(Going into Azzurri mode...........)
One of my all-time all-times. An excuse for a soundtrack.
So, this game's theme is out with the old and in with the not as old, but still fairly old. Alessandro Del Piero and Not-So-Super Pippo have been dropped in favor of anyone who possibly has a prayer of creating their own goal in this decade. Or, the strikers he calls up really don't matter because he now has a healthy Luca @#$%ing Toni at his disposal. And, if you haven't been paying attention to Bavaria this season, Luca's tearing shit up. Like seriously - 10 in 10 including the red headed stepchild that is the UEFA Cup. Apparently the German defenses haven't seen his youtube clips from the last few years, because he's just running rampant. Always good news for the boys in House of Savoy blue.
Here's all you need to know about this game: Italia should win. Italia needs to win. Italia will win. Period.
* - Apparently somebody has been handing Luca a massive slice of humble pie. Either that or he just hasn't been watching the Azzurri as of late. “Me, a leader of the side? I’m not even sure that I’m going to be picked.” Yeah, uh huh. Listen, if Luca doesn't start I'll fly to Genoa and disembowel Donadoni with a spork myself. Or maybe I'll just write mean things about him on this page.
Scotland 21pts (9GP)
Italia 20pts (9GP)
France 19pts (9GP)
Ukraine 13pts (8GP)
I love that Ribery is calling that France will qualify over the Azzurri from 3rd place along with Scotland. If you're going to make a bold statement like that, and include Cinderella, then do so when you're actually in a position to qualify today. Otherwise, shut your mouth and go back to feeding Tonigol.
So thievishly thieved from Martha.
KEEPERS: Amelia (Livorno), Buffon (Juventus), Curci (Roma)
DEFENDERS: Barzagli (Palermo), Bonera (Milan), Chiellini (Juventus), Gamberini (Fiorentina), Grosso (Olympique Lyon), Oddo (Milan), Panucci (Roma)
MIDFIELDERS: Ambrosini (Milan), De Rossi (Roma), Gattuso (Milan), Mauri (Lazio), Montolivo (Fiorentina), Pirlo (Milan)
STRIKERS: Di Natale (Udinese), Foggia (Cagliari), Iaquinta (Juventus), Lucarelli (Shakhtar), Quagliarella (Udinese), Toni (Bayern Munich)
A couple surprises, notably Daniele Bonera, who hasn't impressed enough to warrant inclusion on a girls U-11 all star team as far as I, and many others, have seen thus far. Moreso a testament to how injury-riddled that back four really is right now. Also, Stefano Mauri made over what's his name? Oh yeah. ALESSANDRO ROSINA. I think we need to hire a private investigator to see what Donadoni's personal vendetta is against Rosinaldo. Did he sleep with TDD's wife? Sister? Daughter? Son? Come on man, give the guy at least a freaking spot in the stands. Riccardo Montolivo is no surprise. He's going to be on that list for a very very long time. Don't start handing out the gold stars to Donadoni just yet, that's an expected callup.
Possible Preliminary Lineup
Who the hell knows. 4-3-3? 4-2-3-1? 4-4-1-1? 4-4-2? 3-6-1? 0-10-0 with 10 CMs? All possible. What we do know is this: Roberto Donadoni has no fucking clue what he is doing. The lineup card should be filled out accordingly.
My best guess is a 4-3-3 or the 4-2-3-1, likely the former. If he plays a safe lineup against Georgia he's just asking to lose his job. This is the type of game, after playing like dog shit against France and being outplayed yet getting a fortunate 3 points against Ukraine, to say, "Hey, wait a second, we're the champions of the world! Maybe we should play like it..."
As far as picking the lineup goes, we might as well pick names out of a hat. Gigi is self-explanatory, but the rest of the defensive corps are either injured, suspended, retired or fresh out of Pampers. The only sure starter is Andrea Barzagli, and while I love him and think he's a fantastic player, that's a baaaaad sign. Canna - suspended. Zambro - hurt, again (though I suspect he's just trying to get time off to spend with his wife - to which I say: "atta boy"). Materazzi - nearly died. Nesta - retired. Daniel Maldini - not ready just yet. So here's my best guess for the back four: Oddo, Panucci, Barzagli, Grosso. I suppose Chiellini is possible, but, well, who the hell knows.
