Calcio Corner – Italian Football (Dec 22)
From Gli Azzurri, to Serie A, to the Coppa Italia,
it is all calcio, all the time, here at The Calcio Corner. Benvenuto.
22 December 2011
Winter break has started for the Serie A, and following the conclusion of yesterday’s action, we can finally crown our winter champion, or should I say, champions.
For the first time in recent memory we have 2 teams tied at the top of the table heading into the Christmas break. A resurgent Juve and reigning champs Milan top the charts with 34 points each. Udinese are lurking close behind sitting on 32 points.
As for the top scorers, German Denis tops the charts with 12 goals, and Zlatan and Toto DiNatale have bagged 11 and 10 goals, respectively.
The only thing certain this winter break is that it all still remains up for grabs. The top of the table is neatly packed, and should get even tighter after the restart. Both Roma and Inter have hit exceptional form lately, and look primed to continue their climb up the table in the new year. And while nothing yet seems concrete, rumors of Tevez to Milan, and Nilmar to Roma sound promising.
So see you in 2012 . . .
22 November 2011
A return to Serie A action this past weekend yielded a couple of unlikely 0-0 draws. Milan was held scoreless, despite putting on an incredible display in Florence, and the much anticipated Napoli v. Lazio encounter also ended scoreless. And while the lack of goals may have disappointed some, the tightening of the scudetto race is definitely something to get excited about.
Just 5 points separate the top 5 sides in the Serie A, with Juve and Lazio joint top, followed closely by Milan, Udinese and Roma. Roma and Inter, who started the season in abysmal form, are now each starting to find some consistency, and Roma has a golden chance to gain some ground on fourth place Udinese when the two sides face off this Friday. Juve can just sit back and rest while Milan, Inter and Napoli battle in what are sure to be taxing Champions League encounters this week.
One last point. Italian international Pablo Daniel Osvaldo returned from international duty this past weekend and resumed his place in the Roma starting lineup. He promptly scored quite possibly the greatest disallowed goal of all time. It was a sublime overhead kick, struck with real power and unbelievable precision. It was a wonderful goal, and it was wrongly disallowed. He was ruled offside, but, he was not. It was a horrific blown call, disallowing a masterpiece of a goal.
In case you missed it, here it is (first goal in the video below). Enjoy.
Alla prossima . . .
12 November 2011 — Forza Azzurri!
After an impressive qualifying campaign, a sudden twist of fate stunned Cesare Prandelli’s ever improving national team. Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi, key protagonists for the revitalized Azzurri, and arguably the most gifted attackers in the current Italian squad, are now each in jeopardy of missing the European Championships this summer.
So now what?
Enter Mario Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini (wearing Cassano’s Number 10 shirt).
The Azzurri faced off against Euro co-hosts Poland last night in the Stadion Oporowska. The Italians, while not dominating play outright, beat Poland 2-0 with goals from, who else, Super Mario and Pazzini. It was Balotelli’s first goal for the Nazionale, and Pazzini’s first wearing the Number 10 shirt. Perhaps even more encouraging than his goal (a sublime cucchiaio style curler from 20 or so yards out), Balotelli was involved from start to finish creating chances, running at the Polish defense, and generally wreaking havoc on the pitch.
So while Rossi and Cassano will indeed be missed, it is clear that Italy has the depth and talent to challenge for the championship.
The Azzurri are in action again on Tuesday, as they face off in the Stadio Olimpico, in Rome, against current South American champions Uruguay.
Alla prossima . . .
25 October 2011
Midweek action in the Serie A, and Juve bounced right back to the top of the table . . . at least until tomorrow evening.
The Bianconeri squeezed past Fiorentina 2-1, today, but Udinese is back action tomorrow, and will be looking to reclaim pole position heading into the weekend. The Friulani should be bolstered by the news that their captain, the seemingly unstoppable scoring machine Antonio Di Natale, has been short-listed for the Ballon d’Or. Well, the short list is, at this early stage, 50 names long. Nevertheless, Di Natale is the only Italian on it, and deservingly so. The man has topped the scoring charts for the past 2 seasons, and with 6 goals in 7 games, he is on pace to make it 3 years in a row, which has not been done since the Golden Frog, Michele Platini, did it for Juventus in 1985. Incidentally, that was also the year Platini won his third consecutive Ballon d’Or.
So all eyes on Napoli v Udinese tomorrow, as Di Natale looks to drag his unlikely band of scudetto contenders back to the top of the table, while maintaining his place at the top of the scoring charts.
Alla prossima . . .
16 October 2011
The weekend started with high flying Napoli falling to Parma, leaving the table in shambles. Inter lost again, stranding Ranieri’s squad just above the relegation zone (by virtue of goal difference only). Milan welcomed Robinho back, and promptly showed why they are still, despite early difficulties, scudetto contenders by trouncing Palermo 3-0. Juve and Udinese each nicked a point in 0-0 draws, leaving them, barely, joint top of the league.
The Rome Derby was the late game Sunday, and it was a heartbreaker for the Giallorossi faithful. Reduced to ten men for nearly the entire second half, Roma rode a 1-1 scoreline into the final seconds of stoppages. The Roman defense let down their guard just long enough for Lazio’s new boy, Miroslav Klose, to slot home the winner in the 93rd minute. The goal left the Curva Sud in tears, and put an end to Roma’s recent derby supremacy. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Giallorossi, having held on for so long with a man down.
