Friday, June 02, 2006

On Italian soccer

Tomorrow I'll wake up at 7 a.m. (PST), put the espresso "machinet" on the stove, and sit, or lie, on the futon bed in my apartment living room to watch Italy play Czech Republic. This will be Italy's third match in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup and if they lose, they will not advance to the next round. I will cheer for the Italians, because my parents are Italian, and because I've cheered for Italy in soccer tournaments for as long as I can remember.

Italy is not an easy team to love. Non-Italians generally can't stand them, and I can't blame them. The Italians are known for playing a boring, defensive game, practically invented diving, and have in recent tournaments, developed a reputation for committing dirty fouls and then complaining about them. They're also the best looking team each year, and no one likes a pretty boy.

Marcello Lippi, Italy's reigning coach, has encouraged his players to attack more. In Italy's opening match against Ghana, there were moments of creative flair and inspired playmaking. Andrea Pirlo controlled the game from the centre midfield position with lovely long passes and a perfect free kick that resulted in the winning goal. Players who do this are often dubbed as "artists" by commentators. Italy hasn't had a bonafide artist in the midfield for as long as I've watched them play.

But Italy's second match of this tournament, against the United States, was a sham. Pirlo was a non-factor and forward Luca Toni, the first player to score over 30 goals in Serie A (Italy's domestic league) since the sixties, performed badly. The U.S.'s lone goal came off the feet of Italian defender Cristiano Zaccardo. Three red cards were handed out, but the only player who deserved one was Italy's Daniele De Rossi, who elbowed American captain Brian McBride in the face as they both jumped for the ball. Tears could be seen in De Rossi's eyes as he walked off the field, but he wasn't getting much sympathy from anyone.

Tomorrow Italy faces the talented Czechs, who surprisingly lost their second match to Ghana after dominating the U.S. in their opener. It's likely Italy will play a tight, defensive game, as a tie would see them through to the next round. And if they do that and get through, I will be pleased. I am in Victoria, and not in Toronto, so I won't be celebrating in the streets. That kind of thing is not in the culture here. I will, however, finish my espresso and go into work with a smile on my face.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ITALIA ITALIA ITALIA

7:01 PM  
Blogger snoop said...

hello marco. i have been thinking a lot about you recently. how are you doing? send me an email when you have some time. sma@globeandmail.com.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Exubai Negedikos said...

Looks like Italy's facing the winner of the Croatia/Australia match in a couple of hours. I'm strongly rooting for the Aussies in the hopes that it'll silence the Croats in this area, then I'm hopping for them to take out the Italians as well, just because, for the reasons you mentioned, I hate Italian people, and by extension, their soccer team.

9:16 AM  
Blogger M-C said...

The stinking Czech's couldn't even manage a draw. Looks like we won't see Italy vs. Brazil until the finals, if it plays out that way.

One thing about the Italians - once they survive the first round they're fearsome.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Liivi said...

hey marco! You actually made specific reference to me in your column? That's so sweet, I'll send the mix, and with that bottle of wine...or maybe I'll just bring one out there for you. when is it being published?

10:13 AM  
Blogger clifford d said...

i'll start cheering for italy to lose once france crashes out tomorrow.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Carley Fortune said...

Australia rules! You're going down Ursi.

3:29 PM  
Blogger michele ursi said...

ciao Marco, W ITALIA!

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your website. It has a lot of great pictures and is very informative.
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11:56 AM  

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