Archive for the 'Azzurri' category

Giù e Su

February 7, 2008 1:42 am

(Down and Up)

Aaaaaand we’re back.

Since my last post, it looks like quite a bit has happened – at both ends of the spectrum. First, there was the low point of Roma slipping back a bit (ow!), and now we’ve reached the high point of a convincing Azzurri win in yesterday’s Zurich friendly. Let’s take a look at both, starting with this Roma ridiculousness.

So… what the hell happened to Roma?

Friggin’ Siena happened, that’s what. See… some of us knew it was going to be a touch match. Hell; I’ve been saying that Siena are nasty since October. That said, in all fairness, I did not think that Roma would loseWeight Exercise. I was banking on the Giallorossi winning by a single goal, but the result was far from it.

At this point, it should be clear that Roma need to sign somebody who can finish. In a perfect world, I’d take Luca Toni or Quagliarella with a side of Di Natale, and watch ‘em run Inter down, but we’ll have to wait for the summer to see any signings at all, let alone the insane pipe-dream ones I just mentioned. In the meantime, Roma have terrible Reggina to contend with, and the Giallorossi should be raring to go. Actually, coming off of a loss like the one against Siena, I wish the next round were against Inter, as motivation is half the match. Look for Roma to bounce back, destroying Reggina by a healthy margin.

Speaking of motivation, that’s something I usually talk about in relation to the Azzurri. Where they found motivation to perform like they did at yesterday’s friggin’ friendly, I don’t know. I’m guessing it has something to do with the ragazzi pulling out all the stops in an effort to get a Euro 2008 call up. Then again, maybe The Don gave a fire-lighting pre-match speech. (That would be something, right?) Who knows? Either way, they ran through Portugal (yes, Portugal… seriously good Portugal featuring C. Ronaldo) like a hot knife through butter. Check this out, and tell me it doesn’t make you smile:

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

In Portugal’s defense, they had some decent chances, and their one goal was very nice. Outside of that however, they were under consistent attack by the whole Azzurri team picture. Oh… and speaking of attack, in case you’re wondering why The Don left out Del Piero in favor of Palladino (despite Del Piero’s nine Serie A goals versus Palladino’s one), you need only know two things to understand: 1) Del Piero won’t play anywhere but up front without throwing a hissy-fit, as I’ve mentioned many times, while 2) Palladino is willing to play where he’s needed. READ: on the friggin’ wing.

Yeah… wings. Quagliarella. Palladino. Hell yes. Suddenly, it appears as though the Azzurri have real options out wide (besides Camoranesi), and enough can’t be said about the way these two guys hassled Portugal. Outstanding.

Also a monster for the Azzurri was Pirlo. What a presence on the ball! Meanwhile, Toni was his usual sacrificial self, and although his goal was somewhat of a poach… someone should tell Portugal that if you’re going to mark Luca Toni like that, you might as well not mark him at all. And Di Natale… the guy was everywhere. I don’t care how old he is, Roma need to sign this guy. Now.

If you’re interested in reading more about the match, Marco has a thorough write-up.

Non è tempo di parlare di questo.

January 15, 2008 11:57 pm

(It’s not time to talk about this.)

I’m referring to the World Cup 2010 qualification fixtures, of course! They were announced today, but in my opinion, it’s really too early to discuss a set of matches beginning in September when there’s the little matter of the Euro 2008 tournament between now and then. (By the way, Euro 2008 is just 143 days away, in case you’re wondering. Yes, I agree that it sure as $*!# is soon.) Since it is too friggin’ early to really get into it, I’ll just list the fixtures. If you really want to go nuts analyzing, you can refer back to my post-draw… um… post.

September 6, 2008 – Cyprus (Away)
September 10, 2008 – Georgia
October 11, 2008 – Bulgaria
October 15, 2008 – Montenegro
March 28, 2009 – Montenegro
April 1, 2009 – Republic of Ireland
September 5, 2009 – Georgia
September 9, 2009 – Bulgaria
October 10, 2009 – Republic of Ireland
October 14, 2009 – Cyprus

OK. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the events that are a bit more current.

First of all, Maniche is now at Inter, and Lucarelli is finally at Parma. Done. Finito. I’m not discussing it anymore until they play.

