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"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an ag├Ęd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Forza Italia!

Yes! Yes! Yes! The Azzuri are in the final after another 12-year wait!

I was predicting a 3-1 victory for the Italians. It ended 2-0. My prediction defied logic; however I'm not claiming that I got the result (and the goal difference) right. I rooted for an Italian victory, simply because they are my favourite team. As they have been since 1990!

The main reason was that this Italian side was unlike any Italian side since the one which set Italia '90 on fire, Salvatore Schillaci being the prima donna then. Since then, the Azzuri started losing their sheen, a World Cup final defeat to Brazil on penalties, a quarterfinal exit in 1998 (again on penalties) against France, another defeat to France in the Euro 2000 final (France came from behind to pull off a dramatic win in extra time) and a similar yet more ignominious defeat to Guus Hiddink's South Korea in the second round in 2002.

A squad which boasted of some of the best strikers in the world -- Alessandro del Piero, Christian Vieri, Roberto Baggio, to name a few -- resorted to playing the familiar "Let's settle for 1-0" game. Yes, defence has always been their strength, what with giants like Maldini, Nesta, Cannavaro, Baresi and a host of defenders of the who's who kind playing in front of excellent goalies like Pagliuca, Perruzzi and Buffon. And there were excellent midfielders too. And yet Italy had to do without any major trophy.

Cut to 2006. And there is a huge scandal facing Italian football. Clubs are threatened with a year's suspension. The Azzuri have a decent squad, and on an excellent run too. But no one takes them seriously. Weren't there some who expressed doubts if Italy could at all get to the next round?

The Times captures the scenario perfectly, in an article by one of their football correspondents. The scandal back home and the uncertainty about their future has created a kind of "ghetto mentality" in Marcello Lippi's men. The correspondent points to the celebrations on the bench every time Italy scores a goal. This mentality has pushed the players to go every possible step, chase every ball and outrun every opponent. After all, what good is any steel if it doesn't pass the test of fire?

True, the draw against the Americans raised questions. And the game against Australia... everyone will keep talking about it, more vehemently if the Italians win their next encounter in Berlin, this Sunday. But let us not take anything away from them. This World Cup has given undue attention to Ronaldo, Ballack and the sorry English side. The unsung heroes are Cannavaro, Pirlo, Gattuso, Matterazzi and company. They deserve not to lose.

One of Portugal or France will stand in the way of the Italians on Sunday. As for tonight's game, I think Portugal will nick it. Surely the man of the tournament thus far is Luis Felipe Scolari. And with the return of Deco, who will orchestrate the Portuguese midfield, and also given their attacking, physical and racy playing style, the Iberians have the edge. And this comes from a Francophile!

6 Comments:

Blogger Prabu Karthik said...

>>This World Cup has given undue attention to Ronaldo, Ballack and the sorry English side.

sathiyamaana varthai.. i watched that horrible brazil vs france match and was in disbelief. i mean i could not even ask for my money back..
i lost my bloody sleep for 2 hours..

Not that i'm a brazilian fan but the kinda game they played for all the hype was pathetic...

Hey btw thanks for tagging me in desipundit:)

7/05/2006 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Eshwar S said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7/05/2006 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger Eshwar S said...

France has beaten Portugal 1-0 in a rather unimpressive display of football by them after an remarkable performance against the Brazilians. Clearly they haven't recovered well after the match. But they were experienced enough to keep the 1 goal margin. They are pretty good at the back with likes of Gallas, Thuram, Makenelle, Abidal and Sangol. However Barthez remains a concern.

Italy will certainly start favorites in the finals given that their defense and midfield are stronger than the French. I am not sure if Nesta will play which I think is very important for the Italians. Their midfield has been a revelation this WC with likes of Gatusso, Pirlo, Totti, and the ever present Del Piero chipping in as a sub. However, they lack a quality striker. Neither Toni or Inzagi represent a world class striker. Someone like Christian Vieri would have been of tremendous help to this Italian side.

Since its Zizou's last game I am sure he will give it all. I hope it will be a Micheal Jordan like finish for him. Should be a great final.

7/05/2006 09:03:00 PM  
Blogger Gopps said...

Hi VK, did u notice another thing, all talk about Italians reaching final every 12 years. Dont u feel this WC follow a pattern similar to Euro 2000? Have added details in my blog

7/06/2006 02:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Vijay Krishna said...

@Prabu: Hype kills. We don't need to look beyond Hyderabad (Sania Mirza) to understand that.

@Eshwar: I don't think Nesta would start, but Materrazzi has been good, so no major complaints. In almost every game, someone has come good for Italy. I wish the same for the finals.

@Gopps: Yeah, noticed it. Lost in 1970, won in 1982, lost in 1994, and ___ in 2006!

7/06/2006 02:17:00 AM  
Blogger Karthik said...

Italy surely deserve to win. For the first time, I am cheering for the Azurri!

7/06/2006 10:30:00 PM  

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