Author's Disclaimer: I know this Preview is going to generate a lot of negative feedback. C’est la vie, I gotta be me; this is a personal blog and the opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone. So there. Nah-nah and all that.
As I mentioned in one of my first pieces on this year's World Cup, nothing drives me crazier than American fans who root against the USA and for other teams, whatever the reason. Italy provides me two opportunities to be upset at once; Italian Americans generally go crazy for the Azzurri and women and men around the country love those sexy Italian players. So, to both groups of people, this post is for you.
Where to start when talking about the Italian National team; do I first talk about the American striker Giuseppe Rossi? Rossi is a player who, forsaking sure-fire superstardom as a player who would walk into the side for Team USA, decided instead to follow his dreams of playing for the land of his parent’s birth, Italy, only to be dumped by the Italian National Team again. He will miss his second straight World Cup. That's right, Rossi has never once achieved his goal of playing for Italy in the World Cup. Can I take a moment to simply say that, regardless of the importance of Italian football in his upbringing in New Jersey and on his development as a player-- he’s probably one of the best American players in the world right now-- he should have put that bullshit behind him and signed up for the USA? Because right now, Rossi’s decision to play for Italy has to be categorized as a massive mistake; he could have been playing in the past two World Cups if only he put the love of the Azzurri behind him and not betrayed the country of his birth. I’m sure he’ll make it in four more years (*cough*) but in the meantime, he and I, both Americans, have logged the exact same number of minutes playing in the World Cup. Well done, son.
Judas: Rossi Scores Against The USA
Or should I start by talking about my disdain for the art of diving, which the Italians have perfected and turned into a style of play? There is no other team that is so vocal in the face of the referees, so eager to fall on the ground and gain an advantage, always gaming the system in order to try and win.
For Club: Gilardino for AC Milan
For Country: Grosso Against Australia
Italy In Training
There is something about Italian football that simply rubs me the wrong way; negative, demonstrative, baiting opponents; Italy plays with a sense of gamesmanship that walks just to one side of fair play. Obviously, the goal of any football Tournament is to win, but Italy have built an empire on the back of being negative on the pitch, which is a shame because some of the most skillful players in the world don the Azzurri jersey. If Brazilians demand flair from their teams, Italians demand discipline; play defensive, tactical, conservative football and
dive execute when the opportunity arises. This is a team that clamps down on games like a vice, controlling the ball and the clock and making it their number one priority to not allow the other team to score. So far, the Italian approach has yielded four World Cups, unquestionably placing the Italians as one of the top footballing nations in the world. The lesson is one of the oldest sports cliches in the book; defense wins championships. But to me? Italy remains one of the least compelling great teams in the world, a defending champion that could go a long way in 2010 but who will annoy the shit out of me in the process.
Just Put That Boot Anywhere: Pirlo Finds McBride in 2006
Is there anyone in Group F who can stop them? The answer is no; Italy have, of course, drawn one of the easiest Groups in the World Cup, having
bribed Charlize Theron been placed with New Zealand, who might be one of the worst teams in the Tournament, Slovakia, making their first ever appearance in a World Cup since gaining independence (and unlikely to overturn the defending Champions) and Paraguay, who are dangerous and qualified third in South America, but who will certainly be battling Slovakia for second in the Group.
Martin Skrtel and Miroslav Stoch of Slovakia Celebrate Victory Together
The good news for the “other” teams in Group F is that Italy have struggled their way through a series of tune-up matches this past month, drawing Cameroon 0-0, losing 2-1 to Mexico and drawing Switzerland 1-1; If Slovakia and Paraguay can each get a result from Italy-- dream of dreams!-- Group F will become a battle to see who can score the most goals against New Zealand. What is more likely to happen is that Italy will squeak out of the Group stages before grinding their way into the final. You wanna watch Italian players grind it out, don’t you? Of course you do.
Somewhere, Snookie Drools: Italy Captain Fabio Cannavaro In His Younger, Moodier Days
Who To Watch
If you have to watch Italy, and why not, it's only once every four years after all, the man to watch is Gennaro Gatusso, a nasty and, frankly, bat-shit crazy Defensive Midfielder with a Napoleon complex who is a yellow card machine and one of the most tenacious players in world football. He has lost a step in recent years, which makes his tackling and subsequent rage all the more fun to watch. Expect injuries, that’s all I’m going to say. For New Zealand, why not root for former DC United player and current Blackburn Rovers star Ryan Nelsen, a decent defender who is probably going to spend much of the Tournament looking around him to see which one of his teammates allowed the ball into the net. Slovakian Captain Marek Hamšík is only 22 years old, but he plays his club football for Napoli in Italy and he is an attacking midfielder who can do a lot of damage if given time and space on the ball. Finally, Paraguay’s Roque Santa Cruz is in the proverbial shop window, with his club Manchester City looking to sell him to another team; look for Santa Cruz to try and raise his profile in the eyes of his suitors.
Marek Hamšík Meets Gennaro Gatusso: A Preview Of Things To Come
Must See Match
As much as I’d like to say that Slovakia vs Paraguay is the match to see, I actually think the Italy vs Slovakia match on June 24th will be the real barnstormer; if both teams remain in position to qualify, both having played New Zealand and Paraguay already, this match could be for all the marbles in Group F. Slovakia is a physical team that could produce a result against Italy, so this one should be a real test for the Champions. But they are so jammy... arrrggghh!
Santa Cruz and Paraguay Should Sweat It Out
Who Moves On
I’m going to risk it all and and say Italy to win the Group. Ok, but seriously, Italy to win the Group, and I think Paraguay squeaks through on goal difference with Slovakia unlucky to miss out on the second round. New Zealand will always have Peter Jackson’s massive personal wealth as consolation... sorry Kiwis!
Yes, I Even Found A Shirtless Photo Of New Zealand's Ryan Nelsen
Up Next: Group G