Monday, June 26, 2006

It's Totti time!

There is pain, there is suffering and then there is watching Italy in the World Cup. It all started off so promisingly against Australia. We were passing it nicely, creating chances and, but for a bit of wonky shooting and a couple of good saves, we should have been ahead at half time. The opposition was without doubt the weakest we have faced so far but, just the same, things looked good.

Then up popped Medina Cantalejo or whatever his name is. Out of nothing he decided to send Materazzi off for what looked only a yellow card foul. I'm not known for defending big Marco but he had had a great game up to then and Zambrotta was on his shoulder to cover so he was clearly not the last man. All that didn't matter of course, and suddenly life got difficult.

If bringing on Iaquinta for Gilardino at half time made little sense before that it made even less after it. To compound the problem, Luca Toni made way for Barzagli in a move that handed the initiative to the Aussies. Iaquinta was incapable of holding the ball up, Del Piero looked exhausted so only Gattuso and, to a lesser extent, Perrotta held the keys to our retaining possession with Pirlo struggling to get on the ball.

The defence held firm and gave away few chances but too often long, hopeful balls ended up at the feet of the Australians. Luckily enough, they didn't have much clue what to do with it.

Then, just when it looked like extra time for sure, old Grosso boy gave a little shimmy to get past a man. Then he dribbled another and from the byeline he dinked past Lucas Neill. Lying on the ground in front of him, the Palermo man went over him and won the penalty. Some have said it was harsh but to me if you block a run, no matter with what part of your body, it's a foul. Ask Paul Lambert on Jorg Albertz about that one - the only man to give away a penalty while being knocked unconscious!

In that situation, deep into injury time, it takes a great player to score a penalty. Make no mistake about that. It seemed to take an age to take the kick and all the time millions of Italians were getting more and more edgy but, thankfully, not the man that mattered. It was just like he was back in the Olimpico with his faithful fans willing him to score.

I would love that to be the moment that kickstarts Totti's World Cup and finally starts to silence the global audience that still thinks he is all about petulance and spitting. If big Toni boy could get a goal soon too we could really have something special. With Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro and Gattuso looking so determined we have a core of a side with a real desire to win.

So we are on to the quarter finals and, all the more sweetly, at the expense of Guus Hiddink. The irony of hearing him moan about refereeing decisions going against him will not have been lost on a lot of people. Remember four years ago Guus? Remember Byron Moreno? We do...

There's a team to be rebuilt for the next round once more. No Materazzi, Nesta a doubt, and Gattuso, Grosso and Zambrotta all one caution away from missing the next match. Lippi seems an edgy man and some of his decisions have been questionable. But he has got us this far, so let's keep the faith and hope we can make one more step come Friday night...

5 comments:

a.c.t said...

I remember 4 years ago very well, I've just written a post about it. Grosso's fall was a tad theatrical, but he did the right thing knowing that this was the last chance or play for another 30 minutes with 10 men. We've already got a reputation, might as well keep it up!

martinobhoy said...

Thanks for reminding me of the Lambert-Albertz penalty incident. Rangers getting a soft penalty at Ibrox? Who'd have thought it.

As for the game itself we were deserved winners but Luca Toni really needs a goal.

After enduring Switzerland v Ukraine last night I'm glad it's the Ukranians we're playing. If it had been Switzerland we'd have been as well preparing for penalties now.

ginkers said...

Has any side used as many squad members as we have? Only Peruzzi and Amelia have been sitting on the sidelines. I think Totti holds the key to our fate once again...

ballboy said...

You boys were certainly put through the wringer last night! Sending off indeed ridiculous - another graduate from the Graham Poll school of refereeing? - but from a neutral's point of view the penalty was certainly rather soft. That said, credit to the team for working so hard for the second 45 minutes to put themselves in a position where the penalty decision was crucial to the outcome of the match. Personally, I am still puzzled by the adoration of Totti - I confess an ignorance of Italian league football, yet I have seen nothing on the international stage (not even scoring from twelve yards) to suggest he is truly world class. If anyone holds the key to Italian success I would argue it is more likely to be one of Buffon, Cannavaro, Pirlo, even Gattusso - players with a real claim to world class status.

ginkers said...

It's true that Totti hasn't done himself justice in major tournaments but in qualification and in Serie A he is a true matchwinner. It would be nice for him to show that form in a World Cup at last and join the elite where he could be...