Monday, June 23, 2008

It's a Bleak Future for Italia Calcio

You know, somehow, “I told you so” just doesn’t quite say it. (Will Smith, I, Robot)

I wished I was wrong. I wanted so much to be wrong. But, it seems, you can’t be wrong all the time.

Italy were dumped out of Euro 08. And they only have themselves to blame. Especially Luca Toni, who managed to go home without scoring a single goal throughout the tournament, despite playing all the minutes of all Italy’s 4 matches. Even the Swiss has a three goal hero in Hakan Yakin. How embarrassing. And you call yourself Italy’s top marksman.

Want to know the saddest part is? Of all the other big teams that already went out, Italy has the least likely next generation of players to make it big in the near future. France has Benzema, Nasri, Ribery to take care of them for the next World Cup and beyond. For the Dutch, Sneijder, Robben, Van der Vaart has still much to offer. And even should the Germans and Spanish bow out, the likes of Podolski, Schweinsteiger and the trio of Villa, Torres and Fabregas would inflict fear in the opposition just the mere mention of their names. As for Italy? De Rossi is probably the only bright spark to come out of this competition but hardly to be considered world-class. This is what you pay for keeping faith with the old guard while ignoring the perilous consequences.

Materazzi and Cannavaro should leave the squad. As with Del Piero, Zambrotta, Panucci and maybe even that Toni fellow. Problem is, who are the able replacements? Chiellini looks somewhat the deal despite starting off as a left back. Barzagli, despite his regular inclusion in the national team, only managed a summer move to Wolfsburg. Aquilani is promising but still has a long way to go before able to command a midfield on his own. As for Perotta, resembles a Defoe, showed tremendous potential at club level, but yet to translate to the international scene.

And the attack, oh god, the attack! Where’s the next great Italian striker? Where’s the next Mazzola? The next Riva? Baggio? Inzaghi? Vieri? Clearly the man from Bayern could not do the business and being a late developer of the game does not help his cause. What hope is there left? The repugnant Cassano? Maybe there’s hope in the form of a certain Marco Borriello, recently signed by Milan, to replace another failed investment in Alberto Gilardino.

As the team look back on Euro 08, maybe they’d realize something more could have been done but what’s most troubling is the immediate future. If England has problems, Italy are looking at a potential train wreck.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dear Luca Toni

Dear Mr. Toni,

For fuck's sake, why the fuckin' hell wouldn;t you score? You scored 39 goals in 47 matches for Bayern, but you couldn't even trouble Coupet? Honestly, he's not that good. Please, don't be like Mario Gomez. Italy does not the luxury of having the likes of Podolski and Klose amongst the ranks. You're all the nation have for goals. Who else to depend on? Del Piero? We all know what happen the last time we did that.

So, please, Mr. Toni, I beg of you,make the Spanish defence remember you. And for the right reasons.

Your caring Italian fan,

Thursday, June 12, 2008

In Pursuit of Movies

In honour of M. Night Shyamalan’s latest offering, The Happening, due to be released soon, Yahoo! Movies decided to list down 20 movies with some of the greatest ending twists.

This, inadvertedly, has intrigued me. So, let’s see, films on the list which I already have seen are:

  1. The Sixth Sense
  2. The Others
  3. Saw
  4. Empire Strikes Back
  5. Fight Club
  6. Primal Fear
  7. No Way Out
  8. 12 Monkeys
  9. Arlington Road
  10. The Usual Suspects

And the ones I haven’t are:

  1. Citizen Kane
  2. Soylent Green
  3. Planet of the Apes
  4. Basic Instinct
  5. The Crying Game
  6. Psycho
  7. Dressed To Kill
  8. The Sting
  9. Chinatown
  10. Angel Heart

Hey, they’re evenly balanced. Didn’t quite sure I was expecting that. Anyway, all this is to further fill my pursuit in watching unsung movies. For instance, just recently, I managed to see Donnie Darko. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t be ashamed because I didn’t either until I was quizzed by Flixster. Curiosity beckoned, I searched it on IMDB and found out it got a pretty good rating. So I decided it was a movie worth checking out, despite being a 2001 production. It took quite an effort. I even multiple legitimate video stores because I was so desperate I’d pay extra for an original copy. But the sales people were clueless as well, as if the movie never even existed. Finally, after consulting some people, I managed to find a torrent for it. I was so happy I watch it the minute it finished downloading. And it is good. A 6 foot bunny telling you when doomsday is coming is really intriguing. And it’s one of those movies that gets better every time you watch it. A noir film at its best.

After that point on, I was hooked.

Next on my list is Say Anything. A romantic comedy starring John Cusack and a personal favorite of Jessica Alba. It isn’t as good as Darko but entertaining nonetheless. Chicks will definitely love it. If you wanna have a stay-in movie date, this movie is perfect. It worked for Jessica.

Still wrapped in its packaging in my room is Risky Business. The movie where Tom Cruise made his big break.

It has become sort of a hobby of late. And that list of 10 movies that I have yet to see really gives me a buzz. Especially after reading the synopsis of Soylent Green. Though, I’m not so sure of Psycho, as too much has been said about it and Planet of the Apes since I saw the Mark Wahlberg remake. But for things like Angel Heart and Chinatown, the hunt is afoot yet again!

