Monday Means Holiday Snaps

Inter in Moscos
I have a confession to make: I’m obsessed with, the official Inter website. And I’m not even that big of an Inter fan! For me, it’s less about the content than it is about the constant pictorial documentation of every move the players make. Seriously — even on the most uneventful of days, there’s an average of three pages full of training photos, at least half of which involve people jogging. Oh, and they also let you know who is with the physio instead of training (in case you’re wondering why, say, Figo hasn’t made his customary appearance in 80% of the images*), who does light work apart from the team, and who turns out for full training. Either there are a lot of people out there who, like me, get a huge kick out of see people like Julio Cruz doing the same drills every JV girls team does, or the people at Inter are obsessed with transparency. Either way, I’m not complaining — particularly when the team is in Moscow, and the photographer is with them. No matter how much he pisses me off, see Materazzi in a fur hat pretty much made my day.

*For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure the photo editor has as big a crush on Figo as I do.


Sunday Means Football: Milan Derby

Milan Derby pic

I’d love to know why The Powers That Be at GolTV decided it was a good idea to have Ray Hudson and Lindsay Dean sit in a studio and record new commentary for Serie A games (games, mind you, that come complete with more than adequate English-language commentary, courtesy of whatever UK satellite company carries the league). Because, honestly, they almost ruin the game. I’m furious with myself for not realizing until after the fact that I could have watched the derby on RAI International, thus saving myself from Hudson’s endless, forced, patently WRONG (he still hasn’t acknowledged that it was Kaka that scored the final goal, not Gilardino) efforts to be clever, and Dean’s sad attempts to stand out in his own right. (Also, Ray? Cafu spends all of every game running up and down the right flank. If it’s heroic, it’s heroic every week. There was nothing remotely unusual about what he was doing on Saturday. Shut. Up.) The game itself was magical — if a bit depressing for the Milan fans among us — and everything you’d want from a derby match. Insane amounts of passion, moments of genius, and (though I may be making this part up) a look in the eyes of the players that made it clear this game was much more important than three simple points.

I mean, how else to explain that Ibra suddenly remembered how to play football? He was a totally different player than last week against Udine — no more of that crashing blindly into defenders and giving the ball away. Instead, he was dropping deep to defending, winning the ball and playing it wide to the flanks. Who is this guy? And when is he going to go away, dammit? And Stankovich was scary good, yet again — not only did he drive the Inter attack (his goal was, as the kids say, SICK), but he also marked Pirlo almost completely out of the game. I don’t know what it is — maybe he’s suddenly found himself, or Mancini is using him the right way, or it’s something he’s eating — but I can’t imagine Inter playing without him in the side right now. Zanetti, as was suggested last week when he moved to the midfield late-on to make way for Maicon, is a quiet wonder. The man can make an impact anywhere on the field, and he does it without a lot of noise and attention-getting display. (Are you watching, Materazzi, you asshole?)

And what of Milan? Sigh. It looked like Inter went out determined to pressure in the midfield and not give Milan any space and, until Materazzi was sent off, it worked. Seedorf (who, I swear to god, can do anything when he puts his mind to it), Pirlo and Kaka were stymied, which almost never happens. Don’t get me wrong — I appreciated the urgency in the second half (which is something you don’t see from Milan very often — like the Serie A version of Juventus, they often are content to keep the ball in a lovely manner, and just wait for a goal — even when they can’t score), but had Materazzi not been sent off, Inter would have had a comfortable victory. Really, apart from the bright spot of Maldini pushing forward on the left and, well, doing everything right as usual, things were fairly grim. I fervently hope I’m wrong, but even had they not been docked the points, I have to say we really can’t expect to see Milan around at the end of the season.

Sunday Means Football: Fiorentina-Palermo

Toni lostRight, that’s it: I’m officially a Palermo fan. I’ve always been drawn to their incongruous pink jerseys and the glorious presence of the ageless (and, I noticed today, disconcertingly Putin-esque) Eugenio Conrini, but this team is just wonderful to watch right now. They’re full of confidence (with good reason) and never seem to doubt, no matter the circumstances, that they can win any given game. It’s interesting to watch them play, because they often seem to be sitting back, just soaking up pressure. Their shape isn’t great — you almost never see clear lines of defenders and midfielders. They’re organized, but often seem to be more into man-marking and just getting the job done than keeping their shape, which is something that usually bugs the hell of out of me. For Palermo, though it works somehow, even when they have those periodic, terrifying scrambles. And then, just when you think they’ll be content with a draw, BAM! — they explode forward with great pace and movement and next thing you know, the ball’s in the back of the net. Something you notice about them right away — particularly when they’re attacking — is how well they seem to understand one another. The midfielders are everywhere, but they rarely cause problems for each other, and they pick out the runs of their strikers miraculously well. (The real test, of course, will be if they still look that way when the goals stop going in. After all, everyone looks good and happy and sharp when teams are winning.)

