Tag Archives: Italy

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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Nike’s epic World Cup ad

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. I love the Rooney part.

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World Cup 2010: Group F jerseys

Group F is Italy and a bunch of others who probably won’t do much. But since I’m looking at all 32 teams, here we go…

Italy home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

I want to hate this shirt. I really do. It’s Italy, after all, and nobody like Italy except for Italians and people who claim to be from “the old country.” But I can’t hate it. It’s too nice. The best thing about the shirt, aside from the color, is that the little designs actually add to it. The white stripes break up the blue while the subtle designs in the body add an illusion of fluidity. Hell, even the collar is interesting and not stupid. Dammit. Also, I’m hoping they bring back their brown jerseys from last year’s Confederations Cup.

New Zealand home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

They’re not called the All Blacks for nothing. I feel like I should mention that I’ll give the Kiwis a pass on my automatic hatred of black jerseys because it’s their traditional color. And I respect that.

Paraguay home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

I look at this shirt and I think barber shop pole. That’s not a good thing. On the other hand, the shirt isn’t terrible and the Paraguayan Football Association’s logo is rather cool.

Slovakia home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

The perils of being lucky to get into the World Cup: you get less than Adidas’s best effort. This is, I believe, a template from a couple of years ago, which isn’t on its face a bad thing, but it’s not a good thing, either. I nothing this shirt… it stirs no feelings in me whatsoever.

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Confederations Cup: One in a million

Charlie Davies scores v. Egypt  (Paul Thomas/Associated Press)

Charlie Davies scores v. Egypt (Paul Thomas/Associated Press)

To paraphrase John Harkes, if South Africa has a Powerball lottery, Bob Bradley should go buy a ticket. It was the opposite of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. It was, in fact, a series of very fortunate events.

The United States had the slimmest of margins to get through to the semi-finals yesterday, yet they did. Brazil beat the crap out of a really rather disinterested Italy squad by a score of 3-0. But the final goal, the one that helped put the US through, was an own goal off the foot of defender Andrea Dossena. And every Liverpool fan jumped as one and shouted, “See?!? We told you he was terrible!”

And what of the US-Egypt match? The US scored 3 goals? Really? Are they really that good? Short answer? Hell, no. Is Egypt that bad? Maybe, but I doubt it.

I’m having trouble assessing the US here. They played one good half against Italy and then got trounced by a combination of Giuseppe Rossi and Daniele de Rossi. They were completely and utterly outclassed by Brazil for 90 minutes. Hell, they were probably outclassed in the dressing room, at the pre- and post-match press conferences, and on the ride over from the hotel. The Brazilian hotel likely outclassed the US hotel. That match was a complete and utter destruction. There are no two ways around it.

At the same time, Egypt looked if not good, at least competitive where the US did not. So what happened? I think the Pharaohs ran out of gas, honestly. The one thing that really struck me about the underdogs was the lack of depth. Look at the Spanish, Brazilian, and Italian rosters (okay, Italy’s a bad example, but stay with me): the thing you notice first is that every single player would make the first XI of Egypt, South Africa, New Zealand, Iraq, and the United States. Every single one.

So how do I explain the US in the semi-finals. The easiest answer is luck. Sheer shit luck. The other answer is that they finally put together a good 90 minutes; I think that’s true. I don’t think, however, that Brad Guzan is the new starting keeper or that Conor Casey is the answer at striker. Similarly, I don’t think we’ll get any answers when the US gets annihilated by Spain on Wednesday. The US remains an enigma, one of the dominant teams in CONCACAF but nowhere near the elite on the world stage. Perhaps the next two matches will reveal some pearls of truth.

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Confederations Cup: Italy v. Brazil preview

Daniele de Rossi and Giuseppe Rossi

Daniele de Rossi and Giuseppe Rossi

This is the match I’ve been waiting for since the tournament started. It’s not often that two teams this good would meet in anything other than the World Cup. Which is another reason you should love the Confederations Cup.

But Italy is playing like crap, you say. And Italy are notoriously slow starters and might just get burned by it this time. And you take the time to point out that should Italy lose, it could possibly not go through into the semi-finals. And, because you’re a homer, you point out that the US is still mathematically alive.

So, in descending order of ridiculousness: first, the US will not make it into the semi-finals. I sincerely doubt they’ll even get a point against Egypt. Which means the Pharaohs will win. (I’ll go ahead and pick a score of 2-1.) That gives the Pharaohs 6 points and a plus-1 goal differential.

Which brings us to Italy. If they lose, they and their kickin’ new jerseys and brown (brown!) shorts are out. I don’t think it’s true that they’re playing like crap; I think they took Egypt too lightly and got burned. It’s also true that they’re slow starters; but that can’t be an excuse now. So, they need a win (Italy has a goal differential of plus-1, therefore any win will give them a goal differential of plus-2 at least; problems arise if Egypt lays the hammer down on the US and blows them away). If they draw, they need to hope for an Egypt loss.

