Posts Tagged ‘Luca Toni’

Netherlands 3-0 Italy: The Aftermath

Monday, June 9th, 2008

After a match like this, one would normally do well to take a night’s rest to carefully analyze the situation, see what went wrong, and what can be done to correct it. That is undoubtedly what Roberto Donadoni and his players will be doing over the next few days, to make sure that this debacle isn’t repeated vs. Romania.

I, on the other hand, have the luxury to live in timezone where a night’s rest isn’t necessary: at 7′o clock in the evening I can attempt to take a preliminary guess at why (oh why) Italy conceded 3 goals tonight, without scoring any.

Culprit nº1: The Defense (in particular the center-backs)

When a team concedes 3 goals, it’s pretty obvious: it is either the defense’s fault, the goalkeeper’s fault, or both. When you have someone like Gigi Buffon, you’re pretty much covered goalkeeping-wise. Gigi’s clearance on Van der Vaart’s cross may not have been impeccable (he could have played it safe by deflecting the ball into corner), you can’t really fault Italy’s nº1 for the 1-0.

Materazzi-Barzagli now… that’s a whole other story. Before tonight, these two had played together competitively only once (and that was over a year ago). After tonight’s performance, it seems fairly obvious that that one match wasn’t enough: cohesion, covering, and man-marking were all horribly off the mark today. No one without exception thought Cannavaro’s injury would be easy to overcome, but to think that his absence would weigh so heavily onto a team which, over the years, has made of defense of their strongest weapons, was absolutely unthinkable. Over the next few days, Donadoni’s biggest efforts will have to be focused on this problem, because a solution is needed. Fast.

Materazzi‘s match (much like his season this year) was mediocre at best. My guess is that he just doesn’t have reliability anymore, he has lost his place as a starter. Barzagli wasn’t all that better to be honest, but at least one step higher than his Inter colleague. Unfortunately, alternatives aren’t exactly abundant in the Azzurri camp. Giorgio Chiellini had a phenomenal season with Juve in this role, but his recent test-match with Barzagli during practice ended with his team conceding five goals. Not the greatest of omens. Christian Panucci did a little better as he reverted to center-back during today’s match, but not by a great stretch. However, Fabio Grosso‘s rising match-form (both during training and vs. Netherlands) would make this solution the most likely choice for the match against Romania.

Culprit nº2: The Offside

You can say whatever you want about the Azzurri’s performance: they didn’t play well, they made too many mistakes, Holland deserved their win, blah blah blah. The fact of the matter is that, at the end of the day, the pivotal point in this match was Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s 1-0 goal. Was it offside, was it not offside? The key element to consider here is Panucci’s position at the time of Van Bronckhorst’s shot. There is absolutely no question that RVN was a good 2-3 yards past Andrea Barzagli at that time, so the question is: did the linesman base his call by considering Panucci was in fact in play, or is he just fu**ing blind as a bat?

No doubt UEFA will come up with some kind of statement in the next few days to clear this up, but my take on the matter: Panucci was out of the playing field, not participating in the play, and therefore cannot be considered as keeping RVN onside. Big fu**ing mistake by the linesman in my opinion.

Culprit nº3: Roberto Donadoni

Well, undoubtedly the coach is going to get some blame for this. Ultimately a few of his choices directly led to the Azzurri’s defeat today, but the question is: would anyone have done differently?

Starting from the Materazzi-Barzagli pick, it was undoubtedly a mistake that backfired, but in all honesty and in Donadoni’s defense: I would have chosen the exact same men. Materazzi had the experience, the reliability with the Azzurri shirt, and seemed the most ideal candidate to replace Fabio Cannavaro. Recent tests made with Chiellini-Barzagli hadn’t exactly been promising (see above), so the only other viable alternative was to put Panucci in the center and Grosso on the left. Something which, given the Lyon wing-back’s limited contribution to the defensive effort, Donadoni was probably not ready to risk.

By the same token, the Don’s choice at picking Massimo Ambrosini over Daniele De Rossi can be defended with the same arguments: “playing it safe” vs. “taking a chance”. Ambrosini gives more to the defensive effort than DDR, and his entente with AC Milan teammates Pirlo & Gattuso gives plenty of reliability (usually) to Italy’s midfield. Faced with a tough opponent like Holland, my guess is that Donadoni wanted to play the containment card early, leaving the ace of creativity to the likes of Pirlo, Di Natale, and Camoranesi. Given how things have turned out today, this was obviously the wrong choice but once again, crucifying Donadoni for it would be unjustified.

Now with that said, let’s leave the Devil’s advocate vest on the coat hanger and look at what Donadoni did do wrong (and should take blame for). Firstly the substitutions: they came too late. Had the score been only 0-1, one could have understood the Don not wanting to take too many chances just yet. However, the Azzurri were already two goals down at the break and considerably suffering in both defense & midfield. Changes were necessary to inject some creativity and at least attempt to turn things around. Grosso’s insertion for Materazzi was a good move, but was leaving Daniele De Rossi off the bench wise? Shouldn’t have more defensive players like Gattuso or Ambrosini made way for Serie A’s best midfielder this year, perhaps even for Alberto Aquilani? Finally, was keeping Cassano on the bench till minute 75 really a good idea?