Heading into the 8th weekend, just 4 points separate the 13th team in the table, Milan, from the top.
8 October 2011
International break, and Gli Azzurri are all the rage. La Nazionale drew with Serbia last night 1-1, and it proved to be an historic evening. With the draw, Prandelli and company broke Cesare Maldini’s unbeaten record in World Cup or Euro Qualifiers (9 games, 715 minutes). And while the Italian press were quick to lay praise on Prandelli, the Italian tactician did his best to deflect the optimism of the press, instead focusing on the road ahead.
It must be said, this Azzurri squad, refreshingly, has been functioning as a unit. The call-ups have been consistent in both name and quality, and Prandelli is building a strong, young, and now confident squad. The egos seem to be in check, and the team looks determined. Whether they can convert these virtues into a European Championship still remains to be seen. But it is a damn good start.
Italy faces off against Northern Ireland in its final (and still meaningless) European Qualifier next week. After that, it’s on to Poland-Ukraine next summer.
Alla prossima . . .
26 September 2011
The Serie A season is now four matches old, and the table is finally starting to take shape. Inter and Roma started the season abysmally, but a coaching change, and a visit to Parma, respectively, set these two purported giants back on the right track, for now. Typically, after four rounds or so, the favorites start acting like it. The gap between the top teams and the bottom feeders widens, and certain teams start plotting for January moves in the transfer market. Yet, after four rounds, nearly every team in the table looks dangerous.
Just four points separate the top teams, Juventus and Udinese, from the 17th placed team, Inter. And while our joint leaders are both undefeated, no team in the table has more than 2 wins (other than Atalanta, of course, which would be running away with the league but for their participation in calcio’s latest betting scandal which resulted in a 6 point, points deduction). And while Juventus looks slightly reinvigorated, riding the wave of enthusiasm that comes with kicking off a season in a new stadium (especially considering that new stadia pop up in Italy once every hundred years or so), the Bianconeri do not look like world beaters. Napoli has proven that they can score goals and beat the champions, though they also look beatable (as evidenced by their round 3 loss against Chievo). And despite all the hype surrounding the moves Lazio made in the offseason, and how they were clear contenders, Lazio looks like, well, Lazio, not too good, not too bad.
Of all the teams that have impressed or disappointed so far at this early stage of the season, Udinese is the team worth noting. They lost arguably their biggest offensive threat to Barcelona this offseason (Sanchez), yet continue to find ways to score goals. They are currently undefeated and already have walked away with a draw at the San Siro against the reigning champions, Milan. They play exciting, attacking football. So, while many may have dismissed them as a fluke last season, it is clear they are contenders and will battle for a place in Europe. Francesco Guidolin has his boys thinking they can win, and they have been, and should continue to do so as the season continues.
As for next weekend, there are some real classics on the fixture list. Juventus hosts reigning champions Milan, and Inter, fresh off their first win of the season under new boss Claudio Ranieri, faces off against Napoli at the San Siro. Fiorentina hosts Lazio, and Roma have the misfortune of welcoming 3-win Atalanta to the Olimpico. Plenty of action to keep you busy this weekend.
Alla prossima . . .
12 September 2011
Was it worth the wait? No question.
Following a protracted layoff, the Serie A returned in full force this weekend. It was obvious that the players felt like they had something to prove to, or a debt to repay to the tifosi that waited so patiently for the strike to end. There were 35 goals scored in the opening weekend, the highest opening weekend tally since 1955. And other than Juve’s 4-1 demolition of Parma, six of the ten matches ended in either a draw, or with the teams separated by only a goal. From the opening fixture Friday night, where new boys Djibril Cisse and Miroslav Klose marked their Lazio debuts by scoring against the reigning champions of Serie A, to Palermo’s late victory over Inter in a seven goal thriller, the action was non-stop, the atmosphere in the stadiums electric, and the football top notch.
The weekend had it all, Cassano and Ibrahimovic comeback goals, a Di Natale goal (of course), and a new “English” style stadium which will hopefully provoke other clubs to follow suit and ultimately allow them to tap into a new source of much needed revenue. There were the hallmark Serie A upsets, with Roma losing to Cagliari 2-1, as Daniele Conti once again put the ball into the back of the net against his former club, and the dagger through the hearts of the Giallorossi faithful, and an inspired Palermo squad coming back against the Goliath that is Inter. It is worth noting that Palermo’s entire player payroll is just under €13.5 million, and its total wage bill €26 million, which is a sum less than what Inter made on the sale of Samuel Eto’o this summer (and a sum just north of what the Cameroon striker is currently being paid per annum, following his move to Russia). If the first week’s action is any indication, this season should continue to produce some thrilling football. The Serie A, is back. And the best part about week two action (where week one’s biggest losers, Roma and Inter, are set to face off), only 3 points separate the league leaders from last place.
Alla prossima . . .