Other than that, it’s all about Coppa Italia, as we’ve started the second leg of the Round of 16. Here are the standings (leaders in green):

  1st Leg Agg. 2nd Leg
Torino 3-1 - - Roma
Cagliari 1-0 - - Sampdoria
Udinese 0-0 - - Palermo
Milan 1-2 - - Catania
Lazio 2-1 - - Napoli
Ascoli 1-1 - - Fiorentina
Empoli 2-1 5-6 3-5 Juventus
Reggina 1-4 - - Inter

Udinese – Palermo and Fiorentina – Ascoli are pretty straightforward. Win the second leg, and you’re through.

Udine probably has a tougher test than Fiorentina though, as Palermo are probably still licking their wounds from this past weekend’s Sampdoria match, and will therefore be extra motivated. Compare that to Fiorentina, who face a side currently sitting in 11th place… in Serie B. Um… yeah.

As for Milan – Catania, I see Milan pulling through. Ancelotti says he’s playing resting some of his 37 Brazilians, which means that Gilardino has a chance to show that he can hang.

Reggina – Inter. [sarcasm]Gosh. I wonder![/sarcasm] To be honest, Inter got lucky this weekend, and it’s possible that they might eek through on good fortune again, but even if Reggina manage to upset Inter in this leg, it’s not like they’ll upset them by a four-goal margin. If they do, I promise a nice, big Reggina tribute post.

Looking at Torino – Roma… man, what a cr@p situation for Roma! Torino will be looking to get their act together after this weekend’s loss to Livorno, and they hold the advantage. Not that Spalletti ever rotates the squad anyway, but I don’t think Roma will rest anybody; I’m expecting Totti-Perrotta-Aquilani-De Rossi to light it up in front of a home crowd.

As for Cagliari – Sampdoria, who the hell knows? On one side, you have a head case who storms off the pitch while cursing out his teammates and balling his eyes out, and on the other side, you have a guy that rolls with chair-throwing henchmen. Damnit, I love calcio.

Lazio – Napoli. This is the official Battle of the Troubled Teams, I think. Lazio just can’t seem to get anything right this season, while Napoli have had to endure piles of trash and Samba-dancing trident attacks. I wouldn’t touch this one with a 10-foot pole. (Hey UK readers – Do you guys use that expression?)

Of course, Empoli – Juventus is over, and Juve came away with the victory (though Raineri is understandably not a happy camper), which means they’ll probably end up facing Inter next round.

E ‘questa la nuova maglia azzurro?

January 4, 2008 2:04 am

(Is this the new blue jersey?)

I think it is!

Yeah, we already know what the away (white) shirt looks like, and while it’s kind of grown on me since my initial impressions, I’m still not too wild about the super-rounded font.

This blue one though… I think it makes up for the disco-inferno white! To be honest, it comes as a bit of a surprise; were it not for the guys on the BigSoccer forum, I’d have never known about it.  See… I (and most others, in all likelihood) didn’t expect to see the Azzurri home shirt until next month, as that’s when it’s set to be officially unveiled. However, it looks as though some French retailer (go figure) has let the Puma out of the bag.

I’m hosting an image of the shirt below, just in case Puma tells the wonderful French to take their image down.

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

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!

Tutti vogliono indossare azzurro.

December 11, 2007 2:42 am

(They all want to wear blue.)

If you’ve been keeping track of the calcio news lately, and if you’ve been able to sort through the transfer rumor free-for-all, you may have noticed a trend. I have, anyway.

It seems that ever since the Euro 2008 qualifiers ended, everybody, their uncle, their agent, their agent’s uncle, their uncle’s agent, and their uncle’s agent’s kitchen sink has been telling the media that they’re gunning for a chance to wear the blue shirt of Italy.

You’d think that there would always be players knocking down the Azzurri coach’s door – and there probably are – but nowadays, they all seem a bit more… vocal. I won’t speculate as to why that’s the case, as there are more possible reasons than one can shake a stick at, but I will take a run through a list of the ragazzi that have been pleading to share the pitch with our campioni, and try to shed some light on whether they have – or should have – a chance.

