Friday, December 29, 2006

A festive quiz

How Calcio are you? In the spirit of those Christmas and New Year filler stories in the newspapers, here is my effort. Answer honestly please to discover just how Italian your approach to football is.

1) Your team is back in Europe after 20 years away. Do you:
a) Go to the ground two hours early to soak up the atmosphere?
b) Proudly prepare a "Siamo Tornati" banner?
c) Throw a firework on the pitch and get your ground banned for three matches?

2) Your side, aiming for a UEFA season, is in relegation trouble. Do you:
a) Start travelling to away games to give them the vital support they need?
b) Give them early vocal backing but jeer when they fall three goals behind again?
c) Organise a fans strike which leaves the stadium empty for half the match?

3) A star player for your bitter rivals loses a leg in a serious car crash. Do you:
a) Make a donation to his support fund in appreciation of his skills which rose above petty rivalry?
b) Wish the next derby game was next week?
c) Buy a "You Must Be Hopping Mad" flag?

4) Managing your favourites you find yourselves trailing 4-0 with a man sent off and 40 minutes to play. Do you:
a) Throw on another striker, might as well lose 8-0?
b) Shore up the midfield but keep one pacy front man in the hope of getting something?
c) Get as many defenders on as you can to limit the damage?

5) Installed as president you see your team flying high in an unexpected Champions League spot. Do you?
a) Put a little extra in the January transfer pot to help your manager build on his success?
b) Savour the moment as you know it will pass?
c) Sack the manager after he fails to beat Inter in the San Siro and put all your best players on the transfer list?

6) Working as a touchline reporter you watch the national team record a convincing 3-0 win over Brazil. Do you:
a) Congratulate the coach on his great achievement?
b) Ask the manager if he thought his team was capable of such a result?
c) Ask him why he didn't pick Totti?

7) Your team loses the derby 3-0. Do you:
a) Weep constantly for a month?
b) Curse your players for letting you down?
c) Blame it on the referee's decision not to give you a dodgy penalty in the 89th minute?

8) Jumping for a ball in midfield an opponent accidentally brushes your face with his pinky. Do you:
a) Play on, it never hurt a bit?
b) Flinch and warn him to watch his hands?
c) Fall to the ground writhing in agony, clutching your face and screaming in pain?

9) What is your favourite football food?
a) Pie and bovril?
b) Panino con prosciutto?
c) Pasta, steak, bottle of wine, coffee and grappa during three-hour post-match analysis?

10) Playing at a small provincial team you are at the centre of a bidding war from a number of big sides - including the one you have supported all your life. Do you:
a) Join your favourites, it's a dream come true?
b) Weigh up the financial and emotional advantages of each offer?
c) Sign for Inter, get a whopping signing-on fee and the Scudetto on a plate?

What your answers say about you...
Mostly A - Ma sei proprio inglese! You have a lot to learn about the levels of cynicism, pettiness and stupidity needed to follow Serie A.
Mostly B - Mica male. You are quite a balanced individual who loves their sport but not to excess.
Mostly C - Benvenuto al calcio! You are totally bonkers and would happily watch 38 replays from different angles of a controversial penalty decision in order to discuss the incident for another three hours. Welcome to the club.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

An almost perfect Christmas

After moaning about the late goals, only fair to say Saturday was stupendous. Fiorentina drubbed Messina 4-0 with some cracking goals from Toni, Potenza, Liverani and Mutu. Celtic saw off Falkirk (might not have been the best game for Neil Lennon) and the mighty Queen of the South defeated Livingston to get of the bottom of division one.

A perfect way to go into Christmas, Queens safe (for the time being), Celtic miles clear and the Viola with maybe, just maybe a shot at Europe after starting off from minus 15!

Buon Natale to everyone...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The weekend of the late goal

Sometimes you get a weekend where things just go wrong for all the teams you take an interest in. How about this one?

Queen of the South in desperate need of the points to drag themselves off the bottom of Scottish Division One are leading 1-0 until the 88th minute. Then they lose a goal to Airdrie United which means they fail to leapfrog them in the table.

