Posts Tagged ‘Adrian Mutu’

Fiorentina 2-0 Slavia Prague: La Viola Return to the Champions League in Style (UCL Preliminary Round)

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

The paintbrush of Adrian Mutu and the violin solo of Alberto Gilardino. Tuscany is well-known as the homeland of many Italian artists, and Fiorentina are certainly no exception to that trend. The two Viola strikers were main protagonists Tuesday night, as their team obtained a key 2-0 home win against Slavia Prague and slammed the door wide open towards their UEFA Champions League qualification.

Cesare Prandelli’s return to Europe (after last year’s very good run in the UEFA Cup, stopped only by a penalty shootout in the semi-final round) can certainly be deemed succesful, as Fiorentina demonstrated good tactical cohesion, determination, and containment, and this despite the limited time available for pre-season prep. With the good value-for-money transfers operated by the Della Valle bros. this Summer (Gilardino, Jovetic, Vargas, Zauri) and the confirmation of Adrian Mutu, things are definitely looking brightly for La Viola’s future. Just remember that not so very long ago, Fiorentina was sitting down in Serie C2… How 6 years can pass by quickly, huh?

(From Gazzetta): PRANDELLI-STYLE. A beautiful Fiorentina, well-organized on the pitch and quite obviously having their coach to thank for it. Heart and rationality were Prandelli’s key words tonight, as he christened the classic 4-3-3 formation (without Gianluca Comotto and Alessandro Gamberini, out injured) that gave Serie A teams so many problems last year: Frey in goal, Dainelli and Kroldrup keepin guard in the center and supported by Zauri and Vargas on the wings, Felipe Melo in-between Kuzmanovic and Gobbi (playing a sort of vice-Montolivo role, since the latter is away to Beijing), all behind the attacking trio of Santana, Gilardino, and Mutu.

MAGIC-MUTU. Ready, set, go. Goal. Litterally! Just 3 minutes into the game, the Divine Romanian took matters into his own hands and brought the 32,560 Artemio Franchi supporters to their feet. Mutu’s specialty on the menu obviously being his lethal skills on set pieces, Mr. nº10 proceeded to strike a curling shot straight into the top-left corner, following a free-kick just outside box obtained for a foul on Gilardino. Really nothing to do for the opposing goalkeeper, and 1-0 Fiorentina. With goal-of-the-month style!!

Mutu’s game opener was just more fuel to the fire for an already highly-motivated team, because for the ensuing 20 minutes La Viola litterally pressed Slavia under their heel, as if they were nothing more than a cigarette butt. King of plays during this fraction: Felipe Melo, who with smart ball control and great dribbling skills also showcased a surprisingly strong physique (not exactly common for technical players), and thus actively participated in ball-stealing as well.

Closing down their defence, Slavia slowly got out of their slumber and attempted timid counter-attacks, inspired by the through passes of Jarolim. However, the Czechs could not muster a single shot on target before the half (also thanks to the attentive Viola defense), while in turn their opponents were keeping quite busy. Gilardino, despite never quite stepping into the spotlight, was making himself useful by drawing man-marking attention, and thus allowing Mutu and Santana (well emulated by Vargas and Kuzmanovic) dangerous runs forward. The Romanian striker got his share of chances to increase Fiorentina’s lead, but failed to hit the target perhaps due to a lack of concentration. The half thus came to a close with Fiorentina in the lead by one.

GILARDINO-MUSIC. In the second period, the home team stepped back onto the field with the same fighting spirit, a sign that they were not content with a single goal. Just 3 minutes after the restart (yes, 3 minutes again!) the Czech keeper almost lost a finger, as he parried away a cannonball free-kick by Vargas, which prompted Slavia to further entrench themselves into their own box. Set pieces seemed to be the only way to break down the Czech defensive wall, and indeed so it happened in minute 58, as Alberto Gilardino put his full goal-poaching skills into action and he headed the ball past vaniek, following a rather confusing aerial deflection in the box. 2-0 Fiorentina, and violin-time for Gila.

