Sunday, April 30, 2006

The 'magic' of Materazzi

There was still a chance that Inter could snatch a place in the group stages of the Champs League without having to play qualifying ties until their star man stepped in. Up came Marco Materazzi with one of the most spectacular long-range own goals ever seen. In one act he saved Empoli from relegation, condemned Inter to the qualifying stages and gave the rest of us a right good laugh.

All of this on the same day that Marcello Lippi called up his squad for the latest training stage. Roma and Inter players were left out because of their cup final commitments but, surely, the Mister would be best to tell Materazzi his invitation has been lost for good. We will never tire of saying it here - the man is a liability for both club and country. He will either make a blunder or get sent off. Neither of which is a good thing.

On the same note, we notice our power has seen Inzaghi called up to the squad (nothing to do with his goals of course). Also in there a few surprises. Looks like Amelia is favourite for the third goalkeeper spot (although De Sanctis is in there too). Fiorentina's Gamberini gets a call up (a good player and a great seafood dish), so does Semioli (Chievo have been going great) and Tavano (his goals deserve it). I think Lucarelli might still end up being more likely to get a spot - particularly if Vieri cannot go. No big shocks but still hope for a few outsiders to sneak in at the end.

Good to see Daniele De Rossi in such good form from the point of view of the Nazionale and Simone Perrotta. Plus will be watching Totti through the week to see how he goes. Of the Inter omissions, well, there is only really the aforementioned Materazzi and I think you all know what I think of him...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Isn't it ironic?

A team sits back in defence all night, barely manages a shot on goal, provides no support for its loan striker and earns plaudits. Yes, Arsenal's 0-0 draw with Villareal has been receiving the usual rave reviews from the media. Is it too cynical to suggest that if an Italian team had played in that manner they might not have received such recognition? Indeed, isn't the 'crime' of catenaccio one that Italian sides have been sentenced to condemnation for decades after they stopped playing it?

Still, hats off to the Gunners for getting to their first Champs League final. In previous games, to be fair, they were not so defensive. A team that can't even finish in a Champions League spot in their domestic league salvaged by a dodgy foreign keeper. It all sounds horribly familiar, doesn't it? It would be nice for Milan to get through to get a chance to kill the ghosts of Istanbul. Doesn't look likely but if they can at least convert the chances they will undoubtedly create they might yet have a hope...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Amazing days

After their weekend win over Empoli and Roma's surprising blank at home to Sampdoria, Fiorentina are three points clear in the race for the last Champions League place. Let's just stop to think about that.

Last year the Viola only survived in Serie A on the final day of the season.

The year before that they won promotion out of Serie B in an end of campaign play-off after an amazing final run of results.

And 12 months earlier they were kicking of their Serie C2 life against mighty Sangiovannese.

If there has been a more miraculous recovery in football I have not noticed it. Even if they miss out now and end in the UEFA Cup it would still cap a phenomenal resurgence. Hope, if it were needed, for Napoli, Genoa and other big club laid low in recent seasons.

Monday, April 17, 2006

May the Genio be with you

Milan v Barcelona will never be an ordinary game for anybody of a certain age. For tifosi of Italian football who can remember it, the fixture produced one of the great European Cup finals of all time. The Rossoneri were cast as the evil ones, defenders of the dark arts and negativity personified. Barca, on the other hand, were all that was good about the game which their Coach - Johann Cruyff if memory serves - was not slow in telling anyone who would listen.

The match, of course, was the stuff of folklore. Milan went on the attack from the outset, destroyed their Spanish rivals with a string of beautiful strikes - the pick of them a peach from Dejan Savicevic, Il Genio. May his spirit be with the Rossoneri again on Tuesday night as they carry Italy's colours in the the Champions League. I have read a lot recently about the decline of Italian football - it would be nice to turn that on its head. Whatever happens, it is unlikely to be a dull game.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The impossible dream?

Ok, let's face it, the "Culo di Juve" is alive and well as their 95th minute equaliser against Cagliari underlined. But, just the same, the Bianconeri have looked far from impressive in recent outings. Could it yet be possible for them to miss out on Scudetto 29?

In a word, no. Carlo Ancelotti has got his Milan team so concentrated on Europe that the title barely seems to merit a mention. It's a shame they fielded an understrength team at Lecce which cost them defeat. Otherwise we could all have a great showdown.

