These are the unglamorous games that make a World Cup qualification campaign. Home to Montenegro in October is a far from attractive fixture. Three points, however, would be a major step on the road to defending our title.
The opposition are not without their stars. Young Stevan Jovetic of Fiorentina and Roma's Mirko Vucinic are familiar enough faces to Serie A fans. Vucinic in particular will be well known down Lecce way having played there for a while. Italy's record against sides from the former Yugoslavia is also a cause for concern.
Lippi has turned to his "quality" men - Alberto Aquilani and Toto Di Natale - to unlock the visitors' defence. Certainly the Azzurri looked more solid against Bulgaria than they have recently. The time has come, however, for a bit of a show of force and a really convincing victory.
Let's hope, also, that the fans behave themselves. I am getting tired of the reputation Italian supporters are getting around the world. It looks like some eejits have stuffed up my plans to travel to Ireland next year and watch Trap O'Toni's boys take on the Azzurri. We shall see...
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
There are some times when I curse being trapped in Scotland and not in Tuscany. In fact, that is most of the time. However, the feeling will be particularly acute on Wednesday evening.
Fiorentina's Stadio Artemio Franchi is the venue for a tribute match for former Viola striker Stefano Borgonovo now afflicted by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis - also known as Lou Gehrig's disease after the famous baseballer struck by it in the 1930s. He played more than 2,000 consecutive games and was nicknamed "Iron Horse" due to his legendary stamina. He died aged just 41.
ALS seems to disproportionately affect sportsmen - footballers in particular. One recent victim in Serie A was former Genoa defender Gianluca Signorini. Now it has Borgonovo in its grips.
The picture above is of happier times when Baggio and Borgonovo (a duo known simply as BB) were one of the top strike forces in Italy. I wish I could be in Florence tomorrow night, it is bound to be an emotionally-charged evening. Next best is watching it on television and raising a glass to a great footballer and a brave man.