Monday, March 16, 2009

All hail Super Pippo

From Calcio Italia

If they ever make a patron saint of the flukey goal, they should call him San Filippo. If there is an art form in scoring with every part of the anatomy imaginable then he is its Leonardo. Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore the 300 goals of Pippo Inzaghi.

It has been an amazing career for a man who has had many more lives than your average cat. His facial contortions as he takes a tumble in the penalty box have become the stuff of legend. And his ability to be in the right place at the right time is so uncanny that even experts in the paranormal are lost for an explanation.

It is a common insult of the school playground to dub someone a goal poacher. It implies a certain lack of effort in all other departments of the game other than popping up to tap the ball into the net. Inzaghi has taken it to a whole new level.

Yet there has to be more to his game than that surely? He scored the goals that gained Milan revenge over Liverpool in the Champions League Final. He is a bona fide World Cup winner. Your praise might be grudging, but it is nonetheless something he deserves. Inzaghi springs the offside trap like a master locksmith.

And, for a man with such a fragile frame, he shields the ball with the strength of Hulk Hogan. His precision in front of goal is football’s equivalent of keyhole surgery. Finally, of course, his ability to win vital penalties and free-kicks is totally priceless.

In many ways, Super Pippo is a symbol of Italian football. Disliked, reviled and generally belittled across Europe, he gets the job done. After all, he has got the trophies and the goals to prove it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Addio sogni di gloria!

And the lights went out all over Europe. Max Tonetto battered a penalty over the bar to seal the fate of the last Italian team left in the Champions League. A bitter feeling indeed.

It would be easy to wallow in despair, I guess. But let's look at things a little less harshly. Yes, Inter were pretty well beaten but even they had their moments at 1-0 down to turn the tie around. Roma went out after an extended penalty shootout. And Juve were worth something more from their two ties with Chelsea.

Of course, the results are the ultimate verdict. No teams in the quarter finals is something of a disaster. Especially when England has four. However, if you want the glass to be half full let's think of the green shoots of recovery. Marco Motta at Roma, Cristian Molinaro and Claudio Marchisio at Juve, Mario Balotelli and Davide Santon at Inter. It is something to build on.

It may take time for the great Premiership to collapse but, sure as anything, it will not dominate forever. There are creaking signs in some corners with the debt their clubs have amassed. However, until then it is hard to compete. All three Italians gave it their best shot but, in the end, they came up short. Better luck next year. At least, I hope so.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Good luck, Juve Tuesday

It's been a busy day for me, trying to get my house in order before this big Euro week. Got to hope at least one Serie A side can knock out a Premiership one. Tonight it is the turn of the Bianconeri to make their bid to overturn a one goal deficit against Chelsea.

They were worth a goal at Stamford Bridge. So maybe, just maybe.

And if you want to know how on earth a Viola man can be backing Juve you can find out courtesy of my Gazzetta blog debut. All of which came about courtesy of the legend that is Antonio Gurrado.

Exciting days indeed. They may end in misery by Wednesday night but, what the hell, let's go for it.

STOP PRESS: Juve drew 2-2 and went out but they showed a lot of heart. After going 1-0 up they got caught with a killer blow just before half time, deflected shot, parried onto the bar, bundled in by Essien. Then Chiellini got sent off for winning the ball twice. Then Del P converted a penalty. Finally got caught by Drogba to clinch their exit.

I hope the other two Italian teams show the same heart - and maybe get a little more rub of the green. At least we didn't lie down like Real Madrid.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Och aye the Mou!

From Calcio Italia

It is the easiest thing in the world to carp and gripe about the team which leads your League. It almost seems only right that Inter should take a bit of stick due to their position at the top of the table.

The trouble is, if you do it too often, you can lose sight of the qualities which put the team there in the first place. I confess I have been guilty of this myself. The Nerazzurri rarely produce the kind of football that is pleasing on the eye. And they have been the beneficiaries of a few kind refereeing decisions. But they do have a quality I reckon all of their challengers lack – backbone.

Look at the players down the spine of this Inter side and you will start to see what I mean. Julio Cesar is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti are the kind of versatile and relentless footballers any team would love to have. And Zlatan Ibrahimovic forms an impressive attacking line all on his own.

The rest of the squad bristles with guts and commitment too. Nicolas Burdisso, Walter Samuel, Ivan Cordoba and Marco Materazzi are the kind of men you would like to have on your side in a fight. While Dejan Stankovic and Douglas Maicon provide the sort of surging power that even the national grid would love to harness.

Add to that the little matter of two of the most interesting young Italian talents of Serie A and you get a heady mix. Davide Santon and Mario Balotelli may not be the finished article but they are pretty exciting prospects. The simple fact that they can hold their own in this Inter line up speaks volumes.

It is this strength in depth and real resilience which has put the Nerazzurri so far clear of their rivals. Juve are the only ones who come even close in the character stakes. Roma and Milan look flimsy and weak-willed in comparison. It’s fine to criticise Inter and it goes with their territory – but it should never obscure the fact that they are, actually, a pretty good team.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Becks stays

I just spotted that a deal has been done to keep David Beckham at Milan. I had my reservations about this initially, then he won me over. Now I am having my reservations again.

However, it does ensure the profile of Serie A remains a bit higher in the UK. So I suppose I shouldn't grumble...

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sunday night special

Inter and Roma served up a treat on Sunday night. The Giallorossi really went for the jugular and twice found themselves two goals to the good at 2-0 and 3-1. They will be kicking themselves for not holding on for the win although a soft looking penalty helped Inter back into the match.

Still, it just shows Inter can be rattled. The rest of Serie A should take note.