So, this is win or go home. And I think Italy will win. I’d like to think that there’s some form of Italian pride. I’d also like to think they learned their lesson from taking Egypt too lightly, which means they’ll come out with both barrels blazing. Which, to me, means Luca Toni joining Vincenzo Iaquinta or Alberto Gilardino up front. Giuseppe Rossi also needs to start. I would sit Fabio Cannavaro because he looked out of shape in the last match.

If all goes well and Italy catch some breaks, they’ll win 1-0 and receive the honor of losing to Spain in the semi-finals.

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Hating Rossi is pointless

Giuseppe Rossi goal in the Confederations Cup (AP)

Giuseppe Rossi goal in the Confederations Cup (AP)

I’m talking to you, US fans. Those of you who have spewn venom at him, especially in light of his brace against the US yesterday, are crying over milk that has been spilled for 9 years. And it’s time for you to stop.

News flash: Giuseppe Rossi never intended to play for the US. Ever. Not when he was 10, not when he was 15, not when he was 18 and most definitely not when he 22. He never, ever played the US system for a fool: he was never part of the youth setup therefore he never used resources that could have gone to someone else. In fact, he and his father left the country when he was 13 so he could play professionally in Europe. And that’s the key: he never wanted to play for the US even though he was born in Clifton, NJ. He always wanted to play for Italy. How can you hate someone for following their dream? Other than being completely and totally irrational, that is.

Ives Galarcep, who run an excellent blog, wrote today that the US losing Rossi is different from, say, Germany losing Jermaine Jones because the US doesn’t have the talent Germany does. Factually, all of that is true. It is my opinion that the US is overrated in the FIFA rankings (currently 14th, likely lower after the Confederations Cup unless they beat Egypt). It is my opinion that Jermaine Jones might help the US but he won’t put the team over the top. Rossi, on the other hand, is better than Clint Dempsey and would offer far more in the attacking third of the pitch with Jozy Altidore and Landycakes. But does that justify hatred?

Ives doesn’t come down on one side or the other. He writes:

If you are a U.S. fan who hates Rossi, I won’t tell you not to, but I will say that you can feel free to take some of that energy and spend it on the American players who wore the USA shield on Monday.

He seems to want to have it both ways, which is his perogative. But that’s not my opinion. In my opinion, US fans would be far better off if they let it go and cheered on the players who want to pull the US jersey on. Rossi never has and never will play for the US. He’s made his choice and it can’t be un-made. It’s time to let that go and quit acting like the stalker girlfriend who won’t take no for an answer.

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Confederations Cup: What the hell just happened?

Kaka and Shawki at the Confederations Cup

I am, of course, talking about this: Brazil 4-3 Egypt. What the hell?

I can appreciate that Egypt is an underrated team, especially by me. I had them firmly in the underdog category a couple of days ago. But they played well today. They bounced back agaisnt one of the best teams in the world. And they scored 3 goals! Take a look, New Zealand: that is how you go about challenging a top team. It took a Kaká PK to finally seal the deal. The United States should be very, very afraid and probably wishing they had a time machine to go back and be drawn into Group A.

Side note: Brazil and Egypt have two of the plainest kits I’ve ever seen. Although Egypt has, hands down, the best team nickname: The Pharaohs.

And then, of course, there’s the WTF feeling the US must be having after losing 3-1 to Italy. After having Ricardo Clark red carded (I thought he deserved a yellow, but not a straight red) and going down to 10 men (seriously, will the US ever field a full 11-man squad versus Italy?), Landycakes scored on a PK to put them up 1-0. Everything was fine until Giuseppe Rossi showed up. He proceeded to score not once but twice. The first, it must be said, was spectacular.

Rossi ConfederationOne of my goals this week is to try to gauge exactly how good the United States is. I think, at number 14 in the FIFA rankings, they might be a tad overrated. Then again, they could just be going through a rough bit of form. They were lethargic against Italy until Clark got red carded; then Landycakes turned it on played like a man possessed. That’s two straight world-class performances for him, for those of you keeping track at home.

Bob Bradley’s tactics were acceptable, though they could have been better. Charlie Davies is overrated by the US hierarchy and should not have been subbed in for Jozy Altidor. What he should have done was put in another defender – perhaps someone to play a sweeper role – or a defensive midfielder. Benny Feilhaber and Michael Bradley provided nice offensive options at times but once the lead was their and they were down to 10 men, defense becomes the priority. I’m not saying they should have collapsed into a shell because that puts too much pressure on the keeper.

Hopefully the lesson was learned for what looks like two difficult encounters coming up.

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