With 30 minutes left, Prandelli decided to play the ball possession card and substituted Vargas with Sergio Almiron (on loan from Juve), followed shortly after by Osvaldo and Pazzini (on for Mutu and Gilardino). Fiorentina then coolly controlled the game until Mr. Webb’s final whistle, aided in their efforts by a rather bleak and uninspired Slavia side, obviously still under shock from the early goal. It will undoubtedly be another game on August 27 in Prague, but there is no doubt that Fiorentina made an important step towards UCL qualification tonight.

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 ACF Fiorentina
FIORENTINA-SLAVIA PRAGUE
2-0
[Match Highlights]
Slavia Praha
GOALSCORERS: 3’ Mutu (F), 58’ Gilardino (F)
FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey – Zauri, Dainelli, Kroldrup, Vargas (64’ Almirón) – Kuzmanovic, Felipe Melo, Gobbi – Santana, Gilardino (76’ Pazzini), Mutu (76’ Osvaldo) (bench: Storari, Donadel, Jovetic, Pasqual). Coach: Prandelli.
SLAVIA PRAGUE (4-5-1): Vaniak – Suchy, Latka, Brabec, Hubacek – Janda (74’ Krajcic), Taveres, Gebre Selassie (53’Belaid), M.Jarolim (61’ Necid), Svento – Senkerik. (bench: Divis, Toleski, Jablonsky, Cerny). Coach: K.Jarolim.

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Top 10 Flops of Euro 2008

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Top 10 Flops of Euro 2008

Luca Toni‘s topping the charts again… only this time, it isn’t very flattering. English tabloid The Sun just dished out another Top 10 list, regrouping the “Biggest flops” of this Summer’s Euro championship tournament. The Italy striker tops the list, despite receiving a pat on the back from Bayern Munich chairman Karl Heinz Rummenigge.

It’s not [Toni's] fault if things didn’t go well, it’s Italy’s” said Rummenigge. “He was only served well in the game against France, he made mistakes but also won the penalty which changed the match. Against Spain he was very criticised, injustly: I did not see a single good pass played to him in that game to even have a chance of scoring. He was all alone, and he was missing Pirlo.” Still not enough for The Sun writers, and who can blame them? Going from 40 goals in his first season with Bayern to zero goals at Euro 2008 surely deserves some criticism…

Number 2 in the list is Chelsea and Czech Republic keeper Petr Cech, earning the spot thanks to his less-than-stellar performance vs. Turkey (Nihat Kahveci is still saying thank you). Completing the podium we find Barcelona and France defender Eric Abidal, who caused the penalty kick against Toni in the match vs. Italy, and the resulting red card that virtually cleared the road for the Azzurri’s victory.

In 4th spot, title holders Greece (knocked out in the first round), followed by Thierry Henry (“the man whose star continues to fade“) and Mario Gomez (“[Germany] were effectively playing with 10 men for their three group games“). At 7th spot are host countries Austria & Switzerland, for getting knocked out in the group stage “and barely raising a cheer from their own fans“.

Completing the “best of the worst” list, Fiorentina and Romania striker Adrian Mutu (who probably still hasn’t swallowed Buffon’s PK save), France’s Karim Benzema (a “wonderkid that failed to impress”) and the host TV broadcaster (for the power outage during the Germany-Turkey semi-final).

Here’s the full list with captions from The Sun article:
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TV static Nº10: The Host Broadcaster
A massive electrical storm in Vienna saw Germany’s thrilling showdown with Turkey ruined for millions of armchair fans. At least 10 minutes of the rollercoaster semi-final was lost in the TV coverage, including Miroslav Klose’s goal.

Nº9: Karim Benzema French forward Karim Benzema reacts at the end of the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match France vs. Italy on June 17, 2008 at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich . Italy won 2-0. (AFP/Getty Images)
The France striker went into the tournament with a growing reputation as his country’s wonderkid. Fans were told he was the hottest property outside Italy, Spain and England. But Benzema failed to impress during his two dismal displays for the hopeless French.