9 September 2011
Well, the Azzurri have qualified for the 2012 Euros in Poland-Ukraine with two group matches to spare. Overall, it was an impressive qualifying campaign, and Prandelli’s men have plenty to be proud of, especially considering the sorry state of the Italian National team in early 2010.
And with Euro qualifiers now behind us, we can shift our focus entirely to domestic action and the long anticipated kickoff of the 2011-2012 Serie A season. Milan face Lazio this afternoon in the opening fixture, and the action continues all weekend long. A few weeks late, but it’s finally here. So, buckle up, the Serie A is back.
5 September 2011
Serie A has yet to kick off. There may, however, be some action this weekend, as the player’s union and the clubs finally seem to have made some progress on the collective bargaining agreement.
Regardless, there is still another day of international action to complete before players head back to training with their clubs. Italy defeated, barely, the Faroe Islands last Friday to take one step closer to qualification, and one step backwards in terms of progress. Their 1-0 victory over a clearly overmatched Faroes squad, secured by an Antonio Cassano (offside) goal, was not inspiring. Nevertheless, the Azzurri secured the needed three points, and now only the Serbs can match the Italian’s point totals in the group. Prandelli’s men have earned 19 points out of a total 21, and a have an 8 point lead over second place Serbia in the group. A win over Slovenia on Tuesday will ensure the Azzurri’s qualification for Euro 2012.
Hopefully, the Azzurri can seal up qualification with two rounds to spare, and the players can fly into the opening, second round, fixture of Serie A flying high this weekend. And then the real drama can begin.
Alla prossima . . .
26 August 2011
It is the eve of the new Serie A season, except it’s not. The possibility of a strike, somewhat laughable and seemingly remote a couple of weeks ago, is now a reality. Week 1 will be skipped, and no clear resolution appears to be on the horizon. The Spanish season was already delayed, and now the Italians have followed their lead.
So, there will be no calcio this weekend, and perhaps the weekend after. I suppose we can get our fix by watching Giuseppe Rossi tear up the Spanish league this weekend, or by watching Roberto Mancini chastise Mario Balotelli. But it’s just not the same. Let’s hope the sides find some common ground soon. We’ll be waiting.
13 August 2011
While the Anglophiles are all dreaming of Suarez and Torres, Rooney and Sir Alex, Nasri and Tevez, and fish-n-chips this weekend, I’m dreaming of something slightly different. Serie A action kicks off two weeks later than the English Premier League this season, leaving us fans of calcio to suffer through another two weeks of endless transfer rumors and speculation.
As we wait, our hopes and optimism for the new season are bolstered by the performance of the Azzurri this past week. The Italian national team, in perhaps the most anticipated “friendly” in years, defeated the World and European Champions–Spain–-in convincing fashion last Wednesday. And while there is still much work to be done, it was indeed a good omen, to say the least. It was also an extremely entertaining match.
And now that the international friendlies are all over, there are no more distractions. Just two weeks more before Totti and Del Piero, De Rossi and Gattuso, Pato and Ibrahimovic.
7 August 2011
The Italian soccer season officially kicked off last night in . . . Beijing. The Supercoppa Italiana marks the beginning of the new season, and this year’s edition was exceptional. Typically, the teams playing this inaugural match look somewhat sluggish and uninspired. The game is traditionally contested by the prior season’s league champions, and the current Coppa Italia holders, which meant that this year’s Supercoppa would be a derby. And Milan and Inter did not disappoint. With rumors swirling of Sneijder’s and Eto’o's imminent departures, and a packed Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing decked in Red and Blue and Black, Milan came from behind to beat Inter 2-1. Sneijder scored for Inter, and Ibra and Prince Boateng scored for Milan.
Just 20 days to go before the season kicks off officially. Hang in there.
29 July 2011 — World Cup 2014 Qualifiers, European Groups
The draw in Rio is over, and while Italy will not be facing either France or Ireland during its qualifying campaign, the Azzurri nevertheless find themselves in a formidable, though not insurmountable, group.
Italy was drawn into Group B and will face Denmark, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Armenia and Malta. The tastiest group, Group I, will see holders Spain face off against France. The Portuguese also look to have their hands full in Group F, as they will battle Russia and Northern Ireland in qualifiers.
Following are the full World Cup qualifying groups for Europe.
Group A – Croatia; Serbia; Belgium; Scotland; Macedonia; Wales
Group B – Italy; Denmark; Czech Republic; Bulgaria; Armenia; Malta
Group C – Germany; Sweden; Republic of Ireland; Austria; Faroe Islands; Kazakhstan
Group D – Holland; Turkey; Hungary; Romania; Estonia; Andorra
Group E – Norway; Slovenia; Switzerland; Albania; Cyprus; Iceland
Group F – Portugal; Russia; Israel; Northern Ireland; Azerbaijan; Luxembourg
Group G – Greece; Slovakia; Bosnia-Herzegovina; Lithuania; Latvia; Lichtenstein
Group H – England; Montenegro; Ukraine; Poland; Moldova; San Marino
Group I – Spain; France; Belarus; Georgia; Finland
29 July 2011 — Brazil 2014
With the 2011-2012 Serie A schedule set, and our sites firmly set on the weekend of August 27th, it seems an appropriate time to shift focus to La Nazionale. Earlier this week the seeding for the World Cup 2014 qualifying draw was settled, and Italy are one of the top seeds (in Pot 1), along with current European and World Cup Champions Spain, World Cup Runner-up Holland, an ascendant Germany, and England (top seed, really?), Portugal, Croatia, Greece and international powerhouse Norway. The draw will take place tonight in Rio De Janiero and will be conducted by recently retired, Brazil legend OR9 (“Original” Ronaldo).
