Monday, June 23, 2008

Arrivederci Azzurri! (and good riddance)


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I have never been a big fan of the Italian football team. That's putting it mildly: to quote the immortal Edmund Blackadder, I'd rather French-kiss a skunk than see the Azzurri win a major tournament. For far too long Italy have tainted international football with their negative approach- they don't play football, they play anti-football. They bored their way to the final of the 1994 World Cup, where their ultra-defensive tactics ensured the most sleep-inducing World Cup final of all time. They bored their way to the final of Euro 2000, defeating an adventurous and ultra-positive Dutch team on penalties in the semi-finals. The final of Euro 2000 was needless to say a mega-bore: most finals are if they involve Italy. In 2006 they not only bored their way to the World Cup final again, they actually won the tournament. And last night, they went out on the pitch against Spain in the quarter-final of Euro 2008- determined to put us all to sleep for two hours and steal the match on penalties. But for once, the Italian 'master-plan' didn't come off. Spain held their nerve and the Italians went out. But the victory didn't just represent a deserved victory for Spain, who at least made an effort to win the match in normal time; it was, as Alan Hansen correctly said in the BBC studio, a victory for football.

Is it possible to get the Azzurri banned from future tournaments on the grounds that they don't play football, but anti-football? It's surely worth a try.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, no one will watch football if other teams resorted to the Italian -defend and kill the game- style.
But I give credit to Italy, for revealing some American elements in your suggestion Neil :-)

Remember when the world cup was hosted in the US, they made some changes to football rules to make it more appealing to Americans. one of which the goal keeper can't touch the football if it was returned to him by his own team. I think beating Italians until they change their style will work better for football popularity.

Lev Yashin II said...

The Italians certainly are a boring team. I think the Russians used to be the same (but not as good), but look at the way they're playing now! An inspiration to all football teams.

pierre said...

I really like your site and agree with a lot of what you say regarding politics, balkans, and your AmConMag articles, HOWEVER - I disagree with your charactisation of Italian football being "negative" and "antifootball." I think Greece has had the same criticism by playing too defensively.

If the Italians bunker down in defence, there is nothing in the rules preventing the other team from pushing forward on the attack. In fact, it is the other teams inability to score. From what I see, the Italians stay back, suck in the attack, and launch a counter attack. I don't think there is anything wrong with that, it is just a style of play. If anything, the team opposing them realises that AND USES THE SAME TACTIC BY REFUSING TO ATTACK resulting in what you call "negative football". I agree, it can get boring. If you have a problem, you should BLAME BOTH TEAMS, NOT JUST THE ITALIANS.

PS, is it just me, or is the Euro Championships more difficult to win than the World Cup?

douglasbass said...

The typical European solution to something that stinks, get the government to forbid it!

I'm with anonymous. If you want the Italians to change their style, other teams need to come up with a solution for it.

Neil Clark said...

anonymous: good point.
lev yashin II: Russia played football from a different planet on Saturday- they were fantastic. They are the best team left in the tournament for me, and considering their age they should play a leading role in international football for the next few years.

pierre: thanks for your kind words.
I agree that it's up to other teams to try and get past the Italians, but their style is parasitical, if every team did what they did, no one would ever go to watch a football match.

douglasbass: my suggestion that Italy should be banned until they play more positively was only tongue in cheek- of course there's no propsect of that happening. In the end, I think it's up to the Azzurri supporters to say 'enough is enough' and that they want to see some entertaining football too. Or do many Italian fans actually enjoy watching ultra-defensive soccer? Any Italians out there who can give an opinion on this?

Neil

Anonymous said...

Ich have some news für die other remaining teams: für you lot ist die European Champions soon over!

Yes! How did Gary Liniker say?

Fußball ist a game where 11 Männer kick the ball, and at the end the Germans always will win!

Roland Hulme said...

I don't think you published my comment in another post in which I agreed with you - I watched the 2006 decider and France deserved to win it.

But soccer's so boring now. It's all decided on penalities. It's like F1. Used to be about racing. Now it's about who changes tyres the fastest. They ought to do the environment a favor and stop the racing in between pit stops to save petrol!