Romanian forward Adrian Mutu is pictured during the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match Netherlands vs. Romania on June 17, 2008 at the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf in Bern. (AFP/Getty Images) Nº8: Adrian Mutu
The former Chelsea striker was tipped to pull up trees with underdogs Romania. And with a penalty against Italy, he was one kick away from sending his side into the quarter-finals. But Mutu fluffed his effort and Romania later tumbled out against Holland.

Nº7: The Co-Hosts Host countries Austria and Switzerland
Austria and Switzerland were both among the first seeds for the tournament as the host nations but they barely raised a cheer for their own fans. Austria bowed out with a single draw, while Switzerland’s only points came against Portugal in a dead rubber following their own elimination.

German forward Mario Gomez (back) lays on the field next to teammate German defender Clemens Fritz during their Euro 2008 Championships Group B football match Germany vs. Poland on June 8, 2008 at Woerthersee stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria. (AFP/Getty Images) Nº6: Mario Gomez
Germany’s route to the final was no mean feat — especially when you consider they were effectively playing with 10 men for their three group games. Gomez contributed next to nothing, with boss Joachim Low seeing sense in the quarter-finals to finally drop him.

Nº5: Thierry Henry French forward Thierry Henry reacts after missing a goal opportunity during the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match France vs. Italy on June 17, 2008 at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich . Italy won 2-0. (AFP/Getty Images)
The man whose star continues to fade must take some of the stick for France’s disjointed campaign this month. Henry’s goal against Holland masked an ineffective showing, with his deflection against Italy condemning his side to an early exit from the group stages.

German coach of the Greek national football team Otto Rehhagel gestures during the Euro 2008 Championships Group D football match Greece vs. Spain on June 18, 2008 at the Wals-Siezenheim stadium in Salzburg. (AFP/Getty Images) Nº4: Greece
It seems a bit harsh for the surprise winners of Euro 2004 to be here but defeat in all three group games was truly woeful. And Greece’s arch-rivals Turkey rubbed the defending champions’ noses in it by reaching the semi-finals with a series of thrilling comebacks.

Nº3: Eric Abidal Slovak referee Michel L'ubos (L) hands a red card to French defender Eric Abidal (C) next to midfielder teammate Claude Makelele (R) during the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match France vs. Italy on June 17, 2008 at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich. (AFP/Getty Images)
Playing the world champions in a win-or-bust final group game is never easy, yet France did not help themselves. When defender Abidal chopped down Italy’s Luca Toni for a first-half penalty and straight red card, it was au revoir Les Bleus.

Czech Republic's goalkeeper Petr Cech reacts after their Group A Euro 2008 soccer match defeat to Turkey at Stade de Geneve stadium in Geneva June 15, 2008. (REUTERS) Nº2: Petr Cech
Leading 2-1 against Turkey with just two minutes left, Czech Republic had one foot in the quarter-finals— until Cech’s howler. The Chelsea keeper horribly fluffed a routine cross for the equaliser, before an injury-time winner sent his side packing.

Nº1: Luca Toni Italian forward Luca Toni heads for the ball during the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match France vs. Italy on June 17, 2008 at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich. (AFP/Getty Images)
The Italian hotshot came to the finals on the back of a golden season with Bayern Munich, notching 31 goals in the Bundesliga. But Toni endured a dreadful tournament, missing countless chances as well as looking like a man running through treacle.

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Agree with the list? Tell us what you think below.

Euro 2008: Italy 1-1 Romania – Azzurri Hopes Now Hanging by a Thread…

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Italy 1-1 Romania. The Azzurri ain’t out of Euro 2008 just yet, but there’s not much keeping them in. Their defence is still shaky, the midfield looked a little better but quickly ran out of ideas (especially Pirlo), and Luca Toni still cruelly remains goalless. Well… to be honest he did score today, but the refereeing team once again decided Italy should get the shaft.