Then, Fiorentina lead Milan with minutes to go and are about to perform a similar leapfrog manoeuvre when Gilardino strikes back to keep us behind the Rossoneri.

Finally, Celtic are winning the Old Firm game (should have been two up, usual cast-iron penalty turned down) when a deflected shot gives Rangers a share of the spoils. Probably the least painful one given the gap at the top of the table but still...

Sometimes I wish games were 87 minutes long.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The crazy world of Berlusconi

Everyone knows that Silvio Berlusconi is prone to the odd crazy outburst but his latest tirade against dearly (very dearly, £30m) departed Sheva is positively cuckoo.

"He is his wife's puppy!" he howled, or words to that effect. "A real man and Milanista would never have done such a thing. In my house I'm in charge. Sheva, however, when his wife calls to send him under the bed, runs along like a puppy!"

I think we can probably rule out a return to Milan in January, then. Unless, of course, Mrs Shevchenko has other ideas and throws in a doggy biscuit to clinch the deal. "Here boy! Here boy!"
Mind you, based on the evidence (above) how many of us would actually blame old Sheva anyway?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Place your bets now please...

The time is almost nigh for our Italian trio - Inter, Milan and Roma - to find their fate in the Champions League. Only the Rossoneri go in as group winners and a whole host of interesting possibilities lie in store. Certainly, there are very few easy draws out there.

The chances must be good of an Anglo-Italian clash with a Italo-Scottish clash not off the agenda as Milan v Celtic is a possibility. Who would we like to get? Who would we like to avoid? I would settle for the following...

Roma v Liverpool, Inter v Arsenal, Porto v Milan, Celtic v Valencia, Barcelona v Man Utd, Real Madrid v Chelsea, Lille v Bayern Munich, PSV v Lyon. Or something like that if it is possible. How many do you reckon out of eight?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Incredible at the Olimpico

I can honestly say if you had told me after half an hour of the Rome derby that Lazio would win 3-0 I would have thought you were having a laugh. So much so that I even risked a few hard earned pounds on a Giallorosso triumph. They were passing the ball well, creating chances - it looked only a matter of time until they went ahead.

Then Cristian Ledesma struck a thunderbolt shot that gave Lazio the lead and the whole Roma edifice seemed to crumble. A blunder from the ridiculous Phillipe Mexes helped to gift a penalty. Then the dubious decision to send on Vucinic (what has Montella done to be ignored in his favour?) and throw caution to the wind left gaping gaps in the Roma defence. It could have been an even heavier defeat in the end, which seemed impossible given the class gulf between the sides.

The result puts Lazio in the running for a Champions League spot while just about killing off Roma's Scudetto hopes. That's a shame as I would like to see somebody put some pressure on Inter. But it looks like they are too powerful for anybody to seriously challenge. I never thought I would be saying that about Inter.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Trains, rains and Luca Toni

Well, it turned out to be one of the strangest Sundays on record in my time tracking the Viola. Our first plan was that myself and my father would drive to Lucca, catch a train to Florence and watch the boys. Train strike, however, so no go on that front.

So, the day dawned and about 11am in our little Tuscan village base everything looked set fair. Until we set out on the car journey. With every passing mile the fog intensified and the rain got heavier. The conversation went something like this.

Dad: "This is awful."
Me: "Too true."
Dad: "Be even worse later on."
Me: "Too right!"
Dad: "Don't think I could face driving home in this."
Me: "Me neither."
Dad: "Will we just go to the Pozzo and have a slap-up lunch and watch it on telly?"
Sound of brakes as car turns around to head back to the heart of the Garfagnana.

So, we never made it to the game but ate and drank like lords instead. In our local bar some scemi wanted to watch Cagliari-Milan so we ended up in a friend's house just in time to see Toni strike. Happily, we didn't miss a classic but the three points were vital. As the night got even more miserable I think we realised we had made the right decision to stay put. And another cracking meal with a good bottle of red made the case all the more convincing.