They're through, and that is all that matters. Finito. Done. Hell, they can lose against the Faroe Islands at home and still make the trek north next summer for some fine ass chocolates and cuckoo clocks. And the savior of the day? None other than Christian "Old Man River" Panucci, who got on his pogo stick and out-jumped all those young, Scottish whippersnappers and beat them to the ball. Oh, to be old and athletic. As far as the game, I had this to say in the preview:
"This is one game where the only thing that matters is the end result, and I could give a fuck all about the means."
I'm sticking to my word. They sure as hell didn't look like World Champs (how on earth the possession wound up 50/50 I don't think even Rene Descartes could figure out), but they got the result and that's all I care about. And yes, they deserve credit for doing it in hostile territory in poor conditions.
The scoreline should have been more heavily in the Azzurri's favor - namely 2-0 if the referees in Scotland could properly assess the offsides rule. Toto Di Natale's poach should have counted, while the Scottish player was offside in nearly the exact same place on the field in front of the same linesman. Last free kick? Meh. Anywho...
So, book your tickets to Switzerland & Austria, it's off to take care of some business. Now, as far as the details of the games go: apologies, I can't get into too much. Not only was the Vaseline stream in full effect, I could only see out of one eye for whatever was there (it's cluster headache season for me, oh happy days). I got the gist of the game, but the particulars I'm just not the person to ask for this game. And it's entirely possible I wouldn't have been regardless, as it was nerve-wracking enough without having to worry about who was sending what cross where, who couldn't turn the correct shoulder off the attacker (ahem, ADT) and who was giving his man space on the wrong side. This is one of those games you watch to watch, and that's that. They're through, now moving on.
1. Italia 26pts
2. France 25pts
All that matters right now, baby. Wednesday is now a formality.
The man is a certified machine and it's a damn shame that he has to spend his weekends in the Bundesliga as opposed to the homeland. What's more impressive, though, is that every time I see him his ball skills and coordination continually improve. Yeah, it's a cliche, but the man is truly like a fine wine, ripening with age. The goal was superb, sticking his outside foot and 12 meter long legs past the defenders outstretched leg was quality for the big man, and displayed an underlying agility not commonly seen with many bigger target men (this is where you try and picture Jan Koller or Peter Crouch in Coppelia). Same goes for his ball work however many minutes later, beating the defender with a subtle touch and firing the shot into the outside of the net. Boys got skillz.
* - This is why I drool uncontrollably every time I see Graziano Pelle marked as "Luca Toni with better ball skills". Hummuna.
“The stadium was on fire, even if it was raining. You couldn’t hear yourself think,” he noted of a packed Hampden Park.
“We played a great game and in the end deserved our victory.”
“I want to dedicate this win to Sandri. Faced with such a tragedy, our victory looks like a minor incident.”
I haven't run through all the interviews, but for the guy on the team playing furthest from home it's a nice gesture. Obviously he is Italian and this is a national issue as much as, if not more than, a sporting issue, but it's still something to think of that after what has to be an emotional and draining victory on Scottish soil.
To me Luca has always been a class act and it's nice to see him continue the trend despite spending so much time with Franck Ribery. Of course, I'm still not entirely convinced his moving to te Bundesliga was based solely on the fact that he could "never play with another Italian team against Fiorentina". You know, seeing as he had been there all of two years and I don't think we need to see his tax forms to surmise he's making a decent sum of change up there in Germany...
But we always love you, Luca. Keep scoring for la nazionale and I could give a damn if you make 12m per year for a Qatar B side.
And The Coach Of The Match Award Goes To...
...Raymond Domenech. Nominated by...himself. Awarded by.......himself.
When Rayray passes on, there needs to be an immediate summit of all the top minds in neurological medicine to try and figure out how can a single person, who has supposedly gone through the full gamut of evolutionary stages, continue to make Paris Hilton look like Marie Curie and Albert Einstein's love child. Seriously, I mean some of the stuff he says is incomprehensible. Example #712,953,841 (and a 1/2):
“At least they were useful for once. They won because my words motivated them. I didn’t see the game, as I prefer not to force myself to sit through too many ugly things. I feel both relieved and frustrated, as to be honest I would have preferred to play the last game in Ukraine with the need for a result. This is the strength of our squad, the ability to hold out under pressure, when we are afraid of elimination. I shall miss that sensation.”
