Italy needs better offense, fewer conspiracy theories

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Italy needs better offense, fewer conspiracy theories

Italy has, for the most part, produced great stuff. I love Italian food. Pasta and pizza, I can eat from morning to evening. God knows how many times I have gazed at out-of-reach Armani suits and Ferraris. “The Godfather” still ranks high with me, and my favorite color happens to be blue. So it seemed my destiny to fall in love with the Azzurri. But not anymore.
Since the 2002 World Cup, I haven’t been able to help but lose respect for the Italian national squad.
Last week, when Italy had to depart the Euro 2004, it blamed everyone but its own conservative playing style. When Italy was eliminated by Korea during the 2002 World Cup, the conspiracy theory went that in order to boost the popularity of the game, one of the host countries had to advance far into the tournament. Hence, Italy was chosen to get eliminated.
Alas, the Italians nurtured their pride and licked their wounds by hypnotizing themselves into believing they were the victims of an international plot to get rid of a strong contender for the trophy.
And here we are again, as the classless acts of a bad loser repeat themselves. For players to complain, as the Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon did, is natural in light of their disappointment. Still, to go public as he did... Buffon is a world-class goalkeeper, but he is a bad loser. On top of that, for Franco Carraro, head of the Italian soccer federation, to claim that a game had been fixed is just absolute nonsense.
True, the Italians were tied with five points in Group C. True, they never lost a match. True, Sweden and Denmark knew going in what kind of scores would ensure them advancement. True, the Azzurri’s skin-tight uniform is the best-looking one. But this time, the team’s very playing style was what did them in. Period.
The Azzurri are known for their stellar defense, but maybe its time for some rethinking. Of the 16 teams vying for the championship, only six scored fewer goals than Italy did. Guess what happened to all of them. Like the Italians, they went home early.
Italy beat Bulgaria, but so did Sweden and Denmark, and the way they did it was much more convincing. While Bulgaria had given up a total of nine goals, only two of them were scored by Italy. Italy won against the Bulgarians, but it wouldn’t have done so without Buffon’s skills.
The advancement to the next round belongs rightly to Sweden and Denmark, who scored eight and four goals each. My case rests here.
At least skipper Giovanni Trapattoni knew why he lost. He said after the game, “I have no argument with the result, and the federation will not protest against it, absolutely not.”
At the 2002 World Cup, before losing to Korea, the Azzurri barely managed to get past the first round. They scored only four goals while allowing three, and finished second behind Mexico in Group G. Hardly any of the Italian press picked up on that fact.
This time, I hope it will be different. Because, frankly, the Italian style of going all-out on offense to score one goal, then relying on defense for the rest of the game, is getting boring for the fans. And it’s getting predictable for their opponents.

by Brian Lee
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