Monday, October 30, 2006

Blatter must go ... and faith in calcio restored

Even in the great anti-Italian world of Sepp Blatter he has hit new depths. The FIFA chief has apparently apologised to Australian fans for their country's elimination at the World Cup. He says the penalty on Grosso was a refereeing mistake (fair enough, though softer have been given) and that the Socceroos would probably have gone through in extra time (very debatable and conveniently ignoring the fact that Materazzi hardly deserved his straight red).


Apparently FIFA have now issued a statement saying he has been misreported but, let's face it, it is hardly out of character. I don't remember any apology to Spain and Italy after the crazy decisions in 2002.

On a happier note, I watched two cracking adverts for the Italian game at the weekend. The Milan derby was an absolutely gripping spectacle - not just for the seven goals but for the sheer drama. Then I watched my beloved Viola go down 3-2 in another memorable match at home to Palermo. We scarcely deserved to be held to a draw, never mind lose. Still, pazienza, we are playing well. Great game. Maybe it's going to be a good Serie A season after all...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tonight is the night...

The verdict is set to be delivered tonight on any reduction of the points penalties inflicted on Milan, Juve, Lazio and Fiorentina. It is a totally unsatisfactory situation but it will have a major impact on the league table.

Juve's Serie B procession could be made a lot easier, Milan might come back into the Scudetto hunt and Lazio and Fiorentina might have a better chance of avoiding relegation. It proves, once again, that the game would be a whole lot better if everything could be decided on the pitch.

Still, I won't be complaining if the Viola get back into positive figures.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A grim affair?

Well, is it or isn't it? I can't make up my mind whether this is the most exciting title race for years or the most boring. The weekend has me leaning towards the latter although that would be pretty unfair on Palermo's historic win at Milan.

There have probably never been so many teams so closely piled together at the top of the table so, in some ways, that makes for excitement. But if you watched Udinese against Inter and a couple of Roma's recent struggles you would be hard pushed to work up much enthusiasm. Is it just me, or do we maybe miss Juve?

I mean, no offence to them, but seeing Udinese, Livorno, Siena, Atalanta and the rest up at the top end is refreshing in some ways but it doesn't exactly smack of quality does it? I tend to think the quality of football has been diminished by taking away one of our great sides and handicapping another three big sides with whacking points penalties. Perhaps it is just the sour grapes of a Viola man who is now working out that his team would be in third place without its points handicap (admittedly that would probably be fourth if Juve were still in things).

So, an open question - is this an exciting, open league or has the whole Calciopoli thing dragged down the standards significantly? Or maybe both?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tonight, we are all Amaranto

Ladies and gentlemen, for those of us brought up north of the border and with all that following football up here entails, tonight is a special one. All Italo-British clashes are emotional occasions for me but a clash with the boys from Ibrox is particularly keenly felt.

I don't care about the whole religious thing and am not particularly fanatical about the other half of the Old Firm. However, personal experience makes it impossible not to hope Lucarelli and Company give the Rangers a roasting. I have visited Ibrox a few times and been called an "Effing Tally" often enough to want the boys from Leghorn to win this one in style.

What are the chances? Rangers come to the game in truly awful form while Livorno could hardly be playing better. In addition, I saw somewhere that the boys in Blue have only managed one draw and nine defeats in ten previous visits to Italy. Although, these UEFA group games leave me cold, I have to say. Four matches to knock two teams out of a five side group - how dull is that? That old mad dog Aldo Spinelli was right when he said the UEFA Cup meant something when he was President at Genoa but it has become a joke now.

Still, despite my natural aversion to all Tuscan teams outside of Florence I will be at the Armando Picchi in spirit tonight. Then it's time to turn my attentions to the battle of the minus signs on Sunday when Fiorentina take on Reggina.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Back and angry...

