Day 22–Italy take on the hosts…..

July 8, 2006

Italy V

Before the tournament got underway I hadn’t allowed myself to look further than the potential Semi-Final with
Argentina. How-ever since Pekerman blew his team’s chances of delivering football justice, it is now the Krouts who
Italy must face in the semi-final. I didn’t see that coming at all. Those words of Gianluca Vialli keep ringing in the ears of my mind “you will never love the Germans, but you must respect them’….While we are on the subject of pertinent quotes>>>
German captain Ballack ‘all odds will be against us….Our chances are much worse than against Argentina and our hopes rest on the crowd’….. 

Totti- ‘To beat
Germany on their own turf would be maximum….We are convinced our heads and hearts are in the right place and we are in the best possible shape to make it happen’

Italy have never lost to
Germany in a major tournament. The most recent meeting in March of this year yielded a 4-1 stomping victory for Lippi and his lads. Both teams are in great form, their systems are well oiled.

Matterazzi is back in contention and appears likely to be starting in the centre of defence alongside King Cannavaro, as Allessandro Nesta still hasn’t fully recovered from injury. Zambrotta and Grosso have proved wonderfully adept at both supporting the attacking play (winning penalties, scoring goals) and defending like Pros. The suspiciously oriental-looking Zambrotta is for my money one of the greatest players on the planet, as is Cannavaro, Buffon and Gattusso….Buffon is world class but perhaps lacking that little something extra which makes the rest of that group seem like more than mere mortals…‘Defensively, there is nothing that anyone can teach the Italians’—Another great line of wisdom from GianLuca Vialli… 

The only team able to score against Italy in the world cup finals of 2006 has so far been
Italy. If Zaccardo hadn’t made that pitiful mistake against the Yankees, Buffon would still be unbeaten to this very day. There is both encouragement and concern to be had from that statistic, but all concerns can be easily avoided by keeping that villain-in-waiting Zaccardo off the field of play.

Lots of ‘pundits’ who lack the eye of a Pro, opt for the now boring and completely groundless cliché of ‘ultra-ultra-defensive Italy’ when they begin their match preview of any games with involve
Italy. It takes a true fool to ignore ’10 goals in 5 games’ and continue the same old bullshit approach of criticizing the mythical ’10 italians behind the ball’ formation that Lippi apparently adopts….
I have watched
Italy in every world cup since 1990 and I can say with some confidence that this is the most attacking Azzurri outfit I have seen since Roberto Baggio lit up Italia 90. Also, the defence is the best it has perhaps EVER been. 1982 Gentile and Bergomi put the germans to sleep. Let us hope that Cannavaro and Zambrotta can do the same here and now in 2006….
Toni is the main striker…A perfect target-man who can shoot with both feet and win 8/10 aerial challenges due to his 7ft frame…Totti and Pirlo are the ball players, with Pirlo the deeper running of the two…Camorenesi, if he plays, will show his Argentinian blood during the anthem but once the whistle blows we can expect a lot of flapping around of his pony-tail, typical south American gnarly grimacing/glaring and lots of running…Perrotta is comparably athletic, but much larger: midfield workhorse, who unfortunately, cant shoot for shit…..Gilardino may play in attack as the Argies proved that it isn’t a great game-plan to over-defend against the Krouts…The pretty striker has a wonderful first shot and a useful knack for getting into interesting positions in the box… 

Right…A quick Run over the Krouts, preferably with an articulated 70tonne lorry. The hosts have done brilliantly thus far in no small part due to the vociferous home support, which they connected with to perfect effect in the game against
I hate that saying ‘never bet against the Germans’..A phrase like that has no Right to hold such validity.  

Lehman is a lanky, determined, very able, stopper who commands from the back. Lahm is the star of the defensive line due to his barnstorming runs up the left flank which often lead to goals or chaos in the opponents box and minds. Frings, Schenider and Scweinensteiger provide an intriguing mix of youthful exuberance, german steel and rat-like aesthetics. Ballack is by a mile the most talented German player of his generation, one of the most enjoyable footballers to watch for any team. He can win games on his own. Passing and Shooting are as easy to him as breathing is to you an me. I assume that he will be lumbered with the snarl (Gennaro gattusso) from the first whistle so it wil be interesting to se how that battle of superstar v pitbull develops…Klose has the face of a petrified sparrow, but 5 goals so far proves that he is useful in the human world…Podolski is another strange-looking humanoid with more teeth than I knew existed and a smile that could instantly curdle milk; again aesthetics aside, he can score, though his form may not look as prolific as that of strike partner Klose, his toil and face makes him a constant threat,all left footed… 

