Friday, March 2, 2012

What the giornali said - the view from Italy

Italy is as soccer-mad as they come. Anyone who has spent time in 'lo stivale' - the boot-shaped peninsula - cannot fail to notice the insane grip football has on Italian lives.

Walk around a piazza or along a busy street and chances are you will find men taking their fix of the daily sport papers (which are 90% soccer) or chatting about the previous or following weekend's fixtures.

Celebrities and politicians mention football too and when the national team plays, in the words of a Parmesan friend of mine, "there are 60 million managers". More than Spain, England or Germany, Italy lives and breathes the beautiful game.

Thursday morning in Italy and men were full of sighs after Gli Azzurri's latest "beffa" (blow, setback), having lost to Uruguay in Rome in November.

But while there was no shortage of column inches on the clash with the US in Genoa, finding comments on the American performance in the Italian media was difficult. With Euro 2012 imminent (Italy play Spain, Ireland and Croatia), the state of the nation(al team) naturally preoccupied the scribes.

Cesar Prandelli thought Italy did not deserve to lose and was one of many voices who cited the absence of strike duo Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi as the key to defeat. Italy's c.t. (commisario tecnico - coach) also defended his experimentation, adding, "I would not have fielded three twenty-year olds if all I had cared about was the result."

Rome's Corriere dello Sport's headline said it was "not the real Italy without Balotelli" and lamented the five regulars missing. It said the US were "compact and very physical", preferred to play on the counter and could close down easily because Italy's build-up play was too slow.

Milan's La Repubblica called it an "ugly defeat" for their national team and applauded the USA for being "tactically compact" and causing panic with quick upfield surges.

It went to christen Jurgen Klinsmann, on his return to his Sampdoria stamping grounds, as "Italian Klinsi" for having progressed since his spell in charge of Bayern Munich when he was, in their words, "a show-off".

The US coach had learnt an Italian virtue by concentrating on the performance instead of the aesthetic: "The naive manager of a few years ago is becoming just a memory," it concluded. The paper also joked that it was no coincidence the knock-out blow came from a man with the surname of a famous boxer.

Turin's La Stampa hailed an event that would go down in American soccer history:
"The footballing David has slain the feeble giant," it proclaimed. When Italy attacked, it found "a modest and proud USA, ready to defend itself with an ordered 4-4-2" with Bradley's backtracking creating a useful screen in front of the back four.

"The fact remains the language of football is not American," it observed, "and from the start the enthusiasm applied by Klinsmann's boys was not enough," but concluded after Italy had failed to live up to the occasion, that "the only correct date was that of the Americans: With history."

Rome's Il Messagero called it "a historically bad display" for Italy, thanks to the "small and talented" attacker from Fulham, as well as "Jonshon and Altindor" (sic). The "k.o. by Dempsey" will have a place in the annals of US soccer, it added.

Libero summed up the general feeling that it was "not a good game - boring in the first half and combative in the second," and observed Klinsmann was trying to break up the Italian rhythm with his substitutions.

Florence's La Nazione called the win "historic and prestigious" for America, and thought Tim Howard was key in keeping the Azzurri at bay and launching the States' most penetrative attacks.

Corriere della Sera said the game revealed "an ancient Italian vice - not shining when the result does not matter."

Genoa's local newspaper Il Secolo XIX said the USA were "organised but certainly not exceptional."

La Gazzetta dello Sport, the famous pink daily from Milan, had "E' UN'ITALIA USA & GETTA" - 'It's a throwaway Italy' as its front-page splash. It believed "Little Italy" really needed Balotelli back to score goals: "Call, Mario, call (Prandelli) for the love of God," it wailed.

It also thought the US were very solid and noted how they shifted from 4-2-3-1 to "an air-tight 4-4-2" when not in possession. "The two American lines of four were very tight and made it hard for Italy to create chances without increasing the speed of attack or hitting balls into the channels," it said.

As the game progressed, Gazzetta thought the US sniffed a historic win and "plugged every gap with great determination," despite winning only 36% of possession. Debutant striker Fabio Borini (Roma) thought his first cap was a tough one, complaining of the US that "they were very tight - there just was not any space."

The pink paper rated the USMNT 6.5 overall compared to Italy's 5, awarding top marks (7) to Carlos Bocanegra and Clarence Goodson for the "twin shield" they put up in front of Howard. They were "expert players against whom Italy could not make an impression."

Dempsey got a 6.5 for his goal, the same score awarded to Michael Bradley, who "did a Pirlo with discrete results", and Maurice Edu, who was "the great worker of the middle - he steals balls, tracks and doubles up." Brek Shea, finally, was praised for being "the knight on the wing".

Fond of history, Gazzetta compared the US' historic first scalp of Italy at soccer to Italy's first defeat of the US at basketball. Remember that? Me neither. It was in 1970 in at the FIBA World Championship in Ljubljana. Italy won 66-64.

Grazie Italia e arrivederci!

-Sean O'Conor


Brian B said...

This is why this website is the shit. I was so curious about Italy's reaction to their loss, and had even considered going onto their websites and attempting to google-translate them, ultimately deciding against it due to the nonsensical results such websites typically render.

So in other words, thanks again for the work you guys do. We really appreciate it.

**Side note. Most of these excerpts from the Italian media seem pretty standard for them- playing down the result and harping on their lack of "regulars" in the starting XI.

Dave Brett Wasser said...

Thanks for writing this. I had been wondering what the Italian media had to say about it.


Alex said...

Dempsey is small?

Jamie said...

Exactly my reaction, Alex. Dempsey is almost 6'2"!

Great post, Greg. I love getting the global picture.

Greg Seltzer said...

This is Sean's post. :)

Sean O'Conor said...

The word for small was "piccolo", which I suppose you could interpret as "slight" i.e. thin. Excuses for my Italian - I haven't lived there since 1994!

Alex said...

So you're sayin they were calling him dainty. The nerve of those Italians!!

Jacob Frazer said...

Just curious, if national team soccer is as big as you described it in Italy, why was there no one at the game?

Sean O'Conor said...

It was a friendly. Wait until Euro 2012 begins and you will see a nation united in front of the TV. I will never forget the ghost-town that was central Rome during the World Cup.