So it all comes down to Italy vs. France on Tuesday. Or does it? Les Bleus just got trashed by Netherlands 4-1 in the second match today (probably time to start taking the Oranje seriously folks), which not only means that Holland are through to the next round, but that if Romania beat them on day 3 Italy and France can pack their bags. Who would have thought that out of the 4 teams present in the “Group of Death”, those on the brink of elimination would precisely be the two 2006 World Cup finalists.

The world is upside down, and anyone wearing a blue shirt isn’t smiling.

(From Gazzetta): Some people are miracle workers, Gigi Buffon is one of them. The Azzurri keeper is essentially the only reason Italy are still in this tournament, deflecting Mutu’s penalty kick in minute 80. The real miracle of the day however, which should have been the Euro Pass ball (which Adidas are so proud of) drilling into Bogdan Lobont’s goal, did not come true today. Italy drew 1-1 against Romania (goals from Mutu and Panucci) creating a lot of questions about their future in Euro 2008.

Tactically, Roberto Donadoni’s pre-announced changes began with Del Piero, Grosso, Chiellini, Perrotta and De Rossi in the starting eleven. A new strategy from the Italian coach (as common sense would have dictated after the catastrophic display vs. Netherlands) but seen as a contradiction by some (Gazzetta in particular). Indeed, the Don was taking a risk today by selecting two strikers and a trequartista (Camoranesi), which wasn’t exactly familiar territory for Italy. However, if there was a time for Donadoni to be daring that time was now.

The Azzurri started the game with nerve, determination and energy. 9 minutes into the game, Alessandro Del Piero (wearing the anticipated captain’s armband) found himself of the receiving end of a header in great position, but Romanian defender Dorin Goian was in the right place at the right time, deflecting behind the goal. On the left wing, where Fabio Grosso seemed to be looking in WC2006-form (and better!), danger was always lurking for Romania. One really has to wonder why Donadoni waited until game 2 to make old Fabio a starter.

Nevertheless as much things were looking better in the offensive zone, Fabio Cannavaro’s ghost was still lurking in the Italian defense. On their first real run forward, Romania almost opened the score but Adrian Mutu’s left-footed blast (after a slip by Panucci allowed the Fiorentina striker through on goal) found the ready hands of “Super Gigi” Buffon. In minute 18, Italy’s nº1 got to work again by deflecting Christian Tamas’s long-range free kick. 20 minutes into the half: no shots for Italy and two dangerous chances for Romania. Make that three actually, as Cristian Chivu’s free-kick found the head of David Niculae and the deflection of Panucci… straight onto the post. Zambrotta cleared the ball as everyone wearing a blue shirt held their breath.

Italy were not looking good. A wobbly defence, a midfield having a tough time containing Chivu and Radoi’s physical presence, and Luca Toni still unable to hit the target: 27 minutes in, the Bayern giant honed his aim and narrowly missed the post. Still very far from perfection. What made matters even worse, was the incredible ease with which Piturca’s men were given opportunity to take shots (Răzvan Raţ grazing the post in minute 29). With the pace of the game increasing, Romania were exhibiting an optimal organizational scheme while the Azzurri sometimes looked like they were improvising: no connection in midfield (crucially missing a reference point) and lots of lost balls.

In the 39th minute however, Italy finally created some real thrills. Straight from a corner kick, Toni’s header forced ex-Viola teammate Lobont to make a spectacular save. Finally some fighting spirit!. Pushing harder and managing to unhinge the organized Romanian defence, the Azzurri finally found the back of the net shortly before the half: a looping pass forward found Luca Toni unmarked and this time Lobont could not stop Luca’s header. Giving him a hand however was the linesman, disallowing the goal for an (inexistent) offside.

In the second period Italy immediately began pressing, but danger kept lurking close to Italy’s box in the name of Mutu: in minute 54, the Romania striker forced Buffon to put his skills to the test and save his low drive. A warning sign. Just a minute later, hara-kiri for Italy: trying to intercept a Romanian cross, Gianluca Zambrotta attempted a dangerous backpass header to Buffon, without noticing Adrian Mutu slipping behind him. Getting on the ball first, it was little trouble for the Fiorentina striker to beat Buffon and put his country in the lead. 1-0 Romania.

