Posts Tagged ‘Antonio Cassano’

Euro 2008 – France vs. Italy Preview: The Grand Final, Take 2

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Franck Ribéry and Luca Toni were right: Tuesday’s match between France and Italy has all the marks of a grand final.

On paper, two of the strongest teams in the footy world. Mutual respect, but also a great history and rivarly extending throughout the years: epic battles lost & won, the most recent of which took place only 2 years ago on the biggest stage that any sporting event could wish for: a FIFA World Cup final!

On that day (July 9, 2006), Italy and France competed with a mathematical certainty: there would be a winner that night, and one of them would be walking away with glory. On Tuesday, the two World Cup finalists will be competing to stay alive. And at the end of the day, there’s a very real possibility both will be walking away in shame. Defeated. But it is something neither of them prefers to think about and frankly, neither do we.

Pre-Match Statistics

Through history, Italy and France played each other only once during European Championship finals, and that is a match many Azzurri fans would rather not remember (July 2, Euro 2000 final in Rotterdam, Netherlands). In total, the two teams have played 35 matches together (5 World Cups, 1 Euro Cup, 2 Euro Cup qualifiers, 2 Olympic games, 24 friendlies, 1 Tournoi de France), with Italy winning 17, tying 10, and losing 8 (74-48 the goal differential).

Note that Italy have not beaten France since June 2, 1978, when the Azzurri were victorious over Les Bleus at Mar del Plata, for the first group stage match of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Since then the two countries played each other 9 times, with France obtaining 5 wins and 4 draws (the most notable of which was the World Cup 2006 final which, for statistical purposes, ended 1-1 after extra time).
.

Head-to-head France vs. Italy

Played
Wins
France
Draws
Wins
Italy
All Venues
35
8
10
17
In France
15
3
7
5
In Italy
15
2
3
10
Neutral
5
3
0
2
Competitive Matches
10
4
3
3
Euro Championship
1
1
0
0

Date
Venue
Match
Result
First match
15 May 1910
Milan, ITA
Italy – France
6-2
Biggest win France
29 Aug 1920
Antwerp, BEL
France – Italy
3-1
06 Sep 2006
Paris, FRA
France – Italy
3-1
Biggest win Italy
22 Mar 1925
Turin, ITA
Italy – France
7-0
Most goals
18 Jan 1920
Milan, ITA
Italy – France
9-4
Last match
08 Sep 2007
Milan, ITA
Italy – France
0-0

.

Italy

 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio

(From La Gazzetta): ZURICH, 16 June 2008 – “The match is tomorrow.” Four words that reveal Roberto Donadoni’s passion. The usually calm Italian manager looks exhausted, almost alone in the midst of the storm. Yes, tomorrow is “the match“, and the Azzurri will play it with one regret: “We won’t be the masters of our own destiny.”

The coach believes in his own heart: and so do all the Azzurri. There is France on one side, and then… another match. And there’s also the future: Donadoni doesn’t want to cut the Azzurri’s horizon short. “No, I haven’t packed my suitcase yet in Baden.” he says. The suitcases are all there and there is always time to pack them. Right now, we are thinking about something else.”

CASSANO? – Unlike the eve of the match against Romania, Donadoni doesn’t want to reveal his line-up. “You want to know if Antonio is playing? This time, I won’t say anything. I’ve pretty much made up my mind on the line-up, but I will give it the final touch tomorrow morning.”

According to La Repubblica, one of the possible solutions to complete the Cassano-Toni pair would be Mauro Camoranesi, one of the players still in need to impress at Euro 2008. “He recuperated just like the others, although those that played longer are also subject to a certain mental fatigue” admitted Donadoni. Kinda like saying the Italo-Argentine could be facing some bench time on Tuesday. The alternative to Camoranesi is Antonio Di Natale, in better physical shape but with lower defensive abilities.

The defensive & covering tasks would be therefore left to the likes of De Rossi, Gattuso, and Ambrosini (currently the midfield trio most likely to start vs. France). Andrea Pirlo would thus be relegated to the bench, in part because of his co-existence problems with De Rossi against Romania. “I will be on the field tomorrow” said however Pirlo on Monday, very convincingly. As for the defense, there is little doubt that the same back four we saw against Romania (Zambrotta, Panucci, Chiellini and Grosso) will all get a start vs. France also.

.

Buffon
Zambrotta, Panucci, Chiellini, Grosso
Gattuso, De Rossi, Ambrosini
Cassano, Toni, Di Natale

.

