I don’t know whether to be excited or scared. Italy, notoriously slow starters, have won their opening two group games of Euro 2016 without conceding a goal!
In the first game, against opposition highly rated by people who only watch the EPL, we were a clinical defensive machine. In the second game against Sweden we were basically rubbish but still managed to get all three points against that bunch of match fixers.
And so for the third game in our group, against the Republic of Ireland, who I still haven’t forgiven for beating us 1-0 in our opening group match of USA ’94, we can do whatever we want because we have already qualified top of the group.
Looking ahead, we will most likely play the Czech Republic or Croatia in the Round of 16 – there’s an outside chance it could be Spain but I doubt it. We’ll know tomorrow either way. If we get past that game, which I have supreme Italian overconfidence that we will (so we probably won’t) – ze Germans will almost certainly be waiting for us in the quarter-finals.
I said at the outset that this was Germany’s tournament to lose – unless they come up against us! Italy are well and truly their bogey team – they’ve never beaten us in a major tournament. There’s a first time for everything but I really hope it won’t be in my lifetime!
Italy still has plenty of weaknesses for all to see. Everyone should know how to play against our counterattacking catenaccio style that Antonio Conte is quite rightly deploying with the rock solid all-Juventus defence at his disposal and not a lot of creativity in the midfield. The biggest question mark will be whether or not the soon to be newly minted Chelsea tactician has a plan b!
Haters are gonna hate of course. Many people – for the purposes of this conversation we’ll refer to them as philistines – many philistines don’t like defensive football, as shocking as that may be. Defence is just as important a part of the game to watch as attack and it can be beautiful. Exhibit A:
Or check out the best of all time:
Besides, I disagree completely with the ‘how you win is more important than winning’ mentality. Seems like the refuge of losers to me. If my team wins I don’t particularly care how they do it. If they can look pretty in the process then that’s just a bonus.
I haven’t seen much to fear in the other games I’ve seen. France look solid enough but can’t be allowed to win because they’ve already won it twice and that’s enough for them. Spain look to be running hot and cold and tiki-taka is both more boring than catenaccio and yesterday’s news. England look overhyped (what else is new?) and can’t be allowed to win a UEFA tournament the same year as they exit the EU. And Portugal…
(Although not too hard because I have them in the office sweepstake)
Of the outsiders, maybe Iceland or Wales could be the Leicester of the Euros! Nobody would begrudge them if they turn out to be just that. I also quite enjoyed Austria’s performance against the Republic of Ronaldo – especially that new player they’ve got called Der Torpfosten! Hungary also gets a mention just because it’s a gorgeous country (I’ve never claimed to be an analyst of the game).
But the reality is if Italy does manage to get past whoever we end up with in the round of 16, and normal service resumes against the man shaft, then who knows from there? I might finally get to see my team lift the Euro trophy for the first time since 1968 – almost as long as the turnips have waited for a major trophy of any kind!
Justice must prevail!
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.