Tag Archives: Inter Milan

Slovak’d!

Slovakia defeated Italy on 24 June 2010 (David Cannon/Getty Images)

For the first time in World Cup history, the two finalists from the previous World Cup did not make it to the knockout stage. France’s exit was hardly unexpected, given that they weren’t very good and, perhaps more importantly, karma’s a bitch. That would be divine retribution for Thierry Henry’s blatant handball. But Italy is another story. Slovakia’s 3-2 victory was a bit of shock.

The Italians have developed a bit of a reputation as slow starters who eventually get all their pistons firing. Strange thing about 2010, though, is that never happened. Italy constantly looked lethargic, with bad passing and inadequate players. In fact, Italy looked old. And that, boys and girls, was the main problem. The Italian team was old; it relied too much on old warhorses like Fabio Cannavaro, who should have been thanked for his service and reduced to a substitute. The strikers couldn’t find the net; in effect, they couldn’t do their job. Marcello Lippi, who left the field without shaking hands with the Slovakian manager (which I really have no problem with, but it is kinda classless, though he redeemed himself by falling on his sword at the post-match press conference), failed to inject the squad with youth. And yes, I mean Giuseppe Rossi, among others. How much did he want Rossi to come on the field in the second half for a much-needed spark? I know that’s what I wanted.

The problem is a little more systemic, though. Italy was an old team because they don’t have young players to replace the veterans. The lack of development at Italian clubs is catching up with the national team (for example, everyone makes a big deal out of the fact that Italy’s best team – Inter Milan – did not have one Italian on the World Cup squad), and it’s going to cost them. The Italian FA need to ensure that domestic clubs develop talent. And the national team needs to start accepting players that don’t play in Italy (England and Spain have better leagues).

This is hardly a crippling problem, to be sure. It is fixed relatively easily. The Italian FA needs to hire a manager unafraid to make changes.

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Saturday Night Links: Monday edition

Zlatan Ibrahimovic presented in Barcelona (Getty Images)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic presented in Barcelona (Getty Images)

Zlatan Ibrahimović completed his move to Barcelona today with a few choice words for Inter in particular and Italian soccer in general. “I was fed up of Italy, of Milan, of your football: you play badly, there’s too much stress.” Interesting. We all know Italian soccer is defensive but Italy is hardly the only country that takes its soccer way too seriously. He probably should have kept his mouth shut and kept on praising Inter chief Massimo Moretti. By the way, that’s a number 9 jersey he’s holding in the picture.

The other half of the swap, Samuel Eto’o, moved, along with the comically astronomical sum of €46 million, to Inter. The Cameroon striker pledged to score at a higher rate than he did in Barcelona (39 goals in 49 games last year). I don’t know what number he’s going to wear. Number 8 is clearly available but Eto’o has a preference for number 9. Does anyone know if number 10 is available at Inter?

Ives looks back at Mexico’s 5-0 destruction of the US in the Gold Cup Final. He seems to think it’s not that big a deal, something I agree with. Mexico was clearly the better team, esp. in the second half.

Peter Crouch has joined Tottenham from Portsmouth. I like the big awkward lug and think he’ll do well with Spurs.

Florentino Pérez says Real Madrid have to clear some players out. No shit, Sherlock. A.C. Milan are apparently interested in Klass-Jan Huntelaar, who is a very good striker but not nearly as good as the really rather awesome Karim Benzema.

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What does the World Football Challenge mean?

Frank Lampard scores (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Frank Lampard scores (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

So what does the World Football Challenge mean, in the larger sense, for soccer in the US?

1. Attendance through 12 games was 670,000 and tickets were selling for 10 times face value. What does that tell you? It tells me that US fans will pay to see the best teams and players. But that has been clear since the 1994 World Cup. It also tells me that European teams are taking these games seriously.

2. MLS needs to stop expanding and develop the grassroots game. The best way to do that is to integrate USL-1 and USL-2 and improve loaning and player-development deals. It also needs to clarify its relationship with the NCAA. Most of it, it needs to develop and retain good American players will utilizing the DP slots more effectively. At its best, the slot is a way to generate good publicity and to help the team take a significant step forward. At its worst, the slot is a financial boondoggle. It’s up to MLS GMs to make sure it’s the former rather than the latter.

3. All those fans who are going to the World Football Challenge need to wake up and support their local MLS teams. That esp. goes for all the fans of Mexico who believe they are above MLS; they’re not. If they love soccer, they’ll watch it be played at its highest level in this country, even if they do, for some godforsaken reason, like América. Scratch that: América can keep all their fans. Every other one should check out FC Dallas or Houston.

4. All of those fans who are going to the World Football Challenge need to support the Gold Cup. It’s only natural.

The World Football Challenge is instructive in that it shows there is a kind of soccer elitism in the US. They will
come out for the best club teams and their players but they will not support their own league. If they ever want to
see the best players and best club teams every week, like the NFL or the NBA or MLB, they must start supporting MLS.

Alexi Lalas said that in 1994 he saw tonight coming (75,000 people at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, MD) even then. But what he saw coming was not 75,000 people showing up for a friendly between an English team and an Italian team. No, he saw 75,000 coming to see American players. And that day isn’t here yet.

So, how do we get rid of the elitism? Through exposure. MLS needs more than one game per week on ESPN. It also  needs local television exposure and it needs to be on networks. I’ve no idea why ABC and ESPN don’t show a Saturday double-header every week during the summer. In addition to the momentum gained by World Cup Qualifiers and the Confederations Cup, it would build good momentum for MLS.

Have at it, ESPN.

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Saturday Night Links: Silly season update

This is a couple of days old but I’m still a bit surprised that Barcelona would send Samuel Eto’o, Aliaksandr Hleb, and €45 million for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Okay, I’ll grant that Ibrahimovic is a really good striker. But he’s not Cristiano Ronaldo in that he’s not worth two players – one of whom was the lead striker on Europe’s best team last year – and €45 million. That’s just ridiculous. Inter did well in this deal. Of course, this isn’t official yet so I could be wrong.

In other news, Arsène Wenger is apparently in no hurry to replace Emmanuel Adebayor. He’s under the delusion that Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner or Eduardo (coming off a horrific injury) can fill the role. I’m flabbergasted. (The article lists Andrei Arshavin as a potential replacement, which I agree with, and Theo Walcott, who is a winger, and will not replace Adebayor’s scoring.) I’m not sure what Wenger is doing but if I was an Arsenal fan, I’d be worried.

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