Saturday, June 28, 2008

Welcome home Marcello...

So it appears we are back where we left off two years ago. The Donadoni era is over and back walks in the man with the Toscano cigar, Marcello Lippi. Why did we bother getting rid of him in the first place?

If he just wanted a rest, couldn't we have advertised for a caretaker for 24 months? Or maybe Dona knew that was what he was getting. Otherwise, it was precious time wasted.

The Azzurri did OK in Euro 2008 but they lacked conviction and confidence. Undoubtedly, missing Cannavaro, Pirlo and Gattuso for a big game against Spain was a tough ask. Just the same, a lot of the new men came up short in the tournament. Aquilani did little in that particular match, Di Natale seemed a long way off world class and Barzagli was a flop too. At least there was Chiellini and De Rossi to be proud of along with the old favourites like Buffon, Zambrotta, Grosso. Still unsure about Cassano but he must have a part in the way forward.

There is a lot of talk about Nesta and Totti coming back but would this really be the way to go? We have already lost a couple of years for potential progress, we need to look to the future. On the other hand, if these great players can still give something to the cause then why not? I await developments with interest.

PS - I had a great holiday under a sweltering Tuscan sun with the temperatures up to 38C. Back in Scotland now though, wind, rain and 20 degrees cooler.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I think we all know the answer

If you had the chance to knock the World Cup finalists out of Euro 2008 what would you do? Holland boss Marco Van Basten (right) has that decision to make. A simple defeat to Romania is enough to put the Azzurri and Les Bleus on the first plane home on Tuesday night. I know what I think will happen.

If Sweden and Denmark could produce a 2-2 draw to put Italy out last time around it does not seem so tricky for the Dutch to produce a more straightforward result. Does it really go against their nature? Will their natural swagger make them want to go through with three wins out of three? Will Italy be good enough to beat France anyway?

Strangely enough, Roberto Donadoni has turned to Antonio Cassano. He was the very player who ended up in tears when he found out his goal at Euro 2004 meant nothing thanks to the great Scandinavian stitch-up. Could history repeat itself? I hope not.

Finally, this blog is going to take a little break over the next ten days or so. However, I will be back in harness by the end of the European championships. I really don't expect Italy to be in contention by that stage. I have liked the look of Croatia so far - a stuffy side with a lot of technique.

Anyway, I shall return, fully recharged and ready for battle in the season ahead....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dutch debacle

Well, that was a miserable start wasn't it?

Granted, the first goal was offside and conditioned the whole game but, just the same, the hari-kari defending was the cause of great concern. By the time we got things sorted out in the second half the horse had bolted.

The third goal was the icing on a bitter cake.

Is this penance for the World Cup? Can we still turn things around? In truth, if the Azzurri can't beat Romania they don't deserve to go any further. Failure to win that game would also put Donadoni's contract under severe pressure.

Di Natale was caught short at the highest level, Grosso should have started and I can never understand why we would go without De Rossi. The small consolation? It was only a group game - Holland were celebrating like they had won the tournament.

Monday, June 09, 2008

I WAS quite calm...

The build up was all going pretty calmly. OK, I thought, it is only the Euro Nations, not a World Cup. Does it really matter that much?

Then my cousin, the legendary Venezian, sent me this.

Of course it matters. This is Italia! Forza Azzurri! Facci sognare!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Addio capitano!

A bitter blow on the eve of the Euro Nations as Il Capitano - Fabio Cannavaro - gets injured on the training ground. A curse on Giorgio Chiellini - did the Juve man think he would get Canna's place?

There are some good replacements, of course, but none with anything like his presence and experience. Maybe "Mad Dog" Panucci will be moved to the centre (no bad thing for defending our flanks) or will the tough-nut Matrix-Barzagli combo be used?

No matter, there is a championship to be won and it is great to see he will be hanging around to give his support. You really would not expect anything less. Forza Cannavaro!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Countdown to Euro 2008

Having watched the Azzurri easily see off Belgium 3-1 in a friendly it is time to turn the attentions to more serious matters. Austria and Switzerland beckon for Euro 2008. Can Italy do the double and add the European crown to their World Cup win two years ago?

This has never been a great tournament for Italy. Our last win came in 1968. That means they have never won it in my lifetime (see, I'm not as old as you thought). It is a record it would be nice to change.

The group, of course, is tough. Holland, Romania and France present stern opposition. I'm inclined to think a winning start could be vital this time around. Hence, the pressure will be on to beat Holland next Monday night. I believe that Donadoni's men can progress but their style of play is not without its risks. If it all clicks, however, it should be good enough to go forward (with France, yet again, possibly?).

The other groups look feeble in comparison. They have done their best to get host nation Switzerland through in a group including the Swiss, Czech Republic, Portugal and Turkey. Everybody is tipping Portugal to have a great tournament (on the back of Ronaldo) but I hope they might trip up. That would leave Switzerland and the Czech Republic to progress.

Slightly stronger is Austria's section with Germany, Croatia and Poland. The poor Austrians may be the worst nation ever to host a tournament but I suspect they might sneak a draw somewhere. Just the same, it looks like it should be Germany along with either Croatia or Poland to progress. I've a hunch it could be Croatia.

Finally, Greece, Sweden, Spain and Russia go into battle. Surely, you would think, Spain can't mess up that group. Yet, I believe, that is quite within their compass. They should sneak through, my guess is along with Sweden.

If everything went to my plan you would end up with something like this in the quarter finals - Italy v Sweden, France v Spain, Czech Republic v Croatia and Germany v Switzerland. If that was the case, would it really be such a shock to get Italy v France AGAIN in the semi-final with Germany v Croatia in the other match.

After that, I don't dare to predict but you can see the way my thoughts are heading. Certainly, if Italy make it out of their group they have a good chance of getting to the final. That would be fantastic.

Forza Azzurri!