Archive for the 'Euro 2008' category

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… »

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!

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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Blatter: Inter dovrebbero essere più Italiano.

November 20, 2007 2:55 am

(Blatter: Inter should be more Italian.)

Gosh, Sepp… ya think?

Blatter, who has had a rocky relationship with Italian soccer, recently pointed out what many have been saying for quite a while now: with only one Italian starter (Matrix) and only five Italians on their 28-man roster, Inter doesn’t look very Italian.

A little digging reveals that Blatter has been on the “we should use home-grown players” bandwagon for a while now. In fact, he’s recently been pushing for a ruling that would limit the number of foreign on-field starters to five, a move that would surely end Inter’s reign at the top of the table. While a current EU law hinders such a move, Blatter contends that it does not apply to soccer.

According to the Goal.com article linked above, changes could be implemented as early as next month, which leaves me scratching my head. Surely, Inter’s management are aware of the possibly impending changes. That said, why aren’t they preparing? Is Inter going to put up a “Help wanted: Italians inquire within” sign in January, or do they just not believe that it can happen?

I’ll have my ear to the ground on this in case there are any other developments.

Meanwhile, back on the peninsula…

  • Giancarlo Abete, top dog at the FIGC, says The Don isn’t going anywhere at the moment. (Good for you, Don. Now if you could just get over your penchant for substitutions that don’t make sense. *cough*IaquintaForDiNatale*cough*)
  • Although everyone seems to have forgotten about it, the Azzurri have a date with Faroe Islands coming up. Faroe Islands are likely to start three Jacobsens (no, seriously), and The Don will most likely have Quagliarella, Gilardino, and maybe even Palladino on the pitch from the start. Hopefully, they’ll keep the carpenter at an arm’s length. Forza Azzurri!

Non gridate, Scozia!

November 18, 2007 4:59 am

(Don’t cry, Scotland!)

If, before yesterday’s victory over Scotland, you asked me to guess who would score for Italy, one of the two players pictured below would’ve been at the top of my list, whereas the other… well, let’s just say I’d never have guessed it.

 

Panucci and Toni

So, it came as no surprise that Toni hit the mark. (If anything, the only surprise there was the fact that it took him less than two minutes to do so.) Old Man Panucci’s goal, on the other hand, was a stunner – especially for Scotland.

Unfortunately, there have been complaints – most notably from Scotland’s coach – regarding the Spanish referee’s decision to award the free kick leading to Panucci’s goal. Since I was two states away from my favorite Azzurri-watching post, I didn’t see the incident, so I don’t know whether or not the Scots’ complaints are legitimate… but I’ll assume they are. (McLeish, unlike a certain French coach, hasn’t yet given me a reason to think he’s a raving lunatic.)

Continue to the rest of this post… »

Italia ha sbarcato!

November 16, 2007 7:49 am

(Italy has landed!)

This morning, on the eve of their Euro 2008 qualifier with Scotland, the Azzurri have touched down in Glasgow.

Chris at the Offside blog has put together a craftily-worded and thorough match preview, (his ‘guess’ at Scotland’s tactics is just priceless… and probably right on-target too) so there isn’t much sense in writing another preview up when he’s already done it so well.

That said, I did catch a bit of news that’s worth posting, so here’s a quick rundown:

  • First off, Oddo was hurt in training, so we probably won’t see him on the pitch. Luckily, he leaves his post in capable hands, with Zambro, Grosso, Canna and Barzagli / Panucci holding the fort down.
  • Second, Scotland’s manager, Alex McLeish has made a comment that I hope isn’t indicative of his team’s strategy. (His words, plus those of Kenny Miller, do not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling about this match.)

This will most likely be the last post on serieAmerica before the match, so I leave you with the Inno di Mameli, and these words:

Forza Azzurri!

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