There is something amiss about many of the German players. They have a darkness which I have only managed to bring to light as the ‘evil rabbits in water-ship down’, which is hardly adequate a description of what I mean. If I let the socially injected confines of political correctness blur into nothingness for a few moments and see what comes out the vortex…then maybe will I be able to make this picture of devilry come to life….Schneider, Klose, Podolski, Hamann(he isn’t playing but he has the same darkness), Ballack, Scweinensteiger, The Kaiser himself (Beckenbauer), Lehman, even sweet little Lahm…..demons…goblins..ghouls…there is evil of a kind.When Klose scored the goal equaliser against
Argentina, there was more than benevolent joy, there was something malevolent in his eyes, a zeal from the under-world.
The Italians are notorious for their vanity. And yes the footballers of Seria A  do nothing to fuck the trend. Totti for instance won’t be able to hide his disgust when he comes face to face with the smile of Podolski. How the Italians react to the physical make-up of the Germans will go some way to deciding the game. They may show horror and retreat into themselves, introvert the formation and hold on to whimper whimper out at the final hurdle of penalties, or they may take the tried and tested ‘Daniele De Rossi’ route. I am hoping for somewhere in between. 

I don’t think Lippi will play defensively against the counter-attack focussed Krouts. He has confidence in his own abilities as a manager and the players themselves. A fit, in form bunch of Itis, under the rueful, suave guidance of SIgnore Lippi, is a savagely tough opponent for any team of any era. 

The Match:

 I am fucking livid. My mood is a ugly as Podolski..I slaved away over my preview then checked fifty times that my mobile phone alarm was set to 440am, before letting myself dose away.. 

My lady woke me up at 630 to say ‘what about the game’…The first instinct was to throw the mobile full pelt into the wall, which has destroyed it beyond all usage. 

Buffon hasn’t been tested’ I hear Tiler say… 

Extra time:1 

(first half of normal time was
Italy’s. the second was apparently more even)

Iaquinta on for Camorenesi SUB an attacker for a midfielder – but Niko says ‘I don’t know if it is an offensive sub’..well it IS an offensive move however you look at it. That is if we are talking about the sport called ‘football’ and not whatever sport it is that Niko feels to have enough knowledge and understanding about, to call himself a Pro… 

91- Gilardino rounds 3 Krouts then hits a weak shot against the post… 

92- Corner>>Pirlo>Zambrotta shoots Off the bartwice of the woodwork for
Italy in two mins…

94- Corner ITI >> Pirlo>>deep..Cannavaro puts out for a goal kick… 

95- Zambrotta drags down Lahm>>FK>>goes for corner… 

96= Matterazzi takes a shot full in the head…. 

99- Podolski goes to ground just outside the box…FK>>>20 yards.wide left..100>>defended. 

Del Piero is waiting to replace Totti…102- Iaquinta body charges Ballack, but wins the free kick…clash of heads, intentional on the Sicillian’s part….104- Del Piero for Perrotta…
Italy have four attackers on now…
Completely offensive tactical change. Or as Niko would say ‘ultra defensive’ 

106 Totti checked on edge of area but ref is blind. 

106- Ondonker plays a ball in and Podolski is found unmarked in the box..but his header goes wide….a chance….rare…wasted. 

2t et108-Iauquinta set free down the left but lacks the pace to take on the defence. 

‘Very good for italy’ first half…(from Tiler’s summary) 

110- SUB GER Neuvile replaces Klose… 

112 Del Piero nearly scores, german counter. Podolski fires at goal, great save by Buffon… 

Counter lead to italian corner>>>113- Del Piero>>terrible.. 

118- Pirlo on left foot tests Lehman for 22 yards..Corner>>>GROSSOO GOALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL>>>90 seconds to go….Grosso is found by Pirlo, the left back hits it first time past the desperate fingers of Lehman…what a goal…fucking spectacular……left back in the opposite box in the 118 minute…..perfect hit…1-0

2-0 Del Piero//////Italy counter GGOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLL Brilliant finish from the Juve man, who scores his best ever goal for his country by hitting it first time with his right boot, sending the ball past Lehman. After great work from Gilardino  who held the ball up till support arrived..

FT 2-0
Italy win…

‘Well deserved’ says Niko…. 

Lippi’s subs and the Italian class won this…Grosso strike was sweet.. 

Totti//Gilardino made the chance for del Piero for the goal…….119- the Italians went to work…26 matches without defeat for Lippi’s men.MOM- Even though I didn’t watch the first 80 minutes, after consultation with trusted sources, I feel confident in awarding this accolade to Cannavaro. 