Fortunately for Italy just a minute later, Christian Panucci got to work and put his deadly “danger man of the box” skills to work: Pirlo corner, redirected header by Chiellini, winning tap-in by the Roma defender. Woo-ha. 1-1.

More importantly, the Azzurri now had a little momentum on their side: time for Donadoni to play the Antonio Cassano card (on for Perrotta). On his part, coah Victor Piturca ordered his Tricolorii to fall back, tighten the D line around the box, and operate on counters (something which Mutu & friends are starting to get really good at). A good strategy, especially when you have a in-form keeper like Bogdan Lobont, able to deny Daniele De Rossi a great diving header after a lay-up by Toni. It was minute 75.

A few minutes passed, a tired Del Piero left his place to Fabio Quagliarella (Mr. opportunity) but with little effect. Instead, it was once again Romania creating danger on the other end. Minute 80, short corner played by Mutu, receiving the return pass & instantaneous cross for Daniel Niculae. Battling for the ball with Panucci, the Romanian striker fell to the ground: Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo pointed to the spot. Adrian Mutu vs. Buffon… shot in the middle… SUPER GIGI!!!! Hand save, foot save in quick succession, and the ball was cleared! Heart-attack time for Azzurri fans, and ten more minutes left to play that resulted in nothing.

The final whistle gives Italy its first point at Euro 2008, leaving them no other choice than to beat France on Tuesday. Even that may yet not be enough though. One can only hope that after scoring 3 vs. the Azzurri and 4 vs. Les Bleus, Netherlands will do the same vs. Romania. But did I mention they are already through to the quarter-finals and will almost surely play their B team?

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 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio ITALY-ROMANIA
1-1
[Match Highlights]
GOALSCORERS: 10’ Mutu (R), 56’ Panucci (I)
ITALY (4-3-1-2): Buffon – Zambrotta, Panucci, Chiellini, Grosso – Pirlo, De Rossi, Perrotta (58’ Cassano) – Camoranesi (85’ Ambrosini) – Toni, Del Piero (77’ Quagliarella). (bench: Amelia, De Sanctis, Gamberini, Barzagli, Materazzi, Gattuso, Aquilani, Borriello, Di Natale). Coach: Donadoni
ROMANIA (4-4-1-1): Lobont – Contra, Tamas, Goian, Rat – Radoi (25’ Dica), Petre (60’ Nicolita), Codrea, Chivu – Mutu (88’ Cocis) – D.Niculae. (bench: Popa, Stancioiu, Marica, Sapunaru, Ghinea, Moti, M.Niculae, Cristea, Dica, Radu). Coach: Piturca.

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Highligts Rumänien-Italien – MyVideo
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Euro 2008 – Italy vs. Romania Preview: Time for the Azzurri to Bounce Back

Friday, June 13th, 2008

DUN-DUN-DUN-DUUUUN, the time has come.

Can you image the notes of Beethoven’s 5th in your head? Here I’ll help you. The choice of music is appropriate I think for Italy, who at 18:00 Central European Time Friday will play for their Euro 2008 future against Romania.

To quote RomaChris’s match preview:


One major tournament game into the soon to be finished Roberto Donadoni Era, we’re already watching the team enter the land of no return: at the absolute worst they have to take a point or else it’s curtains. Lose the game and this will be the worst performance in House of Savoy blue ever. Ever. Much less coming off a World Cup title. Never has an Azzurri team lost the first two games of a major tournament; the last time they lost twice in the group stages was 1966. We may all have short and unpleasant memories of Monday, but this game has potentially historic implications. Safe to say, not a single player on this team wants a part of that infamy. Will it translate? Wait and see.

(…) This squad will have to win for that little thing that they’re so privileged to be able to wear, that “little” logo you see over there to the left. The one adorned with four golden stars, marking four golden teams made of champions. Time to play, coach and compete like they deserve to wear such a historic shirt.