Their only hope is the lesson of history. When Ancelotti himself was in charge of Juve they lost a similar lead to Lazio.

The last games are Juve (away in caps): Lazio, SIENA, Palermo, REGGINA.
Milan: MESSINA, Livorno, PARMA, Roma.

I would bet on Juve clinching it at home to Palermo but if they can come away from the Lazio match without defeat it is probably all over. Still, it's nice to dream isn't it?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Not again

It seems that Bobby Mansions - the erstwhile Roberto Mancini - is pig sick of Italian football. The latest sorry incident where two of his players were apparently attacked by fans was the clincher for Mancio. He will apparently leave the country at the end of his reign at Inter to seek employment elsewhere - somewhere where the game is still played for fun.

Good luck, Roberto, in finding that place but certainly there are more and more of these sorry incidents creeping into the game. It was truly rich to hear Juve fans jeering their team off the pitch after capitulation to Arsenal. Yes, the Bianconeri were bad over two legs but what to these fans think they deserve. They have got a team strolling to its 29th title and that is not enough for them. What exactly do they expect?

There is a lot wrong at Inter and maybe Mancini could find a bit of refreshing change at a smaller club. The Nerazzurri are turning into the most paranoid side in Italy - seeing conspiracy and nasty plots where really there are none. They were short of the quality needed both in Serie A and Europe this year. A few minor adjustments and they could certainly be good enough in Italy but, instead, Mancini will probably leave, the whole team will be scrapped and it will be back to the same old routine.

If there was anything I could change about Italian football it would be that. The constant recriminations - rather than accepting defeat - and the knee-jerk revolutions that have never done anybody any good. Ask Aldo Spinelli at Livorno about pushing Donadoni out to be replaced by losses-on-the-trot Mazzone!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Pippo Must Go

After his latest heroic performance for Milan, it seems the right time to launch a campaign to ensure that Filippo Inzaghi gets a place in Marcello Lippi's squad for the summer.

He can be frustrating, annoying and a general nuisance but no Italian player puts the ball in the net as regularly as he does - nor at such crucial moments. That is why I am seeking support for the "Pippo Must Go" campaign launched on April 5, 2006 with the sole aim of seeking Pippogol among the 23 taken to Germany.

If you feel like me, join the campaign by emailing the Italian federation with your view.

The email address is:

Our template message, if you wish to copy is as follows...

Egregio/a signore/a,

Sono un tifoso italiano che vuole vedere la nostra nazionale vincere i mondiali in Germania. Per questo aderisco alla campagna "Pippo Must Go" e scrivo per esprimere il mio desiderio di vedere Filippo Inzaghi tra i convocati per Germania 2006.

Distinti saluti,

Come on Italian football fans, you know it makes sense.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Honours even in Champions League showdown

On a beautiful Florentine day it ended honours even between the Viola and Roma on Sunday in their battle for the last Champions League spot in Serie A but what a battle it was.

The men in purple went ahead - no surprise - through Luca Toni who was a half a yard offside but the goal stood. That came just two minutes into the game and Cesare Prandelli's men were content to sit back after than and let Roma pile on the pressure which eventually told when the unlikely source of Leandro Cufre levelled the match.

It was disappointing to see the Tuscan team show so little attacking intent when that has been their hallmark all season but, equally, credit to Roma for throwing themselves forward despite their lack of a recognised striker. On balance they probably deserved to win although Fiorentina always looked dangerous from Pasqual's free-kicks.

The match saw a number of World Cup contenders on show but Fiore was quite quiet, Perrotta still looked strong, Brocchi was dependable and Pasqual pretty impressive. It's a shame the old 'mad dog' Panucci is out of favour as he has been in the form of his life this season. Also, would it really be so outrageous to give Dainelli a shot at glory? He has been solid as a rock this season and is not prone to the rushes of blood we always get from Materazzi. Just a thought.

The run-in continues like this. Away games in capitals.

Fiorentina: JUVE, TREVISO, Empoli, PALERMO, Reggina, CHIEVO.
Roma: Lecce, PALERMO, Sampdoria, CHIEVO, Treviso, MILAN.

My guess is the Viola will pick up eight or nine points from what they have left, Roma should manage 10 or 11 and sneak home with a couple of points to spare. Although a lot will depend on how the season pans out and if some teams have nothing left to fight for we all know what a strange country Italy is.