France V Portugal

At the start of the tournament, France were flaccid, static, lackluster; a pale shadow of the world cup/European championship winning team of yesteryear. Against Switzerland and Korea, France looked liked England; some great players whose talents were stifled by the manager’s system. The 2-0 victory over Togo yielded not only passage to the second round, but a return to form for two prominent players; Zidane and Viera. By the time Spain appeared, Thuram, Ribery, Makele and Henry had all suddenly found form; subsequently the French won comfortably and with more than a hint of elegance. Zidane may seem like the heartbeat of this team, and to some extent he is, but the aortic valves or Viera, Thuram, Makele are equally integral factors in the current rich vein of form where Domenech’s men find themselves. Henry finally seems to be showing glimpses of his terrifying club-form, for his country which makes him a danger to every defence bar the current Italian rearguard. Ribery has bags of energy, flair and youthful exuberance, his lung-bursting running more than counters the lack of pace in midfield partner, Zidane’s ageing calves, though in all honesty Zidane doesn’t need pace,’ he has one of the fastest and most fluid football minds in the history of the game. The wide men at the back, Sagnol and Abidol, have both seemed secure defensively and more than willing to stride forward in support of french foraging in the opponents half. Malouda’s pace and belligerence down the left wing is balanced by Ribery on the right. Zidane sits in front of the Cannavaro/Nesta of midfields : Makele and Viera, both of whom are inordinately robust. This team outplayed Brazil in the quarterfinals. They didn’t need luck; their victory, over the widely-revered Brazillians, was rubberstamped with Quality and Assurance. I hope, and expect the French to stomp the Portugese pansies . every time I see
Portugal play they show everything that is bad about the game for every second they are on my screen. After some consultation with my brother, I conceded that Grosso had ‘taken the option of falling over Lucas Neil, but not dived’ which happily, my very Australian brother agreed on. The other area of common ground we found was inre: ‘Grosso choosing to let his legs run straight into Neil’s legs is a million miles away from Ronaldo rolling over 15 times after feeling an opponents breath on his L’oreal moisturized skin. There is a difference. The single worst aspect of football is play-acting, and the most severe and blatant incidents of this nature seem to occur, in my eyes, whenever Portugal are in front of me on the green, in my screen. I really hope they get properly slaughtered by the French…but unfortunately five(possibly six if Saha takes part in proceedings) of the Gallic warriors must keep their jousting sticks sheathed for fear of inviting a YELLOW card and one match-suspension; MISS THE FINAL…It will only take on yellow because these six players are carrying a yellow from previous matches, so one more and it’s curtains. And I am sure this will affect the players mentally; Do they give their all for the team and play full blooded, gung-ho but risk getting banned for possibly the most important game of their lives???Or play it safe, take the fizz out the coke but keep it sweet?? It is dangerous to concentrate on the future before it has arrived but monsieurs  Zidane, Viera, Sagnol, Thuram and Ribery must fight their demons and find a midway point between giving their all and giving enough. I think that even the Italians would feel somewhat dejected if France made it through but at the expense of suspensions for Zidane and Viera, two of the true Greats of modern football. I would rather the best of Italy lined up against the best of France on July 9th
Prediction : 3-1 Frogs….My hope…..6-0 frogs with the game stopped by ref in the 63’ due to forced hospitalization of 10 Portugese players who got mowed down by an out of control Bobcat, driven by ex-Italy Master, Franco Baresi… 

When that radiant smile spreads across Zidane’s unmistakable face, the world of football feels his presence. 

The Match:

Blame my girlfriend’s unnaturally attractive form for the missing first 32 mins….

33- Henry is taken down in the box…He was looking for it, but there was contact…Penalty>>>GOAL for Zidane from the spot…1-0 France

48- Henry finds space down the left flank. cuts in to whip a shot towards the topright corner of the net, but Riccardo saves acrobatically.

49- The lively Ribery lets one go from 20 yards out…saved by Riccardo’s warm fingers…



50-68…Torpid, dire period in which nothing of note transpired.

69-POR SUB Simao replaces the wholly ineffective Pauletta.

SUB FRA Wiltord comes on for Malouda…

72- SUB FRA Govou emerges from the dugout to relieve Robery of his duties…

78- A Ronaldo free kick is parried into the danger zone by Bartez, where there are 3 unmarked Portugese players…Figo fucks his head, placing the ball a few yards over the bar when the goal was at his mercy…comical.


Easily the least entertaining of the semis. while France did enough to win this horrible to endure ‘spectacle’, they hardly looked like world beaters. The Portugese dived constantly and whined like new born gerbils whenever they lost the ball….

MOM-Henry, for winning the penalty in true portugese style…

FINAL – Italy v Frogs