Monday, June 26, 2006

Italy v Australia, ITV1

Goal of the match: Not a great deal of choice, really. The decision to award Italy a penalty in the 94th minute may have been dubious, Fabio Grosso falling very deliberately over the prostrate body of Lucas Neill, but substitute Francesco Totti's spot-kick was firm, perfectly placed and pretty much unstoppable. Just the impact the man "pilloried from one end of Italy to the other" will have wanted to have, having been omitted from the starting line-up.

Shot of the match: Marco Bresciano's fearsome shot, on one of the very rare occasions when an Australian was allowed too much space by the Italian defence.

Miss of the match: Luca Toni missed two presentable headed chances in the first half, but fellow striker Vincenzo Iaquinta was more culpable, hitting a second half shot straight at Mark Schwarzer from close range with the Aussie back line in total disarray.

Save of the match: Schwarzer, already diving to his right, did well to deflect a Toni shot away with his legs.

Man of the match: It would have been Neill but for his injury time rush of blood to the head (even though Grosso went looking for the penalty, Neill was at fault for committing himself far too easily and unnecessarily). At the other end, Italian skipper Fabio Cannavaro was his usual imperious self, outshining his team-mates in a game in which defences dominated (though perhaps not quite to the same snoozesome extent as they did in the later Switzerland v Ukraine match...).

He was playing?!: Very few of the midfielders on display did themselves any justice. Was Vincent Grella quietly effective or just quiet? Luke Wilkshire showed why he lines up for Bristol City, but, to be fair, his much more feted opponent Andrea Pirlo didn't really do anything of distinction either.

Gesture of the match: Tim Cahill's "diddums" wobbling of his lower lip with forefinger in the direction of Marco Materazzi shortly before the Italian defender's dismissal.

The Biggest Boned Player Award: Need you ask?

Player looking most likely to have just got off a submarine: Italian midfield ankle-biter Gennaro Gattuso.

The Sir Bobby Robson Award For The Manager Most Resembling A Lost And Confused Pensioner: Marcello Lippi stood open-mouthed following Materazzi's sending-off, as though trying to work out what day it was.

The Rage Against The Machine Fuck You I Won't Do What You Tell Me Award: Italy. According to Jon Champion, they were ordered by FIFA to wear white shirts and blue shorts, and warmed up in that kit - but for the match itself they switched to the more familiar blue shirts and white shorts. Symptomatic of a healthy disregard for the champagne-and-caviar quaffers who pass for authority, or of an unpleasant arrogance?

Face in the crowd: For the Aussies, a fat dreadlocked man in a yellow wifebeater vest bouncing up and down manically. For the Italians, a man with a large foam hand in the colours of the Italian flag. And there I was thinking only Boro fans and 'Gladiators' audiences thought foam hands were a good thing.

Stat attack: Italy are now unbeaten in 22 games, their best sequence since 1939. The Aussies, meanwhile, exited in the knockout stages having been ahead for precisely three minutes during their four matches.

The England Award For Arrogance And Overblown Self-Confidence: Italy. Apparently today's edition of the Republica newspaper claimed the idea that they could be beaten by Australia was a "joke". What a shame the Azzuri didn't end up with egg all over their faces.

Stereotypes Corner: Barely a couple of minutes after taking over from Jim Rosenthal, Champion referred to the "tinny-fuelled rendition" of the Australian national anthem.

Patronised to within an inch of their plucky little lives: Australia, of course. Plenty of references to their spirit and determination (Rosenthal, for instance, said at the break "The Aussies are hanging on and they will play right to the end - don't worry about that" as if we thought they'd bow meekly before their more established opponents), and there was the inevitable Champion nod to their "wonderful adventure" towards the end.

Minutes elapsed before Champion mentioned that Scott Chipperfield was working as a bus driver when he won the first of his fifty Australian caps: 30.

Sticking the boot in: "Not even a wayward English referee has been able to stop [Australia]". No sympathy for Poll, then, Jon? He also noted (with marvellous redundancy of expression) that "'cavalier' in relation to Italian football is a relative term". Rosenthal's best shot was say "The Australians will try to get in the Italians' faces", and then turn to Sam Allardyce with the words: "You know all about sending teams out to do that"...

Fish out of water: Ned Boulting, for once (thankfully) not interviewing drunken idiots in a fan park, tried and failed to extract much of interest from an Italian sports journalist on the subject of the country's match-fixing scandal.

The Jon Champion Award For Overstatement (sponsored by Des Lynam): Surprisingly, it would have to be awarded not to the man himself but jointly to Allardyce and Ally McCoist. The former claimed Italy were "excellent" (not quite sure about that, Sam...), while McCoist's buzzword was "sensational", an adjective he applied at the break both to Materazzi's distribution from the back (illustrated with one of those pointless graphics) and to Toni and Alberto Gilardino's movement (the latter, incidentally, was replaced at half-time).

The Yeah But No But Award For Self-Contradiction: Another joint award, this time to McCoist and Andy Townsend. Before the game, and again at half-time, Hiddink was hailed as one of most tactically astute coaches in the world. At full-time he was savaged for not changing things round and having a real go at ten man Italy.

Learning the lingo: "We thought we were in for overtime", chuckled Rosenthal after the full-time whistle. You've been watching too many of those Budweiser trails, haven't you Jim?

You what?!!: According to Champion, "Guus Hiddink specialises in that ever-so-slightly crumpled look".

Most bizarre moment of coverage: Either right at the start, when a problem with the feed meant our initial view was from a camera high above and behind the Italian goal, or the moment before the game when Rosenthal leaned over to Allardyce and patted the Bolton manager's stomach with the words "none of that", claiming that's what Hiddink did and said to Mark Viduka when he took charge. The prospect of being fondled by Jim Rosenthal on live TV is too awful to contemplate.

What we learned: This was the first proper look I've had at Italy, and as expected they're defensively superb but not particularly exciting going forwards; three more dodgy late penalty winners and Lippi will have to fulful his promise to shave his head; the Aussies' apparently superhuman fitness levels didn't help them overcome ten men in the end; I'm seriously doubting whether I can handle another ITV game.


Blogger skif said...

I mostly enjoyed the ref Luis Medina Cantalejo's card-waving and penalty awarding flourishes.

World Cup - The Opera!

9:57 am, June 27, 2006


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