It is baffling how Greece and Norway are top seeds for qualifying. They are good European teams, but one could easily argue that they are not, currently, performing at the level of France, or even Russia. At this stage, some of the other second seeds, like Turkey, Zlatan’s Sweden, Slovakia and Mirko Vucinic’s Montenegro are playing some bright football that would rival and surpass recent performances by Greece and Norway.
So, what does this mean for the top seeds, and Italy in particular? It means Italy can be grouped, yet again, with France in the qualifiers (just as it was in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, and Euro 2008 itself). More interestingly, Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland, a team that prevailed over Prandelli’s Italy in their last encounter, could also be grouped with the Azzurri. And beyond the obvious potential drama of facing France, Ireland, or both in their qualifying group, Italy may also meet the likes of Hamsek’s Slovakia (of World Cup 2010 fame), the Swedes, Scotland and Russia.
As should be the case, qualifying out of Europe for the World Cup will not be easy. Stay tuned for the results of the draw to see precisely what type of drama will unfold. Rumor has it that Aurelio De Laurentiis boarded a plane for Rio last night, so this should be interesting.
27 July 2011
The anticipation now begins in earnest. The 2011-2012 Serie A fixture has officially been announced, and, not surprisingly, there is already controversy. Following the draw (which is generated randomly by a computer), Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis walked out. Apparently, De Laurentiis was not happy that Napoli’s fixtures against Milan (in week 3) and Inter (in week 6) directly precede Champions League fixtures. Well, welcome to the big time Napoli. You qualified for the Champions League, so start acting like it.
For everyone other than Aurelio De Laurentiis, there is plenty to get excited about. The season (finally) kicks off the weekend of August 27-28, just four short weeks away. Following is the full 2011-2012 Champions League fixture list.
28/8/11 – 29/1/12
11/9/11 – 1/2/12
18/9/11 – 5/2/12
21/9/11 – 12/2/12
25/9/11 – 19/2/12
2/10/11 – 26/2/12
16/10/11 – 4/3/12
23/10/11 – 11/3/12
26/10/11 – 18/3/12
30/10/11 – 25/3/12
6/11/11 – 1/4/12
20/11/11 – 7/4/12
27/11/11 – 11/4/12
4/12/11 – 15/4/12
11/12/11 – 22/4/12
18/12/11 – 29/4/12
8/1/12 – 2/5/12
15/1/12 – 6/5/12
22/1/12 – 13/5/12
23 July 2011
The summer transfer season has dragged a bit this year, and while the rumor mill continues to churn, very few major deals have actually been finalized. After months of speculation, we can finally put Bojan to Roma in the “e fatta” category, though the terms of the transaction seem more akin to a loan than a permanent transfer. Sanchez to Barcelona also seems to be final (which is probably why Barca finally let Bojan go). Roma also signed Gabriel Heinze to a one year deal this week, and while AS Roma has been particularly active in the transfer market this summer, signing some very good young talent along the way, they are still without a first choice netminder.
Milan seem to be edging closer to Ricardo Montolivo in a deal that both player and club obviously want. Ironically, Fiorentina seem to care less about losing their captain and appear to already have his replacement lined up in the form of Alberto Aquilani, though neither deal is close to final.
And finally, the Giuseppe Rossi saga continues, with the latest rumors suggesting that Atletico Madrid has hijacked Rossi’s move to Juve . . . for now.
Regardless, as the transfer season drags on, it nevertheless inches us all closer to the start of the 2011-2012 Serie A season. So stay tuned.
Alla prossima . . .
10 July 2011
Europe, and the Italian peninsula in particular, seems to be obsessed with South America this transfer season. With the Chilean youngster Alexis Sanchez dominating the European transfer headlines, Barca and Udinese just can not come to final terms on his transfer. While both the player and the club want to sell to Barca, the Blaugrana’s bid appears still to be €10 million short of Udinese’s asking price, as Udinese values the player at €35 million.
Juve have been struggling as well to make a marquee signing. It appears that the Bianconeri have failed to sign their primary target Sergio Aguero. While a deal for El Kun looked imminent earlier in the week, it now appears that both Juve and the player have soured on a move to Turin, and instead, Aguero may stay in Madrid. Ironically, Juve now seems to have to “settle” for the cheaper option, Italian international Giuseppe Rossi. Why was Juve’s primary focus ever on Aguero over Rossi in the first place? The players are similar in style, yet Rossi has experience in Serie A and should have no problem settling in Turin. He is arguably a stronger and clearly more consistent player. He is an Italian international and rumored to have been a Juve fan as a boy. Why Juve rates this player as secondary to Aguero and has yet to sign him is utterly baffling.
