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On Italy vs Slovakia

Italy is a sick and diseased nation. A country that is currently well-placed to be the rousing finale of Old Europe economic collapse, the “Don’t Stop Believin’” to Greece, Spain and Portugal’s “R&B track Mercedes gets to sing 15 minutes into the episode”. It’s a country whose lifeblood is organised crime, inherent corruption, tax evasion, the dumbest popular culture in the Western World and petty racism (directed at both foreigners and its own countrymen). When it comes to WWII leaders, you’ll probably find more Italians proud of theirs than Brits proud of theirs. Our electorate is populated by date rapists in diamond earrings eckying their balls off while driving around in circles on their Vespa, our leader is the single worst democratically elected global head of state of the past half-century, and we’ve made such a fuck up of our recent history that we’re having to sell our country off brick by brick to the Chinese and Arabs and hope they can make a better fist of it than we did. Even taking into consideration all of this: Italy is not a nation that deserves such a fucking shit national team.

Britishes always ask me: how does the Italian World Cup build-up compare to what you get in England? I usually explain it was we take the same journey but end up at the same destination. Both nations conclude football tournaments with recriminations, xenophobic outbursts at referees and internal scapegoating, but the difference for Italy is we start a tournament like that. The Italian press consider their national team to be disgusting savages unworthy of praise, and if they string a few wins together, maybe they’ll reconsider that notion. Thankfully, production editors up and down the boot have been untroubled by last minute shouts of “hold the press” this tournament.

A weird game. Vladimir Weiss Sr turned up in a pinstripe suit more appropriate on a slapstick “So, a Wiseguy, huh?” mob goon in a 1930s comedy, possibly the first instance of sartorial trolling at South Africa 2010.

The team we had out there though. Federico Marchetti on crosses? The last time I saw someone who was that big a flapper, Fatty Arbuckle rammed a broken beer bottle up her cunt.

Fabio Cannavaro is slowly turning into independent wrestling mainstray Low-Ki, except Cannavaro’s strikes look like they hurt a lot more, and on evidence of this game he appears to have incorporated the spear into his moveset. If he wore a Point Break-style mask and trialled at random football teams without his CV being made apparent, on some Pepsi Taste Test shit, I refuse to believe he would even make a Championship-level team at this time. He has the speed of coastal erosion and the positional sense of Jansen Van Vuuren. Vincenzo Iaquinta, on the other hand, will leave about as great a mark on the world as, say, The Bravery, or the SDP.

Moments of levity in the tournament? Gennaro Gattuso, better known as sometime Lee and Herring/Russell Brand punchbag and legally-cleared-of-rape-accusations type Trevor Lock, briefly lightens the mood by kicking a Slovakian in the knee. The funniest moment, for me, occurred when we were reduced to moaning about borderline refereeing decisions while playing NEW FUCKING ZEALAND, a team built around a midfielder who left Fulham because he was too old sometime during the Carter administration, and a striker who was last seen jostling for AFC Wimbledon teamsheet space with Harvey from So Solid Crew. Yeah, there was a bitter humour to all that.

A tactical shambles as well. We played the last two games with a variant of route one football that was less reminiscent of 1960s style wingless blood and guts, and more reminiscent of a tennis ball serving machine placed five feet in front of a brick wall. Long ball up, returned immediately. Long ball up, returned immediately. Like an infinite loop of the first five seconds of every American Football game. Scrappy draws relied on carting on Mauro Camoranesi, an Argentine who previously said he doesn’t feel that there’s an Italian bone in his body. Say what you like about England, but at least they were never reduced to bringing on, say, Bobby Sands, William Wallace and Victor Spinetti off the bench.

As for Marcello Lippi? In 2006, broadsheet hacks made great play of his resemblance to Paul Newman, presuming that the coolness of his appearance transferred into some degree of coolness of tactical acumen. In 2010, though, Marcello Lippi looks more like Paul O’Grady, and I wouldn’t trust him to run a Nodding Buster tombola, let alone the summation of four year’s work and attention by an entire nation. It’s not even a case of “you can never go back”, it’s more like a guy who had a summer job when he was at uni returning to the same position as a divorced, unemployed 31-year-old: the guy doesn’t want to be there, and the company look pathetic for dragging him back.

Fact: Italy are yet to win a single football game in 2010. Even the Paul Jewell Derby County side managed an FA Cup tie victory between January and June. Fact: up until half-time in this game (and possibly further, I don’t have stats to hand), Italy had not managed a single save in this World Cup. That’s acceptable now, is it?

You get into a strange place when you’re playing that badly. If any of you have ever been on the end of a full-blown physical assault, you’ll know the sensation. As bad as things get, part of you is curious to see how worse they can go before you end up unconscious. You want more blown passes from Chiellini. You want more crosses 50 feet in front of Di Natale’s reach. You want Quagliarella to score too late into the game to make a difference, but impressively enough to prove he should have started all three games You want refereeing decisions to become more and more marginal, more and more inaccurate. What’s the point of a minor humiliation when you can have your dress caught in the door of a taxi as it drives off?

England and France have both bought a collection of very talented individuals (and Djibril Cisse) to this World Cup, who have been undone by ego and idiocy. We, on the other hand, have dragged a motley ragtag of has-beens and guys who simply Aren’t Good Enough, and have done as well as we could expect: 12 minutes decent football in an entire tournament.

Hopefully, people took a break to watch this game. Cassano took a break from fucking and eating to watch it. Rossi took a break from eating Oreos and drinking Pabst and rooting for the Buicks in the Super Bowl Series to watch it. Balotelli took a break from being angry for no reason to watch it, and Santon took a break from looking like a lesbian to watch it. They should have watched it, and realised that this is a team open for them, a team open for rebuilding, a national pride open for rebuilding, the chance to repair pretty much the one thing that keeps Italy together as a nation, them as privates, Prandelli as the general. A rebuilding exercise through blood, sweat, tears and toil. Or, more likely, diving, gamesmanship and crowding the referee. I’ll take what I can get at the moment, to be honest.

Still, the most painful part of all this is we were beaten by a team with Miroslav Stoch’s tattoos. What the hell did he do there? Go to the inking parlour with a bunch of Suicide Girl printouts and go “Yeah, anything you can see on the bodies of these women, just draw them on me”. Idiot.

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  1. June 24, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Stumbled across this through twitter, brilliant stuff, nice one 🙂

  2. June 24, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    great, great stuff ich, and a trev ‘cocky locky’ reference to boot!

    shame about italy bro. mind you, I bet the bookies have made a fucking killing off this tourno.

  3. Benski
    June 24, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    What did you think to Criscito?

    *cough*Forza Genoa*cough*

  4. Kitty G
    June 25, 2010 at 12:53 am

    Jansen Van Vuuren reference? Never lost it.

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