The answer to all those questions, looking at tonight’s final result, is obviously no.

Minor culprits: The Midfield and Luca Toni

Now I now what you’re going to say… “don’t you fu**ing dare touch Luca Toni, what else could he have done?!” Notice I put our beloved Bayern Munich striker in the “minor culprit” section. And the answer to that previous question is… something more. This wasn’t, by all accounts, Toni’s finest performance. He did his share for a while but at some point, collectively collapsed mentally like the rest of his teammates. That missed re-directed header for Di Natale in minute 8 and that missed shot over van der Sar in minute 75 also raise questions… you’re much better than this Luca!! We need our goalscoring machine.

Onto a “less controversial” issue: the midfield. Today, it was quite simply terrible. Not as bad as the defense mind you, but when your opponents manage to beat you in ball possession, speed, and technique quite so vividly, something’s not working right. With Ambrosini, this should have been a “contain” type of midfield. It turned out to be quite the opposite (and the defense didn’t help). Common sense suggests Daniele De Rossi should be making a start vs. Romania in 3 days’ time.

My predictive guess for Italy’s formation in the next match?

Zambrotta, Panucci, Barzagli, Grosso
Gattuso, Pirlo, De Rossi
Camoranesi, Toni, Di Natale

And I’d say the odds of Di Natale & Del Piero are about 60/40 right now…

Fun with Franck & Luca: The Toni-Ribéry Show (The Grand Final)

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

France vs. Italy might still be two weeks away (Tuesday June 17, 20:45 CET), but members of the two teams have already began the eager anticipation.

We had Gattuso vs. Malouda back in September (when the two teams met for qualifiers), it’s now time for two other components of the Azzurri and Les Bleus. Presenting to you: the Franck Ribéry vs. Luca Toni show.

These two have become quite inseparable friends since their arrival in Munich last year, so the FC Bayern management had the great idea of putting them together for a TV ad, produced by Allianz (the German insurance company which sponsors the club and after which the Bayern Stadium -Allianz Arena- is named). 

Here’s the result:

Although the clip is pretty much self-explanatory, here’s the translation for those with limited French/Italian knowledge:

The clip starts with Ribéry’s cell phone ringing, playing the French national anthem. At which Toni reacts by taking off his shirt and showing his “Italy Campioni del Mondo” t-shirt.

Ribery: “Hello? Honey?”
Toni: “Honey? What honey? Here, look”. (shows t-shirt)
Ribery: “Man, you suck. All you Italians you suck. Afterwards, we’ll go you and me”
Toni: “Ok, no problem”

Ribery: “Here, can you do THIS, you Spaghetti world champion?” (scoops the ball into basket)
Toni: “Man that’s easy”

Toni: “Here look, let me see you do this” (tries to bounce the ball into the stadium and fails)
Ribery (bursts out laughing, then succeeds where Toni had failed): “Ahhh look at this. Italiano? No. Francais? Yeaaah!”

Toni (attempting to dribble Ribery, then feigns a cramp, then pushes Ribery out of the way): “Come on!”
Ribery: “Hey man, this is not Serie A. Try to play soccer.”
Toni: “Come on, pay attention!”

(more fun on the field, then they go up the stands to shoot in the net. Ribery scores first)

Ribery: “Ah you can’t do that can you? The Italian he can’t, the French he can”
Toni: “Yeah yeah let me show you the Italian now” (goes up more stairs) The French? Ah! La baguette… let me give you the baguette.” (scores into goal)
Ribery: “That was luck”
Toni: “Ok, so let’s go on the roof. Come on! On the roof!”
Ribery: “Okay let’s go”
Stadium steward: “Stop, it’s over! Schluss! Finito!” (kicks them out)


The Official website has a few additional features (on top of the video) including pictures, an interview with Toni & Ribery, plus Cut Scenes & Making Of clips to be coming soon.

[Note: special thanks to Kevin of Serie A Talk for letting me know about the ad first]

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
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
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
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

Italian Players Around the World (5/05)

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Continuing my weekly article inspired by Gazzetta dello Sport, here are the performances of all Italian soccer players operating in foreign European leagues.

Based on Gazzetta’s info, there are currently 22 Italians playing in first divisions abroad, and 9 of them stepped on the field this week-end.

The table below includes the team the player belongs to, their opponents for the week, the number of minutes they played, their contribution (goal, assist), and the final score of the game.