As for successful transfers, both Roma and Inter have picked up some raw, young talent from Argentina. Roma completed a deal for Erik Lamela yesterday, albeit at a hefty price (rumored to be close to €20 million). The former River Plate phenom is just 19, and already damn good. Let’s see if he can handle the pressure in the Italian capital.
Inter has also signed its own Argie wonderboy — Ricky Alvarez. Alvarez is good. Very good. But there is a ton of hype surrounding this young man (age 23). Alvarez will have to work to break into the starting 11 at the San Siro. Was he worth it?
In non-transfer news, Fabio Cannavaro announced his retirement yesterday (coincidentally, on the 5th anniversary of Italy’s World Cup triumph in Berlin). He cited a dodgy knee as the primary reason for calling it quits. He is a true Italian legend. A veteran of 4 World Cup squads, former captain of the Azzurri, Ballon d’Or and Fifa World Player of the Year winner . . . the list goes on. He will stay on at Al-Ahli as a director for the next 3 years. We hope to see him return to Italian football in some capacity in the near future. Until then, roll the tape . . .
Alla prossima . . .
4 July 2011
I always wake up smiling on the Fourth of July. Yes, there will be barbecue. Sure, we’ll drink a few beers. But for me, July 4th is a distinctly Italian anniversary. Mostly, since 2006, when I think of July 4th, I think of Dortmund.
In what was one of the most exciting World Cup competitions in the modern era, July 4, 2006 played host to the most exciting match of the tournament. It is difficult to imagine a better match considering the stakes and parties involved.
Italy v. Germany. The World Cup semi-final. Dortmund. 120+ minutes (118 of which were scoreless). A number of scoring chances throughout. A post and a crossbar in extra time.
And then . . . “Grosso, Grosso . . . goal di Grosso!” Fabio Caressa’s frantic call is absolutely unforgettable.
“Chiudete le valige . . . andiamo a Berlino!”
Happy 5th Anniversary. Enjoy. (the soundtrack ties in nicely with July 4th, doesn’t it?)
Full match highlights follow. Happy Fourth of July.
26 June 2011
The bidding war for Udinese striker Alexis Sanchez continues. Barcelona seemed to have the Chilean locked up a couple of days ago, but it now seems as though the deep pockets at Man City are in pole position to net Sanchez. It is reported that Man City have offered £38 million (approximately €42.7 million) for Sanchez, a sum which may be too much for the Blaugrana. Udinese’s Owner Giampaolo Pozzo, however, values Sanchez at €50 million, and will be looking to squeeze every last penny out of Man City prior to parting with Sanchez. Pozzo has done well so far in facilitating a bidding war, as each of Barcelona and Man City appear determined to secure Sanchez’s signature. Both have increased their bids recently, and while it is rumored that Sanchez would prefer a move to Barcelona, Pozzo’s preference would be to take Man City’s higher offer and wave goodbye to the young Chilean.
Sanchez scored 12 goals for Udinese in Serie A last season, and his partnership with Antonio Di Natale proved to be the deadliest in the league. Their combined 40 goals were the primary reason for Udinese’s qualification for the Champions League.
All parties will be anxious to resolve the matter prior to the start of the Copa America this week, as it is anticipated that Sanchez will feature heavily for Chile in the tournament.
24 June 2011
Inter have finally got their man!
Massimo Moratti has allegedly found his new coach. Inter are on the verge of appointing . . . wait for it . . . Gian Piero Gasperini as the new head coach of Inter.
Despite the sarcasm, Gasperini, who was most recently sacked by Genoa last season, is a good coach. But does Moratti really believe this appointment will inspire confidence? Over the past couple of weeks, it appears that Sinisa Mihajlovic (staying put at the Viola), Andre Villas-Boas (now Chelsea’s new coach) and Leonardo (new sporting director of PSG) each snubbed Moratti and the Inter bench in favor of other adventures.
And so, fifth choice Gasperini (Mourinho will always be Moratti’s first choice) will be leading the Nerazzurri next season.
Ouch. Black and blue indeed.
22 June 2011
Walter Sabatini, Roma’s new sporting director (and possibly the smoothest operator on the Italian peninsula), seems to be on the verge of completing the summer’s first (and potentially biggest) blockbuster move. Rumors surrounding the likely transfer of Bojan from Barcelona to AS Roma have been swirling for weeks. Those rumors are now evolving into fact. And if Sabitini’s recent pronouncement that the deal is in fact done turns out to be true, Roma tifosi will have plenty to smile about.
Bojan is 20 years young, and already a first team player for Barcelona. He has already broken into the senior Spanish national team (though he’s currently on Under 21 duty for his country). He knows Luis Enrique well, and he is well suited to his preferred style of play. He is an excellent, young footballer, and should only get better. And perhaps most significantly, he seems generally excited about a move to Roma. While the precise dollar figure of the deal is not yet known, it is presumed to be in the very acceptable vicinity of €10 to €12 million.
Young, proven, eager talent at a cut rate . . . the yellow and red side of the Italian capital has much to smile about indeed.
(obligatoryvideo highlights with less than exceptional soundtracks follow below)
15 June 2011
Typically, by mid-June, the transfer market is in full swing, and Italy’s press core is usually busy spreading rumors about transfer deals that will never be consummated. Oddly, there have been very few significant moves to report, and unfortunately, the Italian press has been consumed more so by the news that Luciano Moggi has been banned for life from Italian soccer, than the news that Kaka’s father has recently reopened communications with reigning champions Milan.
