Monday, October 26, 2009

Mouthwatering midweek

I thought we were going to get a break from the action but no such luck.

Serie A swings back into action on Wednesday and Thursday with a cracking run of fixtures.

My personal highlights are here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Now The Work Really Begins For Marcello Lippi

It was the draw we all expected but not, perhaps, in the tedious manner many predicted. A late, late Alberto Gilardino strike put the World champions on the plane to defend their title. However, it cannot be allowed to hide this side's deficiencies.

At this moment in time, Italy would truly have their work cut out to make it very far in South Africa. The team still looks unsure of itself. And, too often, it is overpowered by its opposition.

What is not missing, however, is character.

It took some guts to come from behind twice at Croke Park against Ireland. Maybe Trapattoni's men were not too bothered about pushing for the win after the score filtered through from other group game in Cyprus. Nonetheless, the Azzurri at least showed some much-needed "grinta" to book their spot with a match to spare.

Now comes the hard part of filling in the gaps in the squad.

An understudy to Gigi Buffon needs to gain experience and credibility. It's time to let some youthful zest play down the flanks to supplement what Zambrotta and Grosso have left to offer. A new Gattuso also needs to be found.

Then there is the little matter of resolving the questions over Amauri and Antonio Cassano - although Lippi seems to have made up his mind on the latter.

However, we'll enjoy this qualification for the time being. It allows Wednesday night to be more experimental and relaxed. Mind you, with Cyprus thrashing Bulgaria on Saturday, I wouldn't want to take the foot off the gas entirely.

I hope we don't give up our world crown without a fight. At least we are in a position to scrap it out next summer. It's up to Lippi to ensure we go as far as we can.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Dona departed

It seems to me that Roberto Donadoni's tenure at Napoli is an instructive tale about the shortcomings of Italian football. The moral to the story, I think, is that if you don't know what you want, you will never get it. Certainly, the lack of direction in the San Paolo seems commonplace across the country.

I remember voicing my misgivings at the time of Donadoni's appointment. Not because of his mediocre time in charge of Italy but rather because I did not feel Edy Reja deserved to go. Results were not brilliant but you could see an undercurrent of quality in the Azzurri's displays. He paid the price for the raised expectations fuelled by some impressive early performances.

Dona is a victim of the same process. This time, expectation levels were raised by a transfer campaign which everyone agreed was outstanding - some even described it as "sumptuous". The end product on the field of play, however, was anything but.

It left Napoli in a quandary. They brought in the former Milan and Italy star to usher in a period of stability. This is a long-term project, they told the fans and Coach. But at the first sign of adversity, they sent him packing and called in Walter Mazzarri.

I like Mazzarri fine as a Coach, don't get me wrong. I suspect he will do more to turn results around than Donadoni did but that misses the point. I reckon Napoli could just as well have stuck with Reja and probably be further up the league table already this season. And it certainly would have given a greater impression that the club actually knew what it was doing.