First of all, I guess he must not look in the mirror often, then. Second, the day that I bring my bill to the UN requiring IQ testing prior to procreation, he'll be my examples 1-bajillion - and I'm pretty sure it will sail through with a unanimous vote. (As well as full episodes from The View.)
Oh, and now all the Azzurri needs to take Group B is a quick 3 points at home against the Faroe Islands. Congrats, France, you've been beaten by the better team once again.
Rino felt the same way, “Domenech is always being such a pain and he really did not deserve to reach the finals.”
Of course, they'll never stop bitching about Italy and how they "deserved" to win in Berlin. As always, the French with their panties in a bunch.
Man of the Match
Easily Gigi Buffon's "Turban Gasping For Air". I spent no less than 20 minutes trying to figure it out before I decided he cut himself and with no bandages in the locker room, the only thing available to use was a cut off section of Donadoni's pantyhose. Either that or he was planning to pull it down over his face and rob the Royal Bank of Scotland once the game was over. Unfortunately, the fashion police got a hold of him before he could pull off the heist.
As has been the case throughout the entire qualifying campaign, we are left with one overwhelming question, "Where the hell would this team be without Andrea Pirlo?". Well, I have a definitive answer: Home. Another game, another game changing moment, only this time it came from an aspect of his game you don't usually expect from Andrea, his defense. In case you missed it, in extra time the Scots sent in a corner which was headed on goal, only then to be cleared off the line by Pirlo's noggin, saving a goal and sending the Azzurri into the locker rooms with a one goal lead.
I think more than a few will nod their heads silently when I say a goal in the 46th minute heading into the half would have been the death toll. The absolute last thing this Scottish team needed was a sense of belief and momentum heading into the locker room, while Donadoni would have been left trying to keep everybody calm and adequately motivate them. Nearly all the emotional intangibles rest with the Scots for the game, another would have made the Hampden Park hill climb into K2. (Not to mention the simple addition of another Scottish goal, which would have made Panucci the hero for only squeaking out a draw, not launching the Azzurri to victory.)
Anyway, Andrea Pirlo saved the day and displayed a sense of cool only true champions hold time and time again. Hands down the MOTM for all of qualifying. Without him, Wednesday's game would be meaningless for all the wrong reasons.
im·be·cile [ɪmbəsɪl, -səl or, im-buh-sil, -suhl or, especially Brit., -seel]
1. Psychology. a person of the second order in a former classification of mental retardation, above the level of idiocy, having a mental age of seven or eight years and an intelligence quotient of 25 to 50.
2. a dunce; blockhead; dolt.
3. mentally feeble.
4. showing mental feebleness or incapacity.
5. stupid; silly; absurd.
Ambro? No DDR? Chiellini for Camo? I'm still trying to figure out how that last one was supposed to work out. And without Kenny Miller's Miss of the Century and Andrea Pirlo, we're singing a very different tune. The same Donadoni we've seen for the last year plus. I still think the defining moment of the Roberto Donadoni era was in the Faroe Islands, where they squeaked out a 2-1 "victory".
Anyway, as always, they qualify despite Donadoni, not because of or with him. I suspect the same can be said of whatever success they have in the Euros. (Yes, I'm silently praying he gets canned pre-tourny.)
In The End
I believe it's safe to say that Scotland has become a boon to football not only in Europe, but on the global stage - with a large slice of the credit going to the fans. Sadly, they'll be going home to get ready in anticipation of the WC qualifiers after the Euros are over. I'll openly admit to rooting for the scoreline to stay 1-1 in the late 70's and early 80's enabling the possibility of France watching from home this summer.
It's been awhile since the Tartan Army was relevant, and they are certainly that and more now. Chances are they qualify in 3 other groups, at the least, and earn their deserved place in Swissaustria next summer. Alas, it's not to be, and they'll have to wait for their chance, but just allow me to say: Welcome back.
* - We'll be back with Roma stuff tomorrow then getting ready for the exhibition match against the Faroe Islands on Tuesday. Enjoy.