Perhaps the biggest move to date in the calcio mercato has been a coaching appointment, specifically, Roma’s signing of Luis Enrique to a two year deal. Significantly, Enrique has no top flight coaching experience (much like Roma’s outgoing coach, Vincenzo Montella). What Enrique does have, however, is a preexisting relationship with the greatest club on the planet, Barcelona, and more importantly, a direct line to its youth academy. It is clear that Roma is hoping the Spaniard can import Barcelona’s “tiki-taka” system to the Italian capital. And if a couple of Barcelona’s blossoming stars follow him to the peninsula, say, Bojan, for example, then all the better.
If nothing else, he has a pretty good head start on the rivalry with Lazio and Milan. Mauro Tassotti played for both.
7 June 2011
Prandelli’s new look Azzurri face off against Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland in a friendly today. Prandelli has decided to shuffle the starting 11 around a bit for the match, making a number of changes to the squad that dispensed with Estonia last week.
Here is the predicted starting 11:
Viviano; Cassani, Gamberini, Chiellini, Criscito; Nocerino, Pirlo, Montolivo, Marchisio; Rossi and Pazzini
Kick off is at 2:45EST; the game will be broadcast live on RAI International here in the states.
4 June 2011
Here are the full highlights of the Azzurri‘s match against Estonia yesterday.
A few observations:
- Giuseppe Rossi injects some real pace and movement into this squad, which is something that has been lacking for a while. Even with the reintroduction of Balotelli, and further barring some injury or dramatic dip in form, Rossi’s place in this squad should be firm.
- Rossi and Cassano are made for each other. They feed off each other, and their skill sets are highly complementary. Rossi makes a darting run, Cassano slips the ball through 3 defenders to find him in tight space. Rossi draws three defenders darting through the middle, plays a one-two with Cassano, Cassano fires it home. This is a good partnership. Prandelli should continue to exploit it.
- Balzaretti is a beast.
- Pirlo still makes this team hum. He seems to be returning to his former, world class self, and that is great news for the Azzurri.
- This team is even better than it looks. Once Daniele De Rossi stops throwing elbows and Prandelli reintroduces him into the midfield with Pirlo, it will be very difficult to find any real flaws in the Italian midfield. So Danielino, since I know you are reading this, enough with the red cards, your country needs you.
- This team seems to really like each other. You get a feeling that this group is more unified and a little more tightly knit than say the Azzurri of 2009 and 2010. Again, a good thing.
Next up the Azzurri face old friend Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland in a friendly at the Stade de Sclessin, in Liege, on June 6th. It will be another 2:45pm EST kickoff. See you all there.
Alla prossima . . .
3 June 2011
Italia 3 – 0 Estonia
Well, prior to today I only had strong suspicions that Cesare Prandelli and the entire Italian National team were avid readers of the Calcio Corner here at The Other Sports. But following today’s result, my suspicions have been confirmed.
Ask and ye shall receive. The Azzurri took to the pitch and absolutely dominated lowly Estonia today, winning 3-0 with goals from Giuseppe Rossi, Antonio Cassano, and substitute Giampaolo Pazzini. And while the three goals represent a nice tally, it should have been more, as Rossi hit the post, and Estonia keeper Sergei Pareiko made a number of good saves throughout the match. Italy had 14 shots in total, and 9 on target. By contrast, Gigi Buffon only had to make one save all game.
It was a convincing win, and one that shows that this Azzurri squad is continuing to get stronger with each match.
3 June 2011
With domestic and European Champions settled and crowned, it is time to turn our attention to international play. Our beloved Azzurri restart their European qualifying campaign today against Estonia, in Modena. And while the Italian squad sits comfortably in first place in Group C, with 13 points from 5 matches, a game in hand against second place Slovenia and still undefeated in qualifying, today’s match against fourth place Estonia is significant.
Despite a solid start to qualifying, Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri still needs to prove that they are potential world beaters. Make no mistake, the Italians will be looking to win it all in Poland and Ukraine next summer, and to do so they will need to beat some powerhouses along the way, such as Spain and Germany. They will also need to beat some minnows, and beat them convincingly. It is one thing to scratch out a tactical, tightly played 1-0 or 2-1 victory against a team like the Germans. But against teams like Estonia — which admittedly are no pushovers, and who boast some big (literally), attacking talent that could easily trouble this still settling Italian defense — the Italians should be gunning for goals, and a convincing win.
Prandelli’s selections for this match and his pre-match rhetoric seems to be geared toward just such a result. Despite not starting an outright prima punta, Prandelli’s chosen 4-3-1-2 formation is packed with attacking talent. With the creative Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio in the midfield, and Alberto Aquilani playing as a quasi-treq in support of Antonio Cassano and Jersey’s own Giuseppe Rossi, it is clear Prandelli expects goals, and he just might get them.
Here is Prandelli’s expected starting 11: Buffon, Maggio, Ranocchia, Chiellini, Balzaretti, Pirlo, Montolivo, Marchisio, Aquilani, Cassano and Rossi.
