Napoli 2 - Roma 2
Yes, you can do both.
I was, until moments ago, relatively...oh, what's the word...bummed by this result. They had the three points into, or close to, injuries and an unlucky incident occurred which then saw two points fly out the window.
Then, while replaying the game in my mind, I gained a little bit of perspective.
Scratch that - I gained a lot of perspective. Perspective which came when recalling a recent three man back for Roma.
Immediately to the notes we go:
- I was hoping Claudio had been experimenting with the 3-5-2 for some time in anticipation of To-To - now laboring on if, rather than when - but as the game progressed past the 10 minute mark, I decided the first they'd heard of it was the tunnel on the way out for kickoff - I've seen more tactically composed u6 sides than I saw at the opening of the first half (credit due to Napoli for coming out flying - and they are a hell of a side for the neutral to watch). There were all kinds of defensive spacing issues, which I suppose is to be expected.
Nice looking little defensive team sheet, though.
Of course this isn't the last time Roma ran out a 3 man back to combat another 3-x-x team - Spalletti did the same against Sampdoria last year.
[And this moment, upon heading back for the day's lineup, is when 'perspective' came into play.]
If you need a tonic for these two points dropped, I dare you to look at that back line and not crack into laughter. Considering this lineup - this smorgasbord of bit parts, emergency parachutes, square pegs in round holes, decrepit cripples and preteen debutants - ran out less than one year ago, perhaps a two-all draw, including planting two in the stingy San Paolo nets this year, not 72 hours after a draining European tie we should be mighty pleased. Perspective.
That game also ended 2-2, and included an unfortunate penalty incident*...and a Julio Baptista penalty. So anytime they want to drum up a little bit of controversy and a J.Baps goal or two in a 2-2 draw, just run out a three man back.
* - Rosetti - paralleling with his levels of competence - called a penalty on Padalino, the guilty party, who would've been sent off only Roberto gave yellow to Lucchini.
- Fabio Quagliarella is the new something. I'm not sure what, but it's not good. His Crespo v Mexes interpretive recreation down the touch earned at least 60% of that yellow for diving, I'm sure of it. The lineman was barking something into Rizzoli's ear immediately after, and I don't think he was praising Fabio's technique or creativity. (And then there was that lovely dive right in front of Doni which earned a lashing from Burdisso.)
And, of course, he's rewarded with an Azzurri call postgame. Sometimes.......
- I think this puts the kibosh on the Napoli 'fortress' bit. They're 6-7-0 at home - that's less than a 50% win record, for those mathematically challenged. A fortress is trying to cross the moat and receiving a Dikembe Mutumbo-esque finger waggin', out of the picture rejection.
A 46% win record is more along the lines of 'you can have the china and our less comely daughters if you don't take the jewels'.
- I'd be happy not to see German Denis for the next six months or so. The Roman back line nods silently in the background.
- And speaking of perspective...the latter penalty call wasn't really criminal or suspicious or based on incompetence - Rizzoli, as Ranieri said, had a good game. It was simply unfortunate, because he hadn't the angle to see the play. It happens. (Juve circa 2004 never get that call, however. Nor Inter circa......)
The problem right now isn't with Rizzoli or Italian refereeing - abysmal though it may be (I hear Sampdoria yapping furiously in the distance) - but rather with video technology, or lack thereof. The capabilities are there and as long as it's continually ignored, they're cheating the athletes who train hard day after day after day, aspiring to the same achievable levels of heightened performance football organizations are throwing in the drawer and turning a blind eye.
I think this is one thing people - suits, fans, pundits, etc. - forget: this is not about the ball or the white lines or any of the sports peripheries. Anybody can kick a ball around some grass - it's about these elite athletes. It's their sport. It's they that mesmerize us by thinking the unthinkable, attempting the audacious and achieving the impossible, week-in and week-out, and it's they that keep us coming back, put us in the seats.
And on that note...
Mirko Vucinic, ladies & gents. He alone makes these games worth watching sometimes.
A disappointing 'loss', of sorts, to be sure, but it's rather easy to forget where this team was not four or five months ago - much less last spring against Sampdoria. They said it'd be a three year scudetto hunt, but two, considering the start to this year, was most likely. One would've taken and still will take, should it occur, that miracle.
To stand back and look at the big picture, despite a few inevitable flaws in the details, paints a beautiful picture: they are still, unthinkably, sixteen undefeated in the league, 36 of 42 points, and holding a ten point buffer in the Champions League spots. Wishing for anything else in retrospect feels flat greedy.