3 points is a nice consolation, but nobody's kidding themselves here, the Azzurri got out-played. Period. Luckily a few moments of class can make up for that and the boys get to head home 2nd place in Group B, behind surprise leaders Scotland.
I'm so tired of writing about the Azzurri's games and I don't want to go into too much detail here, but here are just some observations from the game:
i) Antonio Di Natale is going to get all the credit, but that first goal was Pirlo's and the second goal had to be put away, and if it wasn't we'd all be calling for him to never see another minute in the shirt. Plus, it was placed directly at his foot.
ii) Speaking of placing that ball at Di Natale's foot, Massimo Ambrosini was useless for 89:59. Why he played over Daniele De Rossi is a mystery for the ages. The doc said the blisters were fine, and knowing DDR's character and determination, blisters weren't going to keep him from that game.
iii) Sheva needs to be mercifully sold by by Roman ASAP. I can't stand him, but his talent is rotting in London. Sell him anywhere but back to Serie A.
iv) Why was Andriy Voronin on the pine? I don't care about tactics. It's not like Ukraine can afford to keep his talent on the bench for the majority of the game. His impact was evident immediately.
v) We really really miss Luca Toni. Seriously. For a guy who spent the bulk of his career in the Lega Calcio dungeons, he has become shockingly indispensable. And goddamnit, why did he go to Germany? Come back, Luca.
vi) The Don Dada STILL needs to be fired. They're winning despite him, not with or because of him. He put out yet another scared lineup without any semblance of a dynamic offense.
vii) Who knew Christian Panucci was about to become an Azzurri regular at the ripe young age of 72?
viii) How the hell did Vincenzo Iaquinta go from being an injury-replacement call-up to starting over 4 other strikers? If he was the right choice, wouldn't he have been there in the first place? No? Explain that one to me, Don. Because he didn't do jack.
ix) That was one of the better refereed games I've seen in a long time. One doesn't get to throw out those compliments often. Kudos to Howard Webb & Co.
x) Andrea Pirlo is that damn good. Seriously. What a ball. What a talent. What a mane. (GHD 2? Naaah.)
xi) Gigi Buffon is not human. Nor is he 30 yet. Years of jaw-dropping saves ahead of us.
xii) Who replaces Canna, who will miss the Georgia game for too many accumulated yellows? Panucci? Honestly, that's a real question.
xiii) Which begs the question: should FIFA adopt a rule that if a player as fucking brilliant as Philippe Mexes gets no love for his NT, he can switch countries mid-career? Because this is just getting flat-out bullshit. Julien Escude? Really? Come on. There needs to be a whole new category beyond "chromosome challenged" for Domenech.
xiv) How much has Andrea Barzagli improved over the past few games? Impressive from the young-ish lad.
What It Means
The big deal of the day was obviously the France-Scotland game, because it kind of make a logjam at the top of Group B. I'm sure most people were hoping Scotland would win, but you won't see me rooting for France unless the most dire circumstances arise, and that hasn't happened yet. So now Group B looks like this:
Scotland 21pts (9GP)
Italia 20pts (9GP)
France 19pts (9GP)
Ukraine 13pts (8GP)
Ukraine's pretty much out now, barring an act of divine proportions. Now the biggest factor is how the schedule's shake out the rest of the way, and here's how they look:
13.10.2007 Georgia (H)
17.11.2007 Scotland (A)
21.11.2007 Faroe Islands (H)
13.10.2007 Ukraine (H)
17.10.2007 Georgia (A)
17.11.2007 Italy (H)
13.10.2007 Faroe Islands (A)
17.10.2007 Lithuania (H)
21.11.2007 Ukraine (A)
The biggest game is obviously Scotland-Azzurri, a game that will be tough but that they boys should win - so long as Donadoni gives them a fighting chance. However, it's time to start rooting for the ex-commies, because they are now our new best friends. They play both the Scots and la Frenchies, and are more than capable of being spoiler in this group. The only other way I can see someone else helping out is if Lithuania can muster up a draw against Les Bl;eus in France, which is always a tough task, but look what Scotland did. In fact, I would not be surprised to see a nil-nil draw there. But realistically, start waving that yellow and blue flag, because if they can poach a point here and a point there, they will make the Azzurri's job much easier. At this point they should advance, but we'll see how The Don Dada feels about that.
Now the mildly exhausting (I blame TDD) international break is over and we can get back to Roma Roma Roma. The game's against Reggina is on Sunday and I'll be back with Roma news ad nauseam tomorrow.
Now let's pray Donadoni is fired by the time the Georgia game rolls around.