As far as the midfield goes, I suspect TDD could use that 5-1 thrashing of Lazio to justify starting an all-Milan midfield of Pirlo, Ivan the Terrible and Ambrosini - who has actually been playing well as of late. However, there's also that Daniele De Rossi guy, who just happens to be the best total midfielder in the peninsula, so there is really no excuse for leaving him out of the starting lineup for the next, oh, 8 years. (Give or take a day.) A midfield of DDR, GG and Pirlo should get it done, provided DDR doesn't feel the need to attach himself to Pirlo's hip and lets his offensive skills flourish.
Up top it's going to be Luca all day. Who will be flanking him is the question. Di Natale may start, but he doesn't play for a big club, so he's probably not good enough, according to Donadoni. (Yet another example of his transcendent genius.) Fab Quags hasn't exactly been on form, so he may not even see the bench. In fact, he hasn't scored a goal yet, which makes all those Mauro Esposito comparisons look a little more accurate. Here's the shocker: Vincenzo Iaquinta has actually been looking pretty damn good, and should probably get the start (blasphemy, I know), that is if his knee is alright in time, which it's supposed to be. So my predicted top line is Di Natale, Toni, Iaquinta. If no Iaquinta my best guess is Fab Quags - I just don't see TDD entrusting his job to anyone else. Anyway, could be worse. Could also be much better. The best hope is that the game against Lazio is an indicator of things to come and Alberto Gilardino finds those goal scoring boots which have been resting peacefully at the bottom of the Mediterranean. Until then, we wait.
* - His Giginess has been tapped on the shoulder and bestowed with the captain's armband for this game. I'm usually in the camp of preferring an outfield player, but no complaints in this case - even if I am mildly surprised it wasn't given to Ivan the Freaking Lunatic. (Could that be a hint that he won't be playing? Or, if he does, he won't be playing a full 90?)
So, predicted XI:
Oddo, Panucci, Barzagli, Grosso;
Gattuso, Pirlo, De Rossi;
Iaquinta, Toni, Di Natale.
Uhhhhh....Kakha Kaladze? That's all I've got. No, really. Look at this squad. I consider myself to be of decent knowledge for a Westerner when it comes to the former USSR's national leagues and all, but I've got nothing. Absolutely squadoosh. That roster screams "Azzurri victory." Just don't tell Donadoni - we might see a repeat of Hungary when he tries out his new 3-2-2-1-1-1 formation.
Anyway, nine games and seven points isn't exactly going to get it done against the likes of the reigning world champs, no matter how much Donadoni tries to make the world forget that they are actually the world champs (or, tries to get them to play like this Azzurri team). The 3-1 victory way back when should be replicated at the very least and TDD will probably be able to avoid the unemployment line until the next international break or so.
EDIT: Kaladze is injured. So I've truly got nothing. But I do smell blood in the water.
I suspect we'll see the Georgian team bus pull onto the pitch in Genoa and stay there for a firm 90 plus extras. A nil-nil draw (or any draw) is a victory for them and makes the Euros a distant dream for the Azzurri, and everybody enjoys being the party pooper every once in a while. Here's what I expect to see from Donadoni's lineup, regardless of who's on the field: shoot hard, shoot straight, shoot often, shoot a little more often, lather, rinse, repeat (look at that, I got it right). This is no time for "anti-football" or to be outplayed by a vastly inferior side, and it's about damn time we saw an offensive explosion from the best damn team in the world (supposedly). Just take a look at these goal totals from the last 6 months:
Faroe Islands - 2
Lithuania - 2
Hungary - 1
France - 0
Ukraine - 2
That's 7 goals in 5 games against one very good team, one good team and three teams which should have been blown out the water with a freaking nuclear explosion into the back of the net. We're not even asking for joga bonito or the ball to be walked across the goal line in a conga line. All we're asking for is to score some goals against the teams that they should be scoring goals against. Is that too much to ask? Squeaking by and getting lucky with victories after being outplayed will only last so long. Eventually it's going to bite the Azzurri in the ass.
I think the entire Donadoni era can be summed up in one sentence: They don't play like world champions. Same roster (largely - minus that Totti guy and Nesta, who didn't really factor in Germany), which makes it the coach's fault. It's time he showed himself capable of coaching mediocrity, and the only thing that would answer that this weekend is an offensive explosion of monstrous proportions. No offense to Georgia, but let's see some real results already. He's been given enough rope; tragically, he looks to be hanging the whole team with it.
(This week's Donadoni related rant was sponsored by the letter 7 and the number Q)
Score: 4-0 Azzurri
Goals: Toni (16), De Rossi (41), Toni (67), Iaquinta (72)
MOTM: Luca @#$%ing Toni
Where: Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
When: Saturday, October 13th, 20:50 CET
As always, FORZA ITALIA