WHITHER Italy? What price Marcello Lippi? After that crushing 3-0 defeat by Brazil, he can hardly put up the lame kind of excuse he did when the Azzurri in the Confederations Cup lost 1-0 to Egypt. Viz: that his team didn’t take account of his instructions in the first half. And the Egyptian bubble well and truly burst in their final match, after impressive shows in their opening two matches, having lost only 4-3 to the Brazilians on a last ditch penalty seemingly awarded on the basis of what was seen on a monitor. The USA, which had hardly distinguished itself till then, brushed the Egyptians aside 3-0, Fulham’s excellent Clint Dempsey getting the third goal.
It has been a baffling, unpredictable competition. Hardly the ideal way for Fabio Cannavaro, Italy’s World Cup winning captain, to achieve 126 caps and thus equal the record established by Paolo Maldini. Who may nor may not be coming in the wake of Carlo Ancelotti. Ray Wilkins, who may have some interest in the matter, being at The Bridge as potential assistant, and Italian speaker, to Ancelotti, says that he believes Maldini after retiring in splendour would prefer to rest.
Meanwhile the Azzurri seem to be falling apart. It’s not as if they sent a weakened squad to South Africa. The likes of Luca Toni, Giuseppe Rossi, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alberto Gilardino were all available for the attack. Gigi Buffon was in goal. Could Italy’s World Cup qualification even be menaced now that the team seems to be in free fall? How distant seem the days of catenaccio, with its implacable sweeper and concomitant breakaway tactics. Italy, in those remote times, were often not a pretty sight, but they were awfully hard to score against. In the rout against the United States, it seemed at times almost as if they were waving the opposition through.
Rich revenge for the inspired Americans, for their unlucky defeat by the Italians in the last World Cup.
MY old friend Bora Milutinovic once again – in the latest of his infinite managerial guises – deployed a team, in the shape of Iraq, which refused to give away goals. Unfortunately it also couldn’t score them. A 1-0 defeat by Spain which could easily have been a draw, a 0-0 draw with South Africa when two key forwards were rested, and when all seemed plain sailing in the third match with modest New Zealand, lo and behold, special satisfaction for the USA coach Bradley; his son scored one of the goals against flaccid Italy. This by the way was the only game in their group the USA won, having lost the first two, but the bizarre rules of the competition allowed them to qualify.
WHO would envy Jim Magilton, newly made manager of Queens Park Rangers? One fervently hopes that he will last longer than his predecessors. My own view was that a couple of seasons back Italian Luigi Di Canio was doing a decent job of reviving a then struggling team, but he didn’t stay and perhaps he wanted to return to Italy.
Next up, Ian Dowie which seemed an odd appointment, given his recent ups and downs. Walking away from Crystal Palace asserting he needed to join his family up in the North, then joining next door Charlton Athletic where he lasted little time as indeed he did at Coventry. He wasn’t very long at Shepherds Bush either, where Flavio Briatore, an F1 figure known also for his prowess in the fashion field, hardly, as chairman, stays in the background.
In next came Paulo Sousa, once such a star for Portugal, with to be fair no more than modest results. The revolving door spun again when he was accused of unacceptable behaviour, allegedly because he had revealed that the loan of his striker Blackstock to Nottingham Forest was against his wishes. It hardly seemed a cardinal crime. Now here’s Magilton, once an effective Northern Ireland midfielder, not long since jettisoned by Ipswich Town, “guilty,” it seemed of not getting them back into the Premier League.
How long will he last? And when will QPR begin to splash out the big money – Mittal, Ecclestone – which is presumed to be behind them?