Player Team Opp. mins. Contrib. Score
Carlo Cudicini Chelsea @Newcastle (bench) / 2-0
Massimo Donati Celtic @Motherwell (bench) / 2-1
Luca Toni Bayern M. @Wolfsburg 90 / 0-0
Fabio Cannavaro Real Madrid @Osasuna red card / 2-1
Giuseppe Rossi Villareal Getafe 80 / 2-0
Christian Abbiati Atl. Madrid Recreativo (bench) / 3-0
Gianluca Zambrotta Barcelona Valencia 90 / 6-0
Enzo Maresca Sevilla Valladolid 60 1 assist 2-0
Morgan De Sanctis Sevilla Valladolid (bench) / 2-0
Emiliano Moretti Valencia @Barcelona (injd.) / 0-6
Stefano Sorrentino Recreativo @Atl. Madrid 90 / 0-3
Damiano Tommasi Levante Espanyol (injd.) / 1-1
Fabio Grosso Lyon @Nice (susp.) / 0-0
Flavio Roma Monaco @Lens (injd.) / 0-0
Graziano Pellè AZ Alkmaar / SEASON OVER /
Roberto Mirri Mons @St. Truiden 90 / 1-1
Alessandro Pistone Mons @St. Truiden 90 / 1-1
Stefano Razzetti St. Gallen Sion (bench) / 1-2
Andrea Guatelli FC Zürich @Basel (bench) / 0-4
Stefano Napoleoni Widzew Łódź Sosnowiec 90 / 0-1
Ivan Pelizzoli Lok. Moscow Luch Energiya (bench) / 2-2

Heroes of the week

No goals for them (actually even an -undeserved- red card for Fabio), but plenty to celebrate for Mr. Cannavaro and Mr. Toni: Real Madrid and Bayern Munich were crowned respectively La Liga and Bundesliga champions this week. Joining the fun, Mr. Maresca who provided good passes an an assist in Sevilla’s 2-0 match vs. Valladolid.

Luca Toni, age 30 Fabio Cannavaro, age 34 Enzo Maresca, age 28

Italian Players Around the World (28/04)

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Continuing my weekly article inspired by Gazzetta dello Sport, here are the performances of all Italian soccer players operating in foreign European leagues.

Based on Gazzetta’s info, there are currently 22 Italians playing in first divisions abroad, and 11 of them stepped on the field this week-end.

The table below includes the team the player belongs to, their opponents for the week, the number of minutes they played, their contribution (goal, assist), and the final score of the game.

Player Team Opp. mins. Contrib. Score
Carlo Cudicini Chelsea Man Utd (bench) / 2-1
Massimo Donati Celtic Rangers (bench) / 3-2
Luca Toni Bayern M. Stuttgar 90 1 goal 4-1
Fabio Cannavaro Real Madrid Ath. Bilbao (susp.) / 3-0
Giuseppe Rossi Villareal @Betis 86 / 1-0
Christian Abbiati Atl. Madrid @Getafe (bench) / 1-1
Gianluca Zambrotta Barcelona @Deportivo 68 / 0-2
Enzo Maresca Sevilla @Murcia 13 / 0-0
Morgan De Sanctis Sevilla @Murcia (bench) / 0-0
Emiliano Moretti Valencia Osasuna (injd.) / 3-0
Stefano Sorrentino Recreativo Levante 90 / 2-0
Damiano Tommasi Levante @Recreativo (injd.) / 0-2
Fabio Grosso Lyon Caen 45 1 assist 2-2
Flavio Roma Monaco Marseille 90 / 2-3
Graziano Pellè AZ Alkmaar / SEASON OVER /
Roberto Mirri Mons GBA 90 / 0-0
Alessandro Pistone Mons GBA 90 / 0-0
Stefano Razzetti St. Gallen @Thun (bench) / 1-1
Andrea Guatelli FC Zürich Luzern (bench) / 1-0
Stefano Napoleoni Widzew Łódź @Grodzisk 30 / 0-3
Ivan Pelizzoli Lok. Moscow S.Nalchik (bench) / 0-0


Heroes of the week

Oh look! Mr. Toni here, what else is new? Well, Mr. Grosso went from glory to shame in less than a week, that’s what. Uncool…

Luca Toni, age 30“Only” one goal for Luca Toni this time. Yeah that’s right, his April average drops: we’ve been so used to Italian Bayern doubles lately that scoring one appears sorta appears like a “downgrade”, doesn’t it? That’s nº21 in the Bundesliga for the ex-Fiorentina striker, and needless to say he’s topping the goalscoring charts (2nd-ranked Mario Gomez is trailing by 6).

Fabio Grosso, age 30As for Fabio Grosso, after his goalscoring performance vs. Strasbourg last week, bad stuff from the Lyon winger this week-end. Everything started well though: one assist for Karim Benzema, and Lyon up by one in the 34th. Shortly after however, some mistakes by the home team’s defense (Grosso included) led to the equalizer by Juan Eduardo Eluchans and 1-2 goal by Lilian Compan, and our favorite World Cup 2006 hero even got a yellow card in the process. Then during the half-time break, a slap on Yoan Gouffran (who had grabbed Grosso by the shoulder) was caught by the referee and resulted in a direct red for the Italian.