As for Donadoni, the Italian manager is at a crossroads: in or out? Dreaming of Vienna, the Prater and the Quarter-finals, the Don tries to put his feelings into words. “What can I tell you? That our burden is as big as the will to win. It’s a nice match to play and everyone would like to play it.” The coach has some precise convictions: “The winner tomorrow will be whoever thinks more about their own match.” He has given the players a brief but clear message: “We shall not focus on whatever doesn’t concern us… France should be the only thing on our minds.”

THE FINAL – The Netherlands are another reality, one hour away by car. That’s where the fate of three national teams will be decided. Romania, Italy or France? Donadoni looks straight ahead and reiterates: “We are ready, we know what we are playing for: tomorrow we will give everything we have, body and soul.” Almost like another final.

RISK- For the Azzurri to play to the best of their abilities, Donadoni will need to ignite the flame of passion in his players. Rational plays, but also some craziness & creativity coupled with a little bit of spunk: the Cassano solution. The Don is quiet about it: “You will see tomorrow. I am not saying anything.” But then, he opens a small window to deductions: “We have played with three strikers before, in other circumstances. I think I have always selected a balanced team.” Undeniable, but what about France? The coach hands it in: “I think these are matches where it’s necessary to take just a few extra chances.”
.

France

(From La Repubblica): Rome is crying about the Azzurri, but Paris isn’t laughing about Les Bleus either. Roberto Donadoni and Raymond Domenech have, believe it or not, many things in common as they approach the France vs. Italy match. Both managers will lose their jobs if their team is eliminated, both have made certain tactical choices which have been strongly criticized by the press, and both have been struggling with key injuries within their team (Italy have Fabio Cannavaro, France have Patrick Vieira).

However, the mood of Chatel Saint Denis (France’s training facility) is probably even more sombre than that of Casa Azzurri right now. The French press did not see France’s 0-0 draw vs. Romania with a kind eye, but they went absolutely ballistic after Les Bleus got steamrolled by Netherlands on matchday 2. In particular, Domenech’s choices to leave Karim Benzema out and “Granpa” Lilian Thuram (age 36 and a half) in were heavily criticized in the hexagon. The 21 year-old Lyon striker is seen by many as a rising star of the French team, but was left out in favor of a 4-2-3-1 formation including Govou, Malouda, and Ribéry in support of Henry. With his team down by two goals, the French coach still preferred to leave Benzema out, choosing the likes of Bafétimbi Gomis and Nicolas Anelka instead.

As for France’s 36 year-old captain, French sports newspaper L’Équipe simply defined his performance as “worrisome“. Some even postulated the old Parma and Juve defender could be left out of the anti-Italy line-up, an hypothesis which however seems unlikely, given the knock picked up by the other starting center-back William Gallas. Thuram himself, although acknowledging his poor performance vs. Holland, declared to be sure of playing against the Azzurri. “This isn’t the first national team match in which I played badly, you just can’t remain among the very best for too many years” Thuram said. “However, our performance against Netherlands will be a bad memory, and nothing more.” The Barcelona center-back added he wants to be part of the eleven vs. Italy at all costs, stating that “The contrary would be very serious“.

According to L’Équipe, this is the expected formation for Tuesday:

.

Coupet
Clerc (or Sagnol), Gallas, Thuram (or Abidal), Evra
Govou, Makelele (or L.Diarra), Toulalan, Ribéry
Henry, Benzema

.

Thus despite Thuram’s convictions, it would not be surprising to see all of Sagnol, Thuram, Makelele and Malouda be relegated to the bench on Tuesday, as the French coach revolutionizes his back-line. Raymond Domenech tested several alternative formations during Monday’s training at Chatel Saint Denis, one of which being Franck Ribéry in a left-winger role (a position he is accustomed to with Bayern). In turn, Sydney Govou would take Ribéry’s place on the right, and the two wingers would then work to support lone striking pair Henry-Benzema.

But going back to Domenech, another source of criticism for the French coach was his decision to keep Patrick Vieira in the roster, despite the midfielder’s injury struggle. Many would have preferred to see talented ex-Arsenal youngster Mathieu Flamini, who was ready for action and called up as a precautionary measure, but was then sent home in the hopes of seeing Vieira get better (something which at this point, will probably not take place).

In other words, tension and problems aren’t what’s lacking in the French roster, but Bayern midfielder Franck Ribery (one of those who created so many problems to the Italian defense back in 2006) swears France is ready to turn the page. “We are feeling much better now compared, to the immediate moments after the loss vs. Netherlands. We suffered a very heavy loss despite playing a good match, and we all gathered together to talk about it. To clarify that our Euro 2008 adventure is not over since we still have a small chance of making it to the next round. We will play our chances to the end, we must believe in it, otherwise there’s no point in playing“.

.

France vs. Italy, kick-off time 20:45 CET

.

FORZA AZZURRI

.

