama is probably responsible for his exclusion from the squad this weekend.  So yeah. Cagliari are closing the door on their best player on the eve of a match with Inter… as if chances of a Cagliari upset weren’t slim enough.

Speaking of Inter (aren’t we always?), Coach Mancini has played down Milan’s efforts in the Club World Cup, calling the length of the tournament “absurd,” while likening it to a friendly-fest.  Whether or not I agree with Mancini, it seems petty for him to be belittling what he knows is Milan’s primary focus this season.  At least Berlusconi was more diplomatic in his response, as usual.

ESPN: Roma e Juve hanno una probabilità.

December 13, 2007 11:26 pm

(ESPN: Roma and Juve have a chance.)

If ESPN is to be commended for one thing in relation to their calcio coverage, it has to be positive thinking.

They’re reporting that Juve and Roma have a “chance to close the gap” with Inter this weekend. While I would absolutely love to share their optimism, a quick look at their analysis has me thinking that their gap closing conclusion may be based upon a foundation of quicksand.

First of all, they point out, either explicitly or in passing, just about every factor that goes against Roma and Juve’s chance at closing the gap with Inter. For instance:

  • Juve have won only once away from Turin this season, and they visit Olimpico this weekend.
  • At Olimpico, Juve face Lazio, who, free from Champions League duty, will be focused solely on Italian matches.
  • Juve will be without Camoranesi until January.
  • Roma, who have had less rest due to Champions League duty, play Torino, who will be raring to go after taking a 4-0 pounding from Inter last weekend.
  • Matrix is fit enough to start again, as evidenced against PSV.
  • Barring an upset that would have me shedding tears of joy, Inter are sure to snag three points from Cagliari, who sit at the very bottom of the table.

So… yeah, ESPN, what were you saying about closing gaps again? The only news I’ve seen that could hinder Inter’s dominance in the near term centers around their list of injured players; ESPN is reporting that Viera, Figo, Dacourt, Jiminez and Stankovic are all injured. Oh – I almost forgot – The Great Zaltan is suspended, apparently. Yeah. Too bad he’ll probably be backed up by friggin’ Hernan Crespo. Oh. What a relief for Cagliari. It’s only Crespo. From Cagliari’s point of view, this has to be like Ken subbing in for Ryu in Street Fighter II.

Now that I’ve gotten all of the doom and gloom out of the way, here’s something… else. (What? I’ve already likened him to a Street Fighter II character. Is this that much worse? OK. Yeah. It is. The Great Zaltan can take it though, I’m sure.)

One more (unrelated) thing before I go… All Lucarelli needs is a buyer, and he’s back. I know, I know. We all pretty much knew it was going to happen, but it’s good to hear straight talk right from the player. I can’t wait to see where this guy ends up.

Problemi a Roma – Come al Solito

December 12, 2007 9:23 pm

(Problems in Rome – as Usual)

What is it about Roma vs. Manchester that sets people off?

La Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting that today, seven fans (five Manchester supporters and two Roma supporters) were injured in clashes that took place in the vicinity of Stadio Olimpico. Thankfully, none of the injuries appear to be serious, although it sounds like there was quite a scene, with chairs, tables, bottles (from nearby bars), and smoke bombs, being thrown. Also, five people were arrested, four of whom were British or Romanian (the fifth presumably was Italian).

Update: Channel 4 Italia now has a piece about the incident, in which they specify that some of the injuries were stab wounds. Also, Ansa has upped the number of injured to nine. This next part is pure hearsay, but I did read in an Italian discussion thread that the Manchester fans involved in the incidents sought out the Roma supporters. I can’t find any articles to verify that, although La Gazzetta did point out that all went smoothly at all the stadium gates, including the one set aside for Manchester supporters. (See the video linked below. Obviously, La Gazzetta was wrong.)

Another Update: A police chief in the UK is running his mouth off, stepping light years outside of his jurisdiction.  He’s probably a Manchester supporter.  Here’s a video of the incident, after the stupid ad.  Things don’t look too calm at the gates after all.

In Other News…

loseWeight Exercise Rocchi”>Lazio must be stupid. (No offense intended to any Lazio tifosi; that comment is aimed squarely at the team’s management.) Having just crashed out of the Champions League with the grace of a three-legged water buffalo, Lazio need to be reminded that Tommaso Rocchi is (as far as I’ve seen) the best player on the squad. Perhaps before they start looking to sign new players, they should work to keep their current stand-outs.

Man, I hear ya, Giorgio. Chiellini has made some comments in agreement with those of Daniele De Rossi, remarking that it’s unbelievable pain in the a$$ to trail Inter. While at the beginning of the season, it seemed like the Nerazzurri were getting lucky here and there, now it appears that they’ve turned it up a notch, which I didn’t even think was possible. It’s maddening, and a look at Inter’s schedule doesn’t do anything to restore my sanity.

Speaking of Inter… they actually fielded three Italians today against PSV. I know – My jaw almost dropped through the floor too! In honor of this vast Nerazzurri achievement, I have refrained from calling them ArgentInter in this post. If anyone’s wondering what Italians they even own, Bolzoni and Matrix started, and Puccio came on late. Wonders never cease.