  • Christian Vieri – I see Vieri called “veteran striker” a lot, which leads me to believe that said moniker must be code for “old dude,” because Vieri is, of course, one old dude. (OK. That was a bit harsh.) Really, I’m just trying to say that this “veteran striker” has seen better days. Granted, like most, I love a good comeback story, and an Azzurri return would be one hell of a comeback story… but isn’t his return to Serie A inspiring enough? He may have a work ethic like no other, but the fact is, Italy has strikers coming out of their… you know what. That said, the Azzurri just don’t need Bobo right now, so I am going with NO on this one. Maaaaaayyyybe if (God forbid!) current big man Toni was unable to play, I’d send Vieri in off the bench, but otherwise… well… I’m sorry, Bobo.
  • Cristian Molinaro – Well, he pretty much admits that he has no chance at Euro 2008, so the kid’s realistic, at least. At 24, this left back may have a chance some day, but now? Based off of the little I know about him, NO. Not now. Sadly, all I can really tell you about him is that he has been playing for the Old Lady quite a bit, and was capped a crap-ton for Salernitana. (I don’t watch enough Juve to have seen how he’s done when he has played, so maybe someone can shed some light on Mr. Molinaro in the comments section.)
  • Rodrigo Taddei – OK. The inclusion of Taddei in this list is actually unfair on my part. See… he’s the only player here that hasn’t opened his mouth; in Taddei’s case, others are doing the talking for him. Actually, Taddei said he doesn’t want a spot on the Azzurri, and instead is waiting for a Brazil call-up, as he’s eligible for both national teams. Regardless, when Gigi Riva offers his endorsement, people tend to listen, and maybe Taddei will too. As for whether or not he should have a spot on the Azzurri (assuming he decides to *not* become a Sith lord [Sorry. Runaway Star Wars reference.]), I say NO. Actually, make that a HELL NO. With all due respect to the esteemed Mr. Riva, Taddei seems more Brazilian than Italian to me, and that just doesn’t mesh well with the whole Azzurri thing. Yeah, I know. I know. Camoranesi was born in Argentina. Camo’s Italian citizenship is through Italian ancestry though, and I couldn’t confirm that Taddei’s is. Besides, there are other worthy midfielders running about the peninsula, no?
  • Alex Del Piero – It’s not easy for me to say this about the guy who scored that gorgeous, emotional goal against Germany in ’06, but if I were The Don, I’d say NO, and I’d do so fully aware of the fact that Alex thinks he’s earned a spot. I won’t get into the “why not” here, because I’ve already gone into detail on the matter in a prior post.
  • David Di Michele – He’s got six Azzurri caps to his record, but we’d have to look back into the Vieri era to find them. Overall, he’s got a decent track record (illegal gambling episode aside), but as of late (last season, for instance), he hasn’t shown us an edge worthy of the Azzurri. (Nine goals in 28 matches is a decent ratio, I suppose, but compare that to Quagliarella’s six in 14.) I am going with a NO for David, while hoping that he shows us something more. (I’m not holding my breath.)
  • Giorgio Chiellini – In a word: YES. Actually, in The Don’s mind, Chiellini is probably a call-up already (having already been capped… and having already scored), but Chiellini says he’s still “aiming” for a spot. (Humility, even when fake, is nice to see. Hear that, Del Piero?) While he’s a bit rough around the edges (i.e. young) at present, I see shades of (the good side of) Matrix in this kid. Actually, let’s just call him Matrix Reloaded, and be done with it, mmmmkay?
  • Pippo Inzaghi – Though he’s another “veteran striker,” I’m hesitant to group Pippo with Bobo. (Holy crap. I just realized: Pippo? Bobo? It sounds like they should be furry and purple and singing about ABC’s or something.) Basically, while Bobo is just back from an injury, Pippo has never left; he’s been coming off of the bench, doing his thing – the – entire – time, and always *just* in time for the biggest matches. I realize, however, that Euro 2008 is seven or eight months away (which is a lot of time for a 34 year-old), so despite Pippo’s desire, I say the jury’s still out on this one. Once again, I’ll point out that the Azzurri are facing no striker drought, but on the other hand, nobody has a resume (and a currently growing one at that) like Pippo. Tentative YES.