Let me vent my anger over the latest issue which is blighting Italian and world football and really starting to bug me - namely face-clutching. I watched a bit of the Siena v Messina game on Saturday night and they were at it there. I recently saw Willy Sagnol get Fabio Grosso sent off with a similar action. And it seems to go on as a matter of routine in almost every match staged across the continent at the highest level.

You know what I am talking about. Somebody gently brushes a player with his left pinky somewhere within three feet of his nose. Then the player "struck" goes down as if his cheekbone was fractured in 12 places. The red/yellow card is brandished and the "offender" suffers while the "victim" is back up and playing in seconds.

It is something which annoys me on a number of levels. At the very least it slows up play as any decent referee has to stop play for a supposed head knock. It is a pathetic attempt to land a fellow pro in trouble. But most of all there appears to be no sanction against anyone who is clearly play-acting. "Simulation" to try to get a penalty often earns a yellow card, I think this kind of feeble falling down should also earn a card to try to cut it out. Otherwise, I seem to be seeing it about three or four times in every match these days.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


OK, so it wasn't vintage by any standards but it was still good to get the ball rolling with three points against the Ukraine. And what a strike from Toni, quite similar to the one he belted in for the Viola a week earlier. Didn't understand the use of Del P (I feel his day is done at Nazionale level) or Iaquinta (I feel his day should never have come at Nazionale level). Still, it put me in a better frame of mind for Georgia.

Cracking result for Scotland but not sure whether it was good or bad for overall Italian qualification. The bottom line, however, is always to focus on your own results. Another win on Wednesday night and we would be right back in the hunt for a top two spot. Anything less than a win, however, would undo the positive feelings I have right now.

I have to confess here and now that my vision of the Ukraine game was severely impaired by my own stupidity. I forgot that my wife had invited friends round for whom I cooked a lovely meal (stuffed peppers followed by linguine with king prawns). However, it meant my overall game view was very limited. And I may have done even worse for Wednesday having booked to go away on holiday with the family. Chances of holiday park showing Georgia v Italy over Croatia v England or Ukraine v Scotland? Less than nil. I will be with the boys in spirit and regularly checking on ceefax, WAP or with my cousins...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What have we done to make them so disrespectful?

OK, OK, I know the World Cup is over but just the same you would think it would have earned Italy some RESPECT!

Firstly you have Paul Hartley saying that the Azzurri might have won the World Cup but everybody knows France are the better team. Bite the tongue, I told myself, take it on the chin. Silly wee Hearts man.

But then you get Oleg Blokhin saying he expects to beat Italy this weekend. Now that's taking things too far. Did he miss the Mondiale? Has he forgotten the beating his boys took? Does being champions of the world count for nothing? (I don't know what the blogging equivalent of grabbing your balls and pulling a Sylvester Stallone type pose is but I am doing it now).

I demand RESPECT for the Azzurri and I demand it now. We are four times world champions, a couple of times finalists, always near the top of the Euro tree. We are right up there side by side with Brazil. So give us some RISPETTO!

...And let's beat Ukraine and Georgia please!!!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Back to Del Piero...

More than one quizzical eyebrow has been raised at Roberto Donadoni's call-ups for the crunch Euro qualifying clash with the Ukraine. Alberto Gilardino and Antonio Cassano are the biggest name casualties from his first competitive clashes - seemingly sacrificed to make room for Luca Toni and Alex Del Piero.

The move smacks a little bit of uncertainty from the new boss. Why call up Cassano in the first place only to dump him this time? While Gilardino is crying out for somebody to show a bit of faith in him having been questioned at both club and country level for no good reason. It is surprising to see Del P back in the squad while nobody doubts Toni deserves his spot after the cracker he scored on Sunday. Still, judgment reserved until after the game.

On the league front it is Palermo and Roma who go into the national break on top after Inter's slip up at Cagliari. Neither side sparkled at the weekend but it is shaping up like an amazingly exciting campaign. The door is open for a real surprise Scudetto winner, is anybody prepared to take the chance?