Friday, June 25, 2010

An Italian job gone horribly wrong

At some point in the coming days, as Marcello Lippi begins analyzing the factors that led to Italy's implosion in the 2010 World Cup, he might come to the conclusion that his players may have taken the Azzuri's status as perennial slow starters a little too far this time around.

Previous sides, including his 2006 squad, have always started poorly but improved as each game progressed. In most cases, the Azzuri would have at least gotten their act together by the third group match. This time around, however,Lippi's class of 2010 left it a little too late and began showing some sign of that footballing prowess the Italians are known for at the last 10 minutes of their third and most crucial group game.

To say that they left it late on purpose would be unfair to the Slovakians and in some ways excuse what was otherwise one of the worst performances by any side in this World Cup. Besides, the Italians seemed perfectly aware of the importance of the match long before Howard Webb blew his whistle for the kickoff, judging by the gusto in which they sang their national anthem.

Lippi's brave admission that their failure is his fault is commendable but at the same time puzzling as he keeps referring to the collective psychological weakness of his squad. Yet if that was the case, their late onslaught on the Slovakian goal mouth wouldn't have been possible.

Perhaps what Lippi needs to admit is the fact that his side weren't good enough to be at a World Cup. His tactics were deplorable but his players were worse. Some such as Pepe, Iaquinta, Montolivio and even Di Natale were amazingly amateurish and wouldn't have even made it to most national teams, Slovakia included. Then there was his decision to bring on the old boys of 2006. Cannavaro, once the world's best defender, was often a liability to the Azzuri's defense while Gattuso's cameo against Slovakia was just as memorable as Buffon's in the first match. Then there was Zambrotta who spent most of the matches anonymous. The only veteran deserving of a place in the squad was probably Pirlo but his 40 mins of involvement in game 3 was a little too late.

Still, there's nothing wrong in bringing in veterans but Lippi's selection of the veterans was most puzzling. Instead of just bringing in old defenders and wing backs who lack speed, why didn't Lippi consider the likes of Del Piero and Totti who would have been useful in playing just behind the front line or at set pieces. The Italians have always been known for their defense and creative players. This time around there were none.

But if there's a silver lining to their disaster at the World Cup, its the fact that they may finally realise that they can't keep living up to their "slow starter" status. The fact is the panic button should've been engaged in that first half against Paraguay in their first game. Not at the 80th minute against Slovakia at 2-0 down.

Monday, June 21, 2010

France training ground bust -up

Friday, June 4, 2010

And the hunt begins!

WANTED: Football manager with extensive experience, preferably one with the know-how and capabilities of winning the Barclays Premier League and the UEFA Champions League within an unreasonable amount of time. Unbalanced squad with real danger of losing star players. Annual transfer budget of GBP5 million. Manager must also strive towards reducing club debt and possess excellent command of English and Spanish.

The job ad above maybe a work of fiction but Liverpool's board might as well put it up in the classifieds starting this week now that the Anfield outfit has finally parted ways with the seemingly irremovable Rafa Benitez. At a time when signing on new managers has become as expensive as signing footballers, Liverpool's board couldn't have picked a better time to give Benitez the boot.

While the Reds would never have been able to afford the likes of Jose Mourinho, the club's precarious financial state would make it next to impossible to appoint someone like Guus Hiddink, Frank Rijkaard, Roy Hodgson and Martin O'Neill. Compounding the matter is the fact that should either one of these coaches choose to move to Anfield, they face the prospect of trying to restore glory to a club on the verge of losing its stars and with a transfer budget of GBP5 million. In other words, unless things look up on the financial horizon, the odds of any of these gentlemen making the move to Liverpool this summer is as likely as the Reds winning the Champions League next season.

As such, if current conditions continue, only a manager with a deep connection to the club will be willing to take the job. As you might have guessed, the biggest candidate for that job would be "King" Kenny Dalglish. And some fairy tale it would be should Dalglish - the last manager to guide the Reds to a league title - end Liverpool's title drought. But can Dalglish rediscover his winning ways of the 80s considering the fact that he's been absent from the game for almost a decade?

Remember how the Geordies kept fantasizing of the return of Kevin Keegan to Newcastle and when the former Liverpool legend eventually replaced Sam Allardyce at St James Park, it became pretty obvious that his three-year absence from the league before rejoining the Magpies was just too long a hiatus. And if three years could have done that to Keegan, what's to say Dalglish' absence from the game wouldn't turn out the same?

Speaking of Keegan, why hasn't he been considered by the so-called pundits? Keegan has just as much as a bond with club and seeing as to how he's been in the game a little more frequent that Dalglish has over the past 10 years, who's to say Keegan wouldn't be a success at Liverpool? And wouldn't he just "luv it" it if he could snatch title number 19 from right under Sir Alex Ferguson's nose?