Video of the Day: Italy Juggling Practice, Cassano & Del Piero Having Fun

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Good thing that despite their big slap in the face on Monday, the Azzurri’s morale hasn’t dropped too much.

The video below shows the Azzurri’s latest practice Wednesday afternoon. Passing, juggling, a few keep-ups… nothing extraordinary. Minute 2:30 gets pretty entertaining though, when Alessandro Del Piero and Antonio Cassano start exchanging passes in the air… with two balls. :)

 

Video of the Day: Azzurri Soccer-Tennis (Cassano-Gattuso-Pirlo vs. Ambrosini-Camoranesi-De Rossi)

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Check out Gattuso at the end… he really doesn’t like to lose these it seems… :)

Italy’s Euro 2008 Roster – 23 Players, Aye to Cassano & Del Piero, Nay to Montolivo

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

In accordance to the UEFA-imposed May 28 deadline, Italian coach Roberto Donadoni has made his final roster selection for Euro 2008: the 23 players who will representing the Azzurri this Summer have been picked and as many expected, Fiorentina midfielder Riccardo Montolivo was the player discarded from the manager’s Pre-selection list.

I was expecting it, I’m not too disappointed” said Montolivo. “The coach told me I had been excluded from the roster, and we’ll discuss the possibility of me staying among the group until Friday, and perhaps participating in the friendly vs. Belgium in Florence“. Donadoni himself however revealed, later in the day, that Montolivo would be leaving Coverciano. “The choice has been made yesterday evening. I gave [Montolivo] the choice of remaining with us, and he decided to leave tonight“.

It’s worth mentioning that Montolivo was, until the last minute, in serious contention with Quagliarella. It isn’t a coincidence that in the official team picture, both Montolivo and Quagliarella appear on the far ends of the second and bottom rows respectively (i.e. in easy “position” to be cut out). The same situation had taken place for Euro 2000 and Giuseppe Pancaro, who was then discarded at the last minute by then-coach Dino Zoff.

Also, many (myself included) had expected the Don to make his final choice between Montolivo and Aquilani (who was struggling with form & playing time in the last part of the season), but I guess Donadoni was reassured by the performances of the Roma player during practice, and reverted his final choice to Montolivo/Quagliarella (the Udinese striker also had a bleak end of the season, compared to his usual abilities).

In addition, the final shirt numbers have been submitted to UEFA. De Rossi has inherited Totti’s nº10, Del Piero will be keeping nº7, and Cassano wil take nº18 (formerly Pippo Inzaghi’s).

Here’s the full list with numbers:
.

Number Goalkeepers: Club:
Nº14 Marco Amelia Livorno
Nº1 Gianluigi Buffon Juventus
Nº17 Morgan De Sanctis Sevilla
.  
Defenders:  
Nº6 Andrea Barzagli Palermo
Nº5 Fabio Cannavaro Real Madrid
Nº4 Giorgio Chiellini Juventus
Nº3 Fabio Grosso Lyon
Nº23 Marco Materazzi Inter
Nº2 Christian Panucci Roma
Nº19 Gianluca Zambrotta Barcelona
.  
Midfielders:  
Nº13 Massimo Ambrosini Milan
Nº22 Alberto Aquilani Roma
Nº16 Mauro Camoranesi Juventus
Nº10 Daniele De Rossi Roma
Nº8 Gennaro Gattuso Milan
Nº20 Simone Perrotta Roma
Nº21 Andrea Pirlo Milan
.  
Forwards:  
Nº12 Marco Borriello Genoa
Nº18 Antonio Cassano Sampdoria
Nº7 Alessandro Del Piero Juventus
Nº11 Antonio Di Natale Udinese
Nº15 Fabio Quagliarella Udinese
Nº9 Luca Toni Bayern Munich

Euro 2008 Italy Pre-Selection: Donadoni’s “List of 24″

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Tuesday morning in a press conference in Rome, the Azzurri coach announced his pre-selection for Euro 2008: 24 players (4 less than what everyone anticipated, and 1 to be trimmed down before May 28) which will be representing Italy in this Summer’s great European tournament. 

So without further ado, here are the “elected”:
.