Stay tuned. Kickoff at 2:45pm EST.
Gigi says: “Tutto bene!”
29 May 2011 – Coppa Italia
Inter 3 – 1 Palermo
Well, it seems Inter just couldn’t let the year go by without winning some silverware. Palermo did all they could to make history yesterday, but, despite the scoreline, came up just a bit short.
The Rosaneri faced off against Inter in the Coppa Italia final in Rome yesterday. Palermo was looking for its first major trophy in history, and Inter was looking for just another piece of silverware to clutter the cabinet. Despite Inter jumping out to a 1-0 lead at halftime, Palermo looked to be the brighter side for much of the second half, creating a number of chances, and testing Julio Cesar often. But Inter held on and added two more to its tally, lifting the Coppa Italia for the second consecutive year.
And now, with domestic action behind us, we can all look forward to international action heating up this week, as the Euro Qualifiers will be back in full swing. If all goes well, Italy should seal the deal on its qualification with plenty of games to spare, leaving Prandelli ample time to fine tune his Azzurri squad before the tournament kicks off.
And of course, congratulations to Barcelona. Yet again Pep’s squad put on a fine display of the beautiful game. Not only does this team win, relentlessly, but it does so in style. Bravo.
25 May 2011 – Odds and Ends
Andrea Pirlo celebrated winning the scudetto with Milan, a club that he has called home for the last 10 years, by signing a new contract with . . . Juventus? It looks like the Italian international will be donning the zebra stripes for the foreseeable future, and he seems determined to help turn Juve’s wayward ship around. Pirlo is the first big signing for Juve, and likely not the last. Reto Zeigler appears to be next on Juve’s list, as the Turin club is clearly not happy about its failure to secure a spot in Europe, let alone any silverware this past season. Despite Pirlo’s recent injury woes, he will surely make an impact in Turin. When fit, he dictates play as well as anyone, and his value on set pieces is undeniable. Moreover, he is a true champion. He has won it all on both the club and international level, from the scudetto, to the Champions League, to the World Cup with the Azzurri, Pirlo knows what it takes to win. And apparently, at least recently, Juve doesn’t.
Surely, there are plenty more moves on the horizon for both Juve and the other Italian clubs as the calcio mercato starts to heat up. Roma, allegedly flush with cash following Thomas Di Benedetto’s takeover, have already been rumored to be looking westward in search of talent, specifically, U.S. talent. The Giallorossi’s new American owner is looking to put a Yankee stamp on the Roman squad in hopes of being able to strengthen the club’s global brand. And while rumors of Landon Donovon heading to the capital may fail to inspire immediate confidence in the Giallorossi faithful, a move for Michael Bradley may ultimately prove a good fit for the capital club.
Champions Milan have been busy sipping champagne and locking down their core, yet aging, squad members, with Massimo Ambrosini and, most recently, Clarence Seedorf signing new deals. But if Milan hopes to retain the title next season and make a serious run at the Champions League final, they will need to inject some new blood into Allegri’s squad. They will also need to ensure that Antonio Cassano and Zlatan Ibrahimovic stay in Milan, and stay motivated.
As for La Nazionale, Cesare Prandelli recently announced his selections for the Azzurri’s upcoming matches in June, which include a European Qualifier against Estonia. For the first time in a while, the Italian national team can boast some formidable young talent. And better yet, this team is packed with attacking talent. With Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Balotelli supporting, eh, veteran, playmaker Antonio Cassano, we can all start getting cautiously excited about the prospects of Prandelli’s Nazionale. Daniele De Rossi’s omission from the squad is a bit of a surprise and a concern, though it was likely due to his recent disciplinary problems in the league more so than anything else. Let’s hope he returns to the Azzurri fold sooner rather than later as Prandelli seeks to put his finishing touches on Italy’s squad for the European Championship.
Finally, the Coppa Italia final between Inter and Palermo is set for this Sunday, in Rome. And while most of the football world will be focused on the Champions League final on Saturday between Barcelona and that English club, a few of us are still anxious to find out which club will be sporting that slick green, white and red cockade on their jersey’s next season.
Well, judgement day came and went rather quietly, and so it seems we will all have to wait a little longer for the apocolype. That being said, another Serie A season came to an end, and for many of us, the end of a season can seem like your own personal apocolypse (especially if you are a fan of Sampdoria, Brescia or Bari).
With Milan wrapping up the scudetto weeks ago, and the relegation battle having been concluded as well, there was only European football to play for this week. At the end of the day, Roma snagged the last Europa League spot, and Udinese, finally, secured the last Champions League spot.
And while we will have to wait until August for the Serie A to start up again, there is still the Coppa Italia final to look forward to, and a few Azzurri matches that are sure to excite.
And of course, the calcio mercato is now in full swing. So expect the rumors to start swirling fast and furious.
Alla prossima . . .
14 May 2011
Milano in festa! It was party on in Milan, as the Rossoneri celebrated their 18th scudetto win in style at the San Siro, following a 4-1 trouncing of Cagliari.
And perhaps no one was happier than Kevin Prince Boateng who capped the celebrations by doing the moonwalk.
Strange, but it kind of makes perfect sense for Milan, doesn’t it?