Five marked NO, and seven marked YES? Hopefully, The Don can thin the pack this easily. Hell – maybe The Don will see this! (Remember that stint he had with the Metrostars? Maybe he speaks English!) Hey! The Don! No Del Piero, OK? Oh – and how ’bout some more Quagliarella or Di Natale?

  • Update: Oh man… Did I actually forget Antonio Cassano? I don’t even need to think about this one: NO. Everyone is keen on pointing out what an outstanding talent Cassano is, but while he’s still acting like a baby, there’s no way I’d include him. Look – one of the most endearing things about the ’06 World Cup team was their group mentality; it was about the greater good, not about the individual. Lippi knew that Cassano could disrupt that cohesion, as the striker has shown us recently, so Lippi was wise enough to keep him off of the squad. I REALLY hope that The Don does the same, at least while Cassano’s moments of sanity are the exception rather than the rule.

Francia. Ancora. – Il Sorteggio di Euro 2008

December 2, 2007 3:44 pm

(France. Again. – The Euro 2008 Draw)

The Euro 2008 draw was held today, and the last thing that I expected to happen did.

Specifically, our Azzurri must face France. Again. Anyway, here’s Italy’s group:

Group C

  • Holland
  • Italy
  • Romania
  • France

It’s already widely being called “The Group of Death,” and for once, I’m not disagreeing. Three major European sides (and one side known for playing like a major European side from time to time) have been drawn into what may be the tournament’s most difficult group.

Of course, the main story here is that the paths of Italy and France have crossed yet again, so let’s get that out of the way right now: This is a fantastic opportunity. Yes, you read that correctly. Although I am not looking forward to hearing about Domenech’s ridiculous comments, and while I understand that France’s very presence greatly complicates getting through to the next stage, I am looking at the June 21st match with France in particular as a chance to put some debates to bed.

Let me explain: Immediately following the 2006 World Cup, some contended that Italy did not deserve to win the tournament. On top of that, some actually argued that France was the better team in the final match, implying that the title was somehow stolen from Les Bleus. It seemed to be fate then, that placed Italy in France’s Euro 2008 qualifying group, which warranted a match in September, 2006 – right on the heels of the Azzurri’s victory in Germany.

Of course, Italy lost in Paris to a French team with something to prove – in front of 78,000 screaming Parisians. On the surface, that loss seemed to give credibility to the claims that France was the better team (although a look at Italy’s track record of not playing at its best until their backs are against the wall paints a more complete picture), and served to give the French a warm and fuzzy feeling. Subsequently, with a bit more motivation behind them, Italy welcomed France to Milan for a 2007 rematch which ended up in a bad-blooded, scoreless draw.

Had Italy emerged victorious from the tie in Milan, it would have gone far in silencing the critics who still maintain that France is the better team… but when an under-pressure France put 10 men behind the ball, the fate of the match was sealed. That leads us to today, with a June 21st meeting set – and another chance to prove that Azzurri are superior to Bleus – another fantastic opportunity to show the rest of Europe what Azzurri tifosi already know.

Bbbb…but what about the other two teams?

Romania. In four words: This won’t be easy. As if it wasn’t enough to have drawn France, Italy must face the nation of Gheorghe Hagi, a historically on-and-off force that seems to be set to “on” right… about… now. With a bunch of players from the Romanian league, it may be tempting to overlook Romania, but Chivu (from Inter) and Mutu (from Fiorentina) have led their country to the very top of their qualifying group. If that’s not some street cred, I don’t know what is.

Holland. (a.k.a. The Netherlands, a.k.a. The Oranje) Holy damn, can these guys ever pass! The last time Italy played them, it was in a friendly under Lippi which the Azzurri won 3-1, but don’t get a false sense of security from that result; Holland has improved since the last World Cup, and the squad is experienced, as always. With van Nistelrooy and Seedorf heading up their front line and midfield, respectively, they play a dangerously technical game to rival that of the Azzurri. The fact that Italy open their campaign against Holland makes them that much more dangerous (given the Italian tradition of being a little too relaxed until the situation is dire).

The Coaches Respond

To get a feel for the different responses to the draw, I’ve collected some of the comments made by Group C coaches… and much to my surprise, Domenech actually made sense this time:

Continue to the rest of this post… »