Monday 23 June ~

On the rare occasion that the increasingly irritating John Motson actually impresses with a stat, who could resent him his moment in the sun? Such was the case as Spain lined up against Italy in last night’s Euro 2008 quarter-final and we were alerted to the fact that they had been eliminated from international tournaments in a penalty shoot-out on 22 June on three (THREE!) previous occasions (World Cup 86, Euro 96 and World Cup 2002, since you asked). Who would have doubted that would become four as Italy took Calcio to a whole new level, seemingly playing for penalties from minute one?

Catenaccio, the art of dour football, is one of those things that are automatically appreciated in this country because they have a foreign name and the British aren’t very good at them, like cappuccinos or the lambada. In this case it should have been appreciated for creating perhaps the second dullest game of the tournament (France v Romania will take some beating) and leading to Italy’s deserved elimination when they had the players if not the belief to play Spain at their own game. Ruining John Motson’s stat along the way, of course. 

It wasn’t just Spain that were being heralded by the papers this morning for breaking new ground but new Blackburn manager Paul Ince, the first black British manager in the Premier League. Ince, who was also the first black player to captain England, has achieved great success in League Two with Macclesfield and MK Dons and there is little doubt that his CV is more impressive than that of Steve McClaren. However, Sam Allardyce really should have a think about his interview technique, how guiding Bolton into Europe is not considered worthy of comparison to a Johnston’s Paint victory is anyone’s guess.

Ince’s appointment was heralded by Richard Bevan, chief executive of the League Managers' Association, as “wonderful news”, a reference that presumably overlooks the fact that Ince is the latest manager to be appointed to a Premier League post without the UEFA Pro Licence, a supposed prerequisite for managing in the top tier. Whatever your views on the need for UEFA badges, it does seem rather strange that managers can forego them simply on the strength of a quick phone around to a few other clubs to give the appointment the thumbs up. While the appointment of Ince is a step forward for black managers, it is another sign that having friends in the right places can go a long way to securing a Premier League job.
Josh Widdicombe

Comments (7)
Comment by AMMS 2008-06-23 21:10:42

Playing for penalties from minute 1? C'mon who wrote that Alan Shearer? Is it only a good game if it's 4 each and neither team can defend? Are 0-0 draws between a bunch of foreigners now dismissed on WSC. Or perhaps it's just been so long since you saw a good defence, or two, that you just don't recognise them anymore. Shame on you!!

Comment by Floating Tramp 2008-06-23 21:38:42

I agree with AMMS. The 'Italians were playing for penalties' comment was lazy writing worthy of BBC's Dream Team punditry. They probably lacked an extra man joining in the attacks - but they still got forward and endeavored to create chances. It's just that they struggled to create - movement was poor and midfielders were trying to provide the support when it should've been the fullbacks. Twas a mess - indicative of Donadoni's rein, always teetering on the edge of malaise and mediocrity.

Spain deserved it. But this Italian baiting and all the stereotypes that come along with it must stop.

Comment by Floating Tramp 2008-06-23 21:41:12

Oh, and may i just add they had a makeshift central defensive partnership and two of their key mids in Pirlo and Gattuso out. So i don't think a 'blow for blow' approach would've been the philosophy of any team in their position.

That is all.

Comment by Drunk Academic 2008-06-24 08:32:14

Not all 0-0 draws involving Italy are sophisticated feats of technical virtuosity. Against Spain Italy - the World Cup holders - played boring, fearful football. If that's not ripe for a slag-off then everyone might as well stop commenting on football.

AMMS, is your point that whatever Alan Shearer says, right thinking people should say the opposite?

(Actually, come to think of it, that is a pretty reasonable worldview for a contented and right life)

Comment by AMMS 2008-06-24 10:42:49

Drunk Academic, I think Floating Tramp made my point better than I did regarding Italy. I thought they looked at the Spanish attack and decided they'd be ripped a new one if they allowed them any space and time. Some people might think that is dour and defensive but for me it seemed sensible and a not unfair assertion for the Italian manager to make, he was after all trying to win the match not please the BBC or WSC. If the point is that Italy, as world Champions, should be better than they were well fair enough however qualifying results tend to suggest they aren't the team they were.
I picked on Alan Shearer simply because he had made the very same point during the match and not because he is an arrogant, over-paid, over exposed embodiment of all that is wrong with the modern English footballer. But I could be wrong.

Comment by Drunk Academic 2008-06-24 11:39:15

Fair enough AMMS. But I would have thought the Italian coach would have been able to say to his players "For God's sake lads, this is only Spain. They're always rubbish when it comes to the crunch. And their defence is wobbly. Let's score a couple and *then* shut up shop, man to man marking, sweeper, the works."

I think you're being a bit silly if you think that foreign coaches worry about pleasing the BBC. Everyone in football knows the BBC are rubbish. I'm sure, however, that progressives like Donadoni read WSC religiously, although as an intelligent man he would have been aware about the slight difference in tone between the magazine and the message board.

BUFFON: Your tactics might come across as boring to the WSC editorial writers, boss.
DONADONI: True, but there is a cabal of true believers on OTF who will understand.
BUFFON: That's all very well, but their views don't get a nice illustration on the home page.
DONADONI: Sigh. It's so hard being an international coach.

etc etc

Comment by AMMS 2008-06-24 15:50:05

I see Donadonis got the sack, well I blame Alan Shearer and WSC, i hope your happy now!

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