Can Italy Come Back?

Burnt in Bern.

I’ll admit it’s a catchy title but because of its significance, I hated Collette Wong for saying it, regardless that she’s a hot mum and all.

About two years ago I wrote a similar blog post to the one I’m doing right now. It was titled ‘Italy’s Flaw’ and in it I discussed my fears for the Italian national team at the 2006 World Cup after they were held to a draw by the US. A nation which by itself defines ‘football’ as a game played using your hands.

How does Italy expect to do well in a tournament if you’re already embarrassed in your second group match? Oh, believe me, it was an embarrassment. A case in point: Italy’s most capped player is Paolo Maldini. Theirs is Cobi Jones. That’s the gulf in class and just goes to show which nation pays more serious attention to this sport.

In that post I spoke on how Italy would have serious problems in scoring goals, considering how one-dimensional the Italian strikers of that team were compared to the others such as the Brazilians and Argentineans. Yet, I was proven wrong and they did score a few goals after that and went on to win the damn thing.

Two years later, we’re back in the same boat. Only this time, it’s not only déjà vu, but much, much worse.

Just like in the WC, for the Euros, if you’re one of the favorites, the least you could do is to win your first game. Get your nerves settled early on in the tournament. To draw is not a disaster but still a pressing concern nonetheless. A defeat is a disaster. But a 3-0 thumping? Now, that’s an absolute catastrophe.

This scenario reminds me of Euro 96. To this day, I can still remember the headline on the Malay Mail sports section when it emblazoned the words ‘Czech-ed’ on the back of that defeat that has all but distinguished Italy’s hope of progressing further. Taking into consideration the third and final game in which they need to get a result, no matter what, was against the Germans. For those of you need reminding, the Germans were the eventual champions that year. All they could muster was 0-0 draw and Italy got kicked out.

It was such a heartbreak because two years before that, Italy were in the World Cup final against Brazil contesting for the big prize. At that time, Italy was among the two best teams on the planet. Come ’96, another major tournament and this time no Brazil. So, the onus was good. Who else could come in their way? Unfortunately, they didn’t listed down ‘aarogance’.

Now, in 2008, the title of world champions has again lifted hopes and expectation at its loftiest. Cue in the Dutch demolition and all the nightmarish memories came back flooding in.

There is still hope, no doubt about it, but it does look very vain at the very best.

A win against Romania is a must. There’s no two way about it. Another defeat would be unthinkable as that will mean Italy is out of the competition as they did in ’96 and ‘04. A draw is merely a prolonged sentence since a win in the third game is the only way to survive and that means beating the French. And you know how the French are. More worrying if the Dutch pulled off another encore performance which will mean the French would need a result too. Two powerhouse nations in locked horns, desperately looking for a win. A fantastic prospect for the neutrals but they will be much French and Italian swearing taking place in the background should that happen.

Now, the interesting part. Let’s dissect that performance at Bern, shall we?

In short, every one that day was rubbish. For starters, make no mistake, the loss of Fabio Cannavaro is a massive blow. There was wishful thinking that maybe his absence would not affect the team’s preparations as much. But it did, judging by the defensive performance against the Dutch. His defensive qualities and calming influence was sorely missed.

Buffon was clearly burdened by his role as captain hence, affected his performance. He usually takes guidance from Cannavaro and with him gone, the sudden responsibility outweighed his shoulders. As for Materazzi, well, he’s the Jekyll and Hyde type. Brilliant in one game and awful in the next. He was no Jekyll this time around. Which is a big letdown as you’d expect him to step up and be the leader of the backfour and especially his center back partner, Barzagli, who hasn’t racked up enough caps to be comfortable playing at a major tournament. Zambrotta, despite his versatility, would have posed more danger playing on the right. Then, he would not have to cut back every time he wanted to deliver a cross which he continuously need to do coming from the left, which enabled the Dutch defence to cope with his play. No why on Earth was Panucci pitted against someone like Van der Vaart? Thank heavens it wasn’t Van Persie or Robben for that matter. It could have been 3-0 in the first 20 minutes.

As for the midfield, I understand for the need for familiarity and that’s why the three midfielders from Milan started the game. But, then again, Milan finished fifth in the league and the trio of Pirlo, Gattuso and Ambrosini had Seedorf and Kaka to pass to initiate attack. Comfortable holders of the ball which the same cannot be said of Di Natale or Camoranesi.

As for Toni, like I said two years ago, he’s a finisher. A van Nistelrooy type. He cannot make goals on his own, he needs service. Kind of like Ribery provides him at Bayern though that may be pushing it.

Anyway, the biggest flaw this time around for Italy is the whole spectrum of its attack. Clearly, something needs to be done to gain better possession of the ball and the linkage between midfield and forwards. Ambrosini needs to be replaced with someone with more sense of adventure and dynamism. The likes of Perotta, Aquilani or De Rossi. And it’s high time Del Piero gets a start. 18 league goals is no fluke. Pair him up front with Toni ,not on the left wing and maybe, just maybe, he’ll continue that good run of form for club to country.

As much as I fear and excited by this Friday’s match, please, let me be proven wrong, yet again, as I was two years ago. Forza Italia.