Déardaoin, Meitheamh 24, 2010

Sic Semper Circumvenios!!

Slovakia 3-Italy 2

Seriously though, this is insane. I believe this is only the second time that the defending champion has gone out in the group stage, the other time being France in 02, though France has always had the tendency to go from very good to kind of shitty in a stunningly short amount of time, even with the same core group of players. This is different, this is Italy. This is the country that would be on top of the world soccer mountain if they had won the shootout against Brazil in 94; and even though this team was getting pretty old, shit like this simply doesn't happen to Italy, ever.

And damn what a game too! Four out of the give goals came in the last twenty five minutes, with the last two coming within seconds of each other in the last five. Once Italy went down by two and had no choice but to go on balls-out attack they showed themselves to be perfectly capable of doing so, why they actually, prefer to play such a hyperdefensive, melodramatic, conniving, diving and temper-baiting style... well there's been theories written on that which make sense to me, and in this particular cup at least they got burned for playing that way.

Though I can't cheer too hard for the uppity peons who broke away from their rightful Bohemian masters, they'll have to play the Dutch in the second round, and I don't see them getting any further than that; but maybe, they played their hearts out today.

On a side note, maybe this is a sign that their shouldn't be any more World Cups in Europe. There were some snickers that 'giving' a tournament to Africa was an act of political correctness, but really the action does seem to be better when played away from the power centers and the weight of home crowd expectations. I think the combination of Western-style rationality and nationalism is bad for the game, leading to something akin to a World War I reenactment on the pitch; dirty and brutal, and it tends to reward the most dour and Machiavellian teams, Italy hoisting the cup in 06 being of course the obvious example.

But anyway, since Italy has now only failed to advance but finished last in their group, how do they compare to the other fourth-place teams in the ultimate battle for the bottom? Well, they're going to crack the top thirty I'm afraid.

16. Serbia: 3 pts. -1 GD
17. Italy: 2 pts. -1 GD
18.Nigeria: 1 pt. -2 GD (3 GS)
19.Algeria: 1 pt. -2 GD (0 GS)
20. France: 1 pt. -3 GD

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