Goalkeepers: Club:
Marco Amelia Livorno
Gianluigi Buffon Juventus
Morgan De Sanctis Sevilla
.  
Defenders:  
Andrea Barzagli Palermo
Fabio Cannavaro Real Madrid
Giorgio Chiellini Juventus
Fabio Grosso Lyon
Marco Materazzi Inter
Christian Panucci Roma
Gianluca Zambrotta Barcelona
.  
Midfielders:  
Massimo Ambrosini Milan
Alberto Aquilani Roma
Mauro Camoranesi Juventus
Daniele De Rossi Roma
Gennaro Gattuso Milan
Riccardo Montolivo Fiorentina
Simone Perrotta Roma
Andrea Pirlo Milan
.  
Forwards:  
Marco Borriello Genoa
Antonio Cassano Sampdoria
Alessandro Del Piero Juventus
Antonio Di Natale Udinese
Fabio Quagliarella Udinese
Luca Toni Bayern Munich

 

So yeah, as you can see the never-ending issue “Del Piero vs. Cassano, which one to pick?” ended with the Don… selecting both. For Italy, I guess that can only be a positive thing: more talent to spare. We can only hope that the Sampdoria forward will keep the potential “Cassanata” locked in a drawer. Other stuff worth the mention is the non-selection of Filippo Inzaghi & Massimo Oddo (technical choice) as well as that of Vincenzo Iaquinta (injury).

In addition, Donadoni picked 24 players (i.e. 1 more than necessary) to begin pre-Euro training on Sunday, meaning one of them will have to leave the group on May 28 (date when the final lists have to be submitted to UEFA). In all likelihood, that player will either be Riccardo Montolivo (more likely) or Alberto Aquilani (less likely): despite the Fiorentina player’s recent run of form, Aquilani’s just been with the Azzurri group longer (albeit playing less and less with Roma recently).

Here’s what Roberto Donadoni had to say in his press conference (source: Gazzetta):

There are no reserves: these are 24 players, playing for a place. No decision has yet been taken, that wouldn’t be good for anybody. I put myself in the players’ shoes, it wouldn’t be nice to know that you’re in the 24 but then you’ll go back home. Everyone should feel in the same situation.”

BREADWINNERS – Donadoni hasn’t forgotten those who contributed to getting the national side into the final phase. “Those who are here have earned it. Others aren’t present, like Inzaghi and Oddo. For Pippo it’s not about his age, but purely a technical choice. I’m sorry for Oddo, who has been affected by an injury. It’s simply a physical situation. I believe that those who will be coming have displayed great commitment. In these two years, the team has proved something, playing in a certain way. But it can also change tactics, as has happened. The players need to feel that they are responsible.”

INZAGHI DISAPPOINTED – Pippo believed in it right to the end, then came the sad truth. “I am disappointed, above all on a personal level,” Inzaghi explained via the official Milan website. “I started this two years trying to build a positive relationship, frank and genuine. Among other things, I scored the first goal under the new manager, against Lithuania in Napoli. But seeing as goals aren’t the only thing which count in football, I thought I had displayed loyalty and commitment to the project, and to my relationship with the boss, both travelling to away games without playing, and accepting the call-up for the Faroe Islands last summer, in a European qualifier which offered three points just like all the others.”

The rossonero is bitter: “Then, silence. Despite my performances with Milan in all competitions, and my goals, 18, scored both in the winter and in April and May. Evidently my injury during the club season was sufficient to mean that I didn’t even deserve a phone call, to end what I had thought was an adult and mature relationship. I’m sorry I was mistaken, my sincere good wishes to the Azzurri for the European Championships.”

ANTONIO’S CHANCE – Donadoni also wanted to clarify his thoughts on Cassano: “Antonio isn’t a gamble. Enough talk of gambles, that’s OK at 16, 17, 18 years old. But the time for gambles is over. He has a great opportunity now, he knows what it means to be part of this group, and he will adapt himself to it. (…) I don’t want to think about the past any more,” the Azzurri manager confirmed. “I’m not very interested in what Cassano has been and done up to now. He needs to start again from scratch. Like everyone. Even those who have won something have to start over again. We have major task ahead and we must concentrate on this. If we live on memories then we will trigger negative reactions. He is part of a group of players who know one another, and as for what he can give in technical terms, I know very well. I wanted a complete squad.”

In search of the realisation of another dream. “There is no minimum objective. When we arrive on the pitch for the first match, we will try to win it, and so on for each game.”

ALE – On to the subject of Del Piero, Donadoni was clear: “Ale hasn’t surprised me. I already know the abilities of each individual player. Del Piero had a period of physical problems, and once these were overcome he was back to displaying the qualities he has.

CONTRACT – Aside from Euro 2008, Abete has settled the situation with Donadoni: a two year contract (up to and including the next World Cup). The agreement includes a free and reciprocal annulment clause, which can be activated to end the agreement within 10 days of the end of the European Championship. “I would like to thank President Giancarlo Abete for his recognition of my work. If Euro 2008 goes badly, I shall leave, there will be no need for the annulment clause,” Donadoni concluded.

Go bad? Let’s all hope that it won’t huh? ;)

You can further discuss the selections at BigSoccer.com here.