Friday, May 26, 2006

Don't mention the WaR...

With the World Cup fast approaching, expecting a flurry of blogging in the days ahead but, we promise you we won't be mentioning that chubby cheeked Man Utd striker with the dodgy foot. As the perfect antedote to wall-to-wall metatarsal discussions you will find no mention of him here. Guaranteed. Indeed, the only Rooney we recognise is Mickey the star of so many legendary musicals.

Instead, here's your guide to the top ten scapegoats for England's World Cup exit. Following in the footsteps of Peter Bonetti, Chris Waddle, David Beckham etc there has never been a tourney they have gone out of that there hasn't been somebody to blame. Otherwise, of course, they would have been world and European champions countless times. The top ten scapegoats we forecast for the summer are:

1) Sir Alex Ferguson.
2) Sven Goran Eriksson.
3) Peter Crouch.
4) Peter Crouch.
5) Peter Crouch.
6) The star player caught drinking dodgy German beer out of a brassiere.
7) Posh Spice.
8) The damaging reperations exacted on Germany at the Treaty of Versailles.
9) Asylum seekers.
10) Somebody Argentinian.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Scandalous, absolutely scandalous...

A top club manager with a son employed as a football agent, a league where everybody is alleged to like a "bung", regular Asian betting coup scandals - including the match which decided its Champions League places, clubs which spent money on European qualification before it was achieved, managers trying to influence referees... and all the power concentrated in the hands of a few mega rich clubs.

It sounds horrible doesn't it? I don't know how anyone can watch the English Premiership any more...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Did I do wrong?

I admit it, I couldn't bring myself to watch the Champions League final. Firstly, because I can't stand listening to English commentators ramble on about their own teams. And secondly, because I can't stand to hear them going all weak at the knees when Ronaldinho gets the ball.

I can probably guess a few themes running through the punditry. I can't believe they got through the night without mentioning Liverpool in Istanbul. I wouldn't be surprised if they had Ronaldinho's Brazil meeting England in the World Cup final. And I bet it was a shame that Henrik Larsson never tested himself in the Premiership. If I didn't get at least one right out of that I will eat my Fiorentina hat.

In some sections of the media it was billed as the dream final. Although I don't understand quite why. Certainly Barcelona are a powerful side, Liga champions and all that. But Arsenal? They finished fourth in the Premiership. Call me old fashioned but I still like to see a league champion win the top European title.

Of course, this is all sour grapes because no Italian team got there. It's a lot clearer now why Juve are half the team in Europe that they are in Serie A but I think Milan could have competed. There's always next year although lord knows who will be representing us. Roll on the World Cup.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Rinaldi responds to Lippi

Having seen the call-ups for the Italian World Cup squad by his fellow Tuscan Marcello Lippi, a sorry Scottish-Italian blogger has responded with his own 23 for Germany. It is a tradition he has followed for many competitions trying to name a "shadow" squad which he thinks might do pretty well at the competition.

The underlying thought process - if you want to credit him with one - is that it shows the strength in depth Italy possess (or not, depending on your viewpoint). See if you can come up with any players that you would like to have seen in either squad.

Lippi's 23

Portieri: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Angelo Peruzzi (Lazio), Marco Amelia (Livorno).

Difensori: Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus), Alessandro Nesta (Milan), Marco Materazzi (Inter), Andrea Barzagli (Palermo), Gianluca Zambrotta (Juventus) Massimo Oddo (Lazio), Cristian Zaccardo (Palermo), Fabio Grosso (Palermo).

Centrocampisti: Andrea Pirlo (Milan), Gennaro Ivan Gattuso (Milan), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Mauro German Camoranesi (Juventus), Simone Perrotta (Roma), Simone Barone (Palermo).

Attaccanti: Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus), Alberto Gilardino (Milan), Luca Toni (Fiorentina), Filippo Inzaghi (Juventus), Francesco Totti (Roma), Vincenzo Iaquinta (Udinese).

Riserve: Morgan De Sanctis (Udinese), Daniele Bonera (Parma), Franco Semioli (Chievo), Marco Marchionni (Parma).

Rinaldi's 23

Portieri: Francesco Toldo (Inter), Christian Abbiati (Juve/Milan), Carlo Cudicini (Chelsea).

Difensori: Christian Panucci (Roma), Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina), Paolo Maldini (Milan), Dario Dainelli (Fiorentina), Paolo Cannavaro (Parma), Emiliano Moretti (Valencia), Cesare Bovo (Roma).

Centrocampisti: Christian Brocchi (Fiorentina), Massimo Ambrosini (Milan), Enzo Maresca (Sevilla), Fabio Liverani (Lazio), Stefano Fiore (Fiorentina), Eugenio Corini (Palermo), Alberto Aquilani (Roma).

Attaccanti: Antonio Cassano (Real Madrid), Tommaso Rocchi (Lazio), Cristiano Lucarelli (Livorno), Francesco Tavano (Empoli), Mauro Esposito (Cagliari), Fabrizio Miccoli (Benfica).

Riserve: Francesco Antonioli (Sampdoria), Christian Terlizzi (Palermo), Pasquale Foggia (Ascoli), Massimo Maccarone (Middlesbrough).

