Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Trap O'Toni?

To be sure, is there no end to the love of all things Italian at the moment? Apparently, the legendary Giovanni Trapattoni - he of the ridiculous touchline gestures and amazing whistling - is being considered for the job of manager of the Republic of Ireland.

Begorrah, bejeezus and any other Irish cliche I can think of! The Trap in charge of the Fighting Irish! It is so bonkers it is brilliant. It would, of course, mean that he would face Italy in the World Cup qualification group as well.

I say get Nevio Scala in for Wales, Marcello Lippi for Scotland and Luca Vialli for Northern Ireland and let's complete the clean sweep!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Winning Ugly

Normally, as a follower of Fiorentina, I have to content myself with playing nice football but losing. Indeed, it has become something of a philosophy at the Tuscan club. But, of late, they seem to be betraying that tradition.

The last few matches I have watched have seen the Viola see off Empoli, Torino and Parma without ever playing well. The exciting football of early months seems a long way off. However, it has produced the wins.

This could be a sign of a number of things. 1) We have been lucky - a couple of dubious penalties were included in these victories. 2) Prandelli's tactical astuteness - we were struggling in the run-up to Christmas but appear to have turned it round. 3) The team is maturing into one which takes its chances when they come along.

I like to go for the third option which was certainly the case on Sunday. Empoli had a lot of pressure but we had the ball in the net FIVE times (three ruled out for offside - probably all rightly so). And Mutu missed a sitter. Maybe catching Juve is not out of the question after all...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Brave Parma go down fighting...

I had a weekend glut of games with three main pieces of televisual footballing entertainment. First up came Fiorentina on Saturday night. They edged past Torino courtesy of a couple of penalties. The first was given to Bobo Vieri to allow him to get his 200th Italian goal while the second went to Adrian Mutu who delivered his traditional "cucchiaio" - a cheeky chip down the middle of the goal as made famous by Francesco Totti. In between times a low Vince Grella strike had given Toro hope.

In truth, the Granata were a bit unlucky. Both penalties were a bit shady (the first more than the second). It is the second time in as many weeks that the Viola have been the beneficiaries of such dodgy decisions. They were lucky to beat Parma the week before after a delayed reaction Vieri tumble in the box. At least I am honest enough to admit it.

My second game was Udinese v Milan or, as you might call it, a return to earth over Pato. The Brazilian wonderkid had a much quieter time than he did on his debut. But it was ridiculous to expect any different. The Friuli boys are a very well-organised side and thoroughly deserve their league position. Milan are better with their new line up and a late, late Alberto Gilardino strike means a Champions League finish is still on the cards.

Finally, I suffered heartache with Parma. To say Mimmo Di Carlo's men were hard done by would be an understatement. They played with great organisation and no little attacking flair to lead Inter 2-1 with minutes to go. Then Fernando Couto leapt to clear on the goalline and brushed the ball with his arm. It was probably a penalty but it was hard to tell. Ibrahimovic converted and then he added insult to injury by scoring the winner. The post-match handshakes must have been hard to take for the Parmigiani.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Spookily similar

It was bugging me all through the Milan v Napoli game the other night. I knew that the new wonder kid Pato reminded me of someone but I could not think who.

I had this feeling that he looked a bit like some US college kid in his freshman year. Wide-eyed and full of wonder at everything he sees.

It was only thanks to a chat with the legendary Venezian that all the pieces fell into place. Of course, for anyone who remembers the classic dorm-based comedy "Saved By The Bell" it was obvious. Pato is the reincarnation of Screech - otherwise known as Dustin Diamond.

I now look forward to all his great comedy sketches as well as more goals for Milan.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bentornato Campionato

It was worth the wait. Three weeks away was a long time without being able to get my fix of Serie A action. In the end, it came back with a real blast.

First and foremost came Pato's debut for Milan. It was a lot of pressure on an 18-year-old to turn around the Rossoneri's league season but he certainly made a promising start. Playing with Ronaldo, Pato and Kaka up front transformed the team. The boy looked confident in his new surroundings. The old, flabby Fenomeno grabbed a couple of goals. And Kaka was simply Kaka - the best player in the world at the moment.

In truth, the 5-2 scoreline was harsh on Napoli who, in the first half, gave Milan a fright. In the second, Carlo Ancelotti sorted out the balance of the team and the result was never in doubt.

Elsewhere, Inter were given more of a fright than they might have expected from Siena but still won. Roma got an important three points away to Atalanta and ten-man Udinese got a win in Cagliari.

In Parma, a Bobo Vieri leap won Fiorentina a penalty which kept them on the edge of the Champions League race and Juve got a 9oth minute "rigore" to salvage a point against Catania. All of which gave plenty of talking points for the week ahead. Good to have you back, Serie A.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Gagging for it

Go on, tell the truth, you too are feeling like a horny teenager. It has been nearly three weeks since we got any. And I, for one, am bursting with anticipation.

Yes, Serie A explodes back onto our screens this weekend - and thank goodness for that. Sundays are just not the same without it. Goodness me, you have to spend time with the family or do chores around the house. Where is the fun in that?

Top topic for conversation seems to be whether or not Milan will throw Pato into the fray against Napoli. Speculation is rife that he might play alongside Gilardino with Kaka just in behind. Forming the Pa-Gi-Ka frontline or something like that.

Remember what a game Milan v Napoli used to be in the late 1980s? Diego v Berlusconi and all that. It is not quite the same this year but, still, it should be a good game. And Parma v Fiorentina was also a classic six or seven years back but this term they have very different aims for the game.

Elsewhere, Roma face a tricky trip to Bergamo to try to keep up any pressure on Inter who head to Siena. At the very best the Nerazzurri might get held to a draw to give some hope to their rivals. But I don't really believe that will happen.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Wishes for 2008

Here are a few football-related hopes for the year ahead. I have desperately tried to find something for everyone but please let me know if you feel left out...

1) Italy to win Euro 2008. I know we just won the World Cup but, what the hell, I am greedy.

2) Milan to win the Champions League again. I just found out, courtesy of my Panini album I pretend is for my daughter, that the Rossoneri have made the final on 11 occasions out of 22 participations in the European Cup. Nobody comes close to that.

3) Roma to win the Scudetto. I have never spotted an Inter fan reading this blog but I know there are at least a couple of Romanisti.

4) Fiorentina to win UEFA Cup, Coppa Italia and qualify for Champions League. That's for me and me alone!

5) Venezia to get promotion to Serie B. Arra! Arra! Venezian.

Sorry, Juventini, maybe Trezeguet can get the Golden Boot...