Other thoughts on the game:

  • If Amauri keeps playing like that, his seemingly idiotic dream of refusing to play for Italy because he wants to make the Brazil side might not be so stupid after all.
  • Mutu is scary good right now.
  • Why do I giggle with glee when Toni misses? I’m a terrible person.

Sunday Means Football: Milan-Palermo


Milan have always been my favorite Italian team, but not to the extent that I flip out when they lose, or hate their rivals. Really, I’m just a sucker for good Italian football, and can even enjoy watching Milan take it on the chin, if the game is a good one. And holy crap did that happen today. Palermo were fantastic: Super-organized, confident, and determined. They sat deep, but not to the extend that they just hoped for a draw and never left their end. Instead, they flew forward when the chances presented themselves, and always looked dangerous. Really, though the first half ended 0-0 with Milan dominating possession, Palermo had the best chances.

But oh, that second half. Palermo scored early, and from that point on the game took fire, as the announcers like to say. End to end, shots hitting the woodwork right and freakin’ left, just thrilling to watch, whether you like the teams or are a complete neutral. In the end, the 2-0 result in no way flattered Palermo — they didn’t dominate, but they knew exactly what they were doing and deserved the win. Plus, my man Corini was his usual solid, ass-kicking self. He’s about 60 now, but I sure as hell hope he doesn’t retire any time soon.

The cherry on top of a great game were the announcers — I have no idea where Gol TV gets their English audio (they may take it from UK satellite TV, or record their own), but watching the game was like listening to my own brain do play by play. Basically, it sounded like two random guys who know a lot about Serie A happened to be talking about it in front of a microphone. I mean, they actually giggled with joy — and more than once. My goal in life now is to find them and watch a game in their company. (Yes, I have simple goals.)

Sunday Means Football: Udinese-Inter

Thoughts on the first half (HT score 0-0):

  • Figo, my love, looks off. Or maybe he just looks that way because I’m used to him never playing a ball wrong — but he’s given it away several times already and played in some dismal crosses, both of which are very unlike him indeed. At least he’s got his looks.
  • Stankovic has really grown on me this season. It wasn’t that I disliked him before, mind you, I was just too stupid to be aware of him. Now, though, I’m suddenly a huge fan — the guy is a deceptively tough worker who never complains.
  • Which brings me to his polar opposite, fucking Ibra. Ok, so he was better in the last few minutes. Still, that doesn’t make up for the fact that he spent fully 40 minutes standing around whining. And, when he wasn’t whining, he was dribbling into trouble and giving the ball away. Remember when this guy was terrifying any time the ball was near him? What the hell happened?
  • Imagine Adriano and Ibra playing together — it would be a riot of self-pity and ineptitude. Actually, I’d pay to see that, if only for mocking purposes.
  • I want to see Julio Cruz in the second half, dammit. Crespo and Ibra are getting nothing done, and Cruz was great at midweek — why not give him a shot? Plus, his cheekbones are much more impressive than those any of the alternatives.

Thoughts on the second half (FT score 0-0):

  • Cruz! Recoba! Granted, they didn’t do much, but anything is better than having to watch Ibra whine.
  • Actually, I’ll admit it: There were a few bright Ibra-moments in the second half. But why does he insist on taking on two or three men on his own, or standing there with the ball while defenders gather? It’s just bizarre, because 98% of the time, he gives the ball away. Plus, he seems incapable of seeing the width of the field. Figo was frequently standing in space on the right, and Ibra honestly didn’t even know he was there — he’d much rather try to jam the ball into traffic, it appears. Sigh.
  • Di Natali is a tiny, tiny, incredibly skilled man. He must be an utter nightmare to play against — you think you can crush him easily, but he’s got so much ability and is so smart that he does what he wants almost all the time. The problem for Udine (at least today) is that he has to come so deep to get the ball and create that Iaquinta is left alone against about four guys up top.
  • I like Maicon. Very much. Plus, he’s only 25 or so, which makes him practically an infant among defenders in the city of Milan.
  • Inter keep the ball so well and so confidently, they’d be a legit threat for the Scudetto even if Juve and Milan hadn’t been dumped and docked points, respectively. Apart from a couple of great changes Figo created for himself, though, the final ball was awful today. That needs fixing. Obviously.