In common Italian vernacular: è l’ora di tirar fuori le palle. It’s “DO or DIE” time.

Pre-Match Statistics

8 years have passed since the first Italy vs. Romania encounter at a European Championship (Euro 2008 Quarter-Finals, June 24, Bruxelles). On that day, the Azzurri won 2-0 (goals by Totti and Inzaghi) to advance to the semi-finals. The remaining 13 other confrontations (4 Euro qualifiers, 2 World Cup qualifiers, 7 friendly matches) see Italy as clear favorites with a total of 10 wins, 2 draws, and only 2 losses. The goal difference in all those matches is 24-10 in favor of the Azzurri.
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Head-to-head: Italy vs. Romania

Played
Wins
Italy
Draws
Wins
Romania
All Venues
14
10
2
2
In Italy
7
6
1
0
In Romania
6
3
1
2
Neutral
1
1
0
0
Competitive Matches
7
5
1
1
Euro Championship
1
1
0
0

Date
Venue
Match
Result
First match
11 Jun 1939
Bucharest, ROU
Romania – Italy
0-1
Biggest win Italy
07 Oct 2000
Milan, ITA
Italy – Romania
3-0
Biggest win Romania
16 Apr 1983
Bucharest, ROU
Romania – Italy
1-0
29 Mar 1989
Sibiu, ROU
Romania – Italy
1-0
Most goals
17 Jun 1972
Bucharest, ROU
Romania – Italy
3-3
05 Jun 1976
Milan, ITA
Italy – Romania
4-2
Last match
16 Nov 2003
Ancona, ITA
Italy – Romania
1-0

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Italy

 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio

(From La Gazzetta): ZURICH (Switzerland), 12 June 2008 – Alessandro Del Piero will go to sleep tonight relaxed and pumped up. Tomorrow he’ll be on the pitch as part of the starting eleven AND he’ll wearing the team captain’s armband.

It has really been a while since the Juventus forward had any kind of certainty with the Azzurri national team shirt, but Roberto Donadoni revealed it on Thursday. The Don’s words surprised everyone a little, especially after months of speculation, hints and line-up requests from the press that have almost always gone unanswered. However, the coach went all out Thursday afternoon and even added other names.

I will make three or four changes in regards to the line-up I chose against Netherlands. Ale and Giorgio [Chiellini] will be on the pitch,” said Donadoni. “I have to give those who played the most a break”, especially because Friday will be about facing a motivated team with an optimal line-up. “[Romania are] a technical and strong team that defends very well,” added Donadoni, looking to be ready to tackle the world. His eyes made his willingness to win tomorrow fairly evident, perhaps in order to dedicate the win to his critics. Unlike in Bern it will be critical to remain calm and to think straight. “We have ninety minutes to score. We must be patient, dominate the opponent and pace ourselves because a lot of running will be involved.”

As a good Bergamese, the Don plays his cards close to his heart: if an emotion explosion is to take place, he will do it at the right moment. For now, he just confirmed that three or four changes would take place: “I will make my final choice tomorrow morning,” he added, proceeding to explain that the 3-0 still hurts and because of this, the team is eager to win. According to La Repubblica, the formation “hinted” by the Don’s distribution of blue/yellow pinnies on Thursday, is the following:

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Buffon
Zambrotta, Panucci, Chiellini,Grosso
Camoranesi, Pirlo, De Rossi, Perrotta
Toni, Del Piero

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Going back to our opponents however, Romania is not just pace & fitness: the Don is also afraid of the team’s technical ability and this is the reason behind his strategy redesign. Starting from Del Piero: “I see Ale much farther back from the front and more to the middle. What do I expect from Ale? Tomorrow everyone will have to give his best.” In other words, ADP will have to provide the passing, ideas and creativity, players like Luca Toni will have to put the ball into the net.