For your information, my team plays a very Lippi like 4-3-3 with Toldo in goal, Panucci and Pasqual down the flanks with Dainelli and Maldini in the middle. Brocchi is the midfield battler with Maresca to break forward and Liverani pulling the strings. Cassano and Tavano play off Lucarelli up front. Or any combination you prefer.

A little light relief

In amongst all the angst for the latest scandal to rock Italian football let's take a moment to honour my nomination for best banner of the season. It came on the last day of the campaign at Chievo-Fiorentina and was dedicated to home coach Bepi Pillon who had shaved off his whiskers to celebrate reaching the UEFA Cup.

"Bepi," it said. "My mother-in-law has shaved off her moustache too!"

Maybe not PC, but priceless. Dai, ridiamoci su...

A hollow sound

Even the most ardent Juventino would have to admit it was a sorry end to the Scudetto race on Sunday. Their title celebrations were most definitely overshadowed by events off the pitch. Even the festivities for the 20,000 or so Viola fans who travelled to Chievo to watch them get into the Champions League had a question mark hanging over them. And Lazio, too, must wonder whether they will get their UEFA prize.

The sad fact is that the very thing that most of us joked about for years - that ref's helped out Juve - may well have been true. It really takes the heart out of following Serie A when you hear just how deep the problem is alleged to have gone. I have no great fondness for the Bianconeri but I still want to say "Say it ain't so...".

I don't like the idea of giving out league titles to teams who finished third or whatever other solutions might be proposed. Better that nobody gets the crown and we start again from scratch. The biggest thing is to sort it all out quickly. The longer it drags on, the lower the reputation of Italian football sinks.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Not again...

For seasoned Italian football watchers the latest scandal to rock the game can provoke only one reaction - NOT AGAIN!

It hardly seems that a season can go by without some match-rigging, sporting-fraud, dodgy-dealing claim. With the case of the 'intercepted phone-calls' by Juve top dog Luciano Moggi it looks like some famous names are going to be dragged through the mire once more.

Some big name players have been mentioned as gambling on games. Juventus are the biggest club implicated but Lazio and Fiorentina along with a number of others have been mentioned. There are even suggestions that 29 out of the 38 weeks of last season's campaign were 'falsified' in some way.

My greatest feeling is one of sadness. Particularly on the eve of a World Cup. All this can only destabilise Italy's bid to win in Germany with so many players and teams involved. It should be stressed, at the moment, that all of these charges are no more than accusations. They may, or may not, turn out to be true. But the damage to the reputation of Serie A and Italian football has already been done.

The actual content of the phone calls - from what I have heard of it - was not really that shocking. It appeared to confirm what many of us knew already - that Moggi is an expert in using every means possible to help his team. Maybe it is the regulations that need changed, rather than any great clear-out from the game. On the other hand, Italy being Italy, it looks like more blood-letting is in store and who knows where the casualties might be? If only this could be the last scandal in Calcio but I doubt that will be the case.

Monday, May 08, 2006

I think it's all over

After Sunday's results it's time to admit it. Like it or not (and you know my feelings), Juve will pick up Scudetto 29 in a week's time. They haven't been brilliant but they've been the best over the season. Milan threw in a few too many wobblers throughout the year and Inter - well, let's not even go there.

I just can't see Reggina troubling the Bianconeri. Especially when they have to play the game in Bari and, presumably, with a referee still meeting Mr Moggi's approval (a little bit of politics, eh?). On the evidence of the game against Fiorentina, Reggina are already in "ritiro" with their minds on sun, sand and picking up some TV showgirl. I'm pinning my hopes on the ire of the rejected Nick Amoruso to maybe stick one to his old employers. Although I think the odds should be about 100-1. Still, remember Perugia.

Milan face a much tougher game against Roma but, in the process, they could do Fiorentina a favour. As long as the Rossoneri don't lose - the Viola go into the last Champions League place. That would be a great achievement and, on balance, I think a fair one. The Giallorossi have been brilliant in the second half of the campaign and, if they'd played that way all season, would be worth fourth place easy, maybe even second or third. But, (and I know I'm biased) I think the boys in purple have been more consistently good throughout the season. Still, whoever gets in should be a better representative than Udinese - especially with a little bit of investment.

I could well live without a Premiership style end to proceedings. I hope somebody's watching what they cook for the Fiorentina team in Verona. And no Totti hat-trick for Roma in Milan. Otherwise, I may fling my satellite dish over the garden wall...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Guess who's back?

It looks like being a big night on Wednesday with Francesco Totti making his comeback to competitive action in the first leg of the Coppa Italia final against Inter. This is great news for Roma but even better for Italy. If he comes through unscathed, the Azzurri have just got a big player back for Germany.

No matter what your allegiance, you have got to wish him well and hope that he keeps clear of Materazzi! I believe that he and Pirlo together give Italy one of the most creative and defence-splitting midfields in the world. The Milan man has been on a slump of late but teaming up with Totti could be just the tonic he needs.

In the UK, it seems, they always say that Totti lets us down on the big occasions but I would still rather have him with us than against us. There are not that many matchwinners in the world and he is one. If he can finally keep his head, get among the goals and supply the killer passes for Toni, Gilardino and whoever then it could be one hell of a summer.

So, although I am no Interista nor Romanista, I will be watching this year's Coppa Italia final with more interest than usual. Forza Francesco!