7 May 2011
It only took 36 rounds and a 0-0 draw in Rome this evening for Milan to secure its 18th scudetto. Allegri’s Milan was clearly the best side in Serie A this season, and deserved winners. It is Milan’s first league title since 2004, and puts an emphatic end to Inter’s recent domination of the Italian league. Congratulations to Milan.
1 May 2011 – “The King of Rome is not Dead”
When Richard Whittle declared on March 13, 2011 that “the King of Rome is not Dead,” he did so knowing full well that he was watching one of the greatest footballers to ever play the game, a true king of both Rome and Italian soccer. He was watching the, now, fifth most prolific goalscorer in Serie A‘s long history, Francesco Totti. And while other pundits may have been bantering about Totti’s demise and clamoring for his retirement, Whittle knew full well that the King still had some fight left in him yet.
The action in the Serie A this weekend was especially exciting. There was Giampaolo Pazzini’s injury time double that forced Milan to put the needle and thread down for at least another week. Udinese collapsed in Firenze in a 7 goal thriller. And Napoli narrowly defeated Genoa in a rain soaked San Paolo Stadium. Yet, despite some incredible games, only one was historic — Roma’s 3-2 victory over Bari.
The Roma match was historic not because of what the team accomplished by narrowly defeating an already relegated Bari, but because of what the Roma captain did in securing that victory. Francesco Totti scored his 205th and 206th Serie A goals today surpassing arguably the greatest, and most beloved Italian footballer, Roberto Baggio, on the all time Serie A scoring charts. Totti now sits alone in 5th place. It is an astonishing accomplishment, especially considering that Totti is perhaps best known as a playmaker with superior vision, and not for his goalscoring. Yet only Silvio Piolo (274 goals) , Gunnar Nordahl (225 goals), Giuseppe Meazza (216 goals) and Jose Altafini (216 goals) have scored more than Totti. Totti’s accomplishment is distinctly unique from those of the four men above him in the charts insofar as he has scored each of his 206 goals for a single club — AS Roma. It is an achievement that, in the modern game, where players rarely commit themselves to a single club for more than 4 or 5 years of their career, we will likely never see again.
Congratulazione, Francesco. Il Re di Roma non morira mai!
Alla prossima . . .
24 April 2011
Because of the Easter holiday today, all the games in Serie A took place on Saturday this weekend. With four games left to play, Milan looks to have all but sewn up the scudetto with yesterday’s (narrow) victory over Brescia. Robinho’s lone goal may have been just enough to return the title to the red and black side of Milan.
Milan’s 8 point lead at the top of the table does not mean that all the drama has been sapped from what remains of the Serie A season. The relegation battle is shaping up to be a bitter struggle right to the end. There are 6 teams in the bottom of the table within seven points of each other, and five of those teams are separated by just three points. These teams — Parma, Catania, Cessena, Samp, Lecce and Brescia — will be scrapping desperately, looking for points as we head into the home stretch. It should make for some exciting calcio.
There is also the battle for the last Champions League spot, as Roma cut the distance on Udinese and Lazio this weekend, and Juventus, despite the injury time collapse this weekend, still has hopes of catching at least Roma for a spot in the Europa League.
Alla prossima . . .
20 April 2011
Palermo held Milan to a 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final this afternoon and will take two precious away goals back to Sicily for the second leg.
The Rossoneri started brightly as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for the home side just 3 minutes into the match. But goals from Javier Pastore and Abel Hernandez tipped the scales in favor of the Sicilians, despite Urby Emanuelson’s late equalizer.
Palermo’s two away goals give it the advantage heading into the second leg, and have dampened slightly Milan’s hopes for securing a double this term.
19 April 2011
The Coppa Italia semi-finals kicked off today in Rome, as last year’s finalists, Roma and Inter, faced off in the Stadio Olimpico.
The Italian domestic cup represents the last real chance for silverware for either of the two teams as both teams have already been eliminated from European competition, and any hopes of winning the league, for Inter at least, were essentially extinguished this past weekend.
It was Inter that struck first in the two-legged affair, winning 1-0 on another sublime Dejan Stankovic long distance strike. Inter will take the one goal advantage back to the San Siro for the second leg which is scheduled for May 11th.
Milan face off against Palermo in the other semi-final fixture tomorrow afternoon at the San Siro. The Rossoneri have their eyes on a domestic double, and will look to come out strong in the first leg in hopes of taking a lead back to Sicily.
16 April 2011
American businessman Thomas Di Benedetto and his consortium of American investors finally put pen to paper yesterday on a $101 million deal to purchase a 67% stake in AS Roma. The historic deal makes AS Roma the first American owned Serie A side.
Roma faithful hope that with new ownership, an influx of cash will follow, allowing Roma to finally compete with the biggest European clubs in the transfer market this summer. It has been widely rumored that current Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti will be Di Benedetto’s first big signing. Ancelotti spent arguably the best years of his playing career with Roma and has publicly acknowledged his desire to coach the Giallorossi one day. While Ancelotti has another year left on his Chelsea contract, the Blues exit from the Champions League earlier this week has effectively set the stage for Ancelotti’s appointment to the Roma bench.