Donadoni concluded that tomorrow, Italy must play with the will to show the rest of the world we are still the champions, even if the fear is setting in. Fear that, as per Donadoni’s words, is no reason to be ashamed. “Fear” he says, “is not always negative. Being afraid is human, otherwise we would all be robots. No one can be absolutely fearless in certain situations, but some of these feelings must be exploited to the best. A “healthy” fear is okay, but we must avoid the kind of fear that puts you in a slump or slaps cuffs on your wrists”.

However, Donadoni doesn’t charge ahead but doesn’t hang back either, showing a side of him never seen before. “My feeling? I see a vibrant, eager and energetic team. But let’s make one thing clear: this is not an absolute guarantee that we will get the 3 points, because I had the same feeling on the eve of the match against the Netherlands. There’s no mathematical certainty.” The only certainty the Azzurri have for tomorrow, is that a loss will mean it’s time to go gome and a draw will force them to starting packing their bags.

Romania

(From La Repubblica): It Italian there is a saying that goes “Il diavolo non è così brutto quanto come lo si dipinge“, meaning “The Devil isn’t as ugly as one describes it”.

Why on Earth are we talking about Satan for an Italy vs. Romania match preview? Well, “Satan-Piturca” is actually one of the nicknames that Romanian manager Victor Piturca has earned during his career, and not because he has a really creepy laugh or walks with a devil’s fork, but because of the way he dresses (usually always completely black). On top of that though, he’s not exactly an easy-going guy either: just ask the likes of Adrian Mutu, Gabriel Tamaş or Bogdan Lobonţ, who have suffered the coach’s wrath a few times over in the past, for their lack of commitment in certain national team matches. “Those who play with this shirt must stay fully concentrated from kick-off to full time” is one of the coach’s favorite mottos.

Despite this tiny bit creepy introduction, Romania isn’t a “phenomenal” team. Not to be understimated certainly, but not “phenomenal”. “Tough to play against” would perhaps describe the Tricolorii better, and the likes of Mutu, Chivu, Contra, and goalkeeprer Lobont are all testament to the fact experience and weight aren’t lacking in this team. Despite not commonly seen in the spotlight, the Romanians’ strongest capacity seems to being able to close down matches in which they are favorites, and cutting down their opponents’ play for when they are underdogs. For Friday’s match in particular, coach Piturca has a special plan in mind to tie down Alex Del Piero. “He is a very dangerous player” says the manager “and we will have a strategy to block him“.

Perhaps the same kind of strategy Romania used against France, unanimously voted as the most ugly Euro 2008 match so far. On that day, Piturca was ready to sacrifice offensive prowess to the benefit of denfensive solidity, switching his usual 4-3-3 formation to a 4-4-2 (much to the detriment of Adrian Mutu’s abilities).

Here’s how Romania played against France:

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Lobont
Contra, Tamas, Goian, Rat
Cocis, Radoi, Chivu
Nicolita, D.Niculae, Mutu

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Speaking of Mutu, the Fiorentina forward didn’t get to Euro 2008 in the best condition, despite an excellent season with La Viola. “He has had a big loss in the family and still has a few salary problems to sort out with Chelsea. He needs to play in order to find his best form“.

Mutu however, will the least of Italy’s problems for Friday’s match. Indeed, the biggest worry for Roberto Donadoni should come from the thick defensive lining exhibited by the Romanian team, who in the Euro qualifiers conceded only 7 goals in 12 matches. Piturca still maintains Italy are clear favorites for the match however. “They are the world champions and thus favorites. It’s normal that a lot is expected from them, but I do not believe they will simply attack with their heads down.”

Inter defender Cristian Chivu (who plays central midfield for his national team) agrees. “Everyone said Romania would rank last in their group, but you’ll see that it will be difficult beating us.” And unlike Italy, Romania have the luxury of being content with a draw. “A draw would suit us well” adds Chivu. “The Italians will be under the most pressure because they must absolutely win Friday’s match.”

Has anyone told Chivu that, due to their inexplicable tendency to make life complicated, Italy plays best with their back against the wall?
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Italy vs. Romania, kick-off time 18:00 CET
“In Donadoni We Trust”

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FORZA AZZURRI

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