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Headlines to forget

Tuttosport has defended its decision to print a headline featuring a pun on Mario Balotelli’s skin colour after it came in for criticism from an anti-racism group.

Over a photo of Balotelli celebrating his second goal for Italy against Germany in the European Championship semi-final on Thursday night, the newspaper ran the headline “Li Abbiamo Fatti Neri”, which translates as “We have made them black”.

Gianni De Pace, the assistant editor, said it referred to a slang expression meaning to bruise, literally to make someone black and blue, but also to Balotelli’s skin colour.

“It was a reference to him being black, but it is just a pun,” he said. “It was also because when he took his shirt off he looked like a boxer who bruises opponents.”

Here’s a spade Gianni, keep on digging.

“There are three sporting newspapers in Italy and we have to make an impression with language which has an impact, but no one in Italy will have seen this as racist,” he added in mitogation.

The headline comes just a couple of days after fellow Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Italia, apologised for a cartoon which showed Balotelli depicted as King Kong sitting atop Big Ben

You can picture the scene in the Tuttosport newsroom, when they were trying to come up with a headline for today’s front page and some bright spark having his eurkeka! moment. ‘Tell you what, let’s go with the black theme, can’t imagine there’s anyone who would be offended by that.’

That there are idiots in the world of journalism goes without saying; that no one thought to point out the idiocy of this headline, is rather alarming.

Job is safe, for the time being

Inevitably, given the levels of expectation in Germany, questions are being asked about the future of Low.

Wolfgang Niersbach, the DFB president, spoke to the coach on Friday morning, assuring him that his job was safe after a run of 15 successive victories came to an end.

“Joachim, you have done a superb job and we are extremely happy to have you as our coach,” said Niersbach at the German team hotel. “The path of this team is long from over … it is a young team overflowing with talent.”

Low said his side will learn from their experiences in Poland and Ukraine and will be a stronger force in the future.

“There is absolutely no reason to question everything now,” said Löw. “We were the youngest team in the tournament. We won all our games in a tough group. The team will stomach this defeat as well and continue to develop.”

Meanwhile, back in Germany, there was a sense of shock and dismay that Germany had been eliminated. Given that 75 per cent of the population expected Germany to win, this must have been one of those ‘where were you when Kennedy was shot’ moments.

“I can’t believe this crap,” said Sonya Wedlich, a physical therapist whose face was painted in German colours. “It makes me ill to lose to Italy again. Everything was going so well until tonight. I’ve got to get out of here.”

Makes you ill? Come on now. Physcial therapist, heal thyself.

“Germany can’t lose – it’s just not possible,” moaned Gina Pusche, a student, who was one of an estimated 400,000 to watch the game at Berlin’s fan zone.

The 20-year-old was just four the last time Germany won anything so you would have thought that she’d have got used to it by now.

Press gang

While Mario Balotelli continues to confound his critics, the country’s media is having to play catch up and acknowledge that there is more to the player than a series of personal mishaps and a black skin.

La Repubblica salutes the Azzurri’s performance, their best of the tournament so far, and says on its front page: “The perfect game, Azzurri in the final: The magical night of super Mario.”

“Germany defeated again with a superb Balotelli.” trumpets Il Messagero.

Many newspapers could not resist the temptation to evoke the comparison between the football and political and economic problems currently besetting Europe.

Il Giornale’s front-page headline crudely states “Bye bye, fat ass”.

“It’s not Monti but Balotelli, who with a brace destroys Germany and sends us into the final. Mrs Merkel, it’s you who is leaving the Euro.”

The sense of euphoria sweeping Italy on the back of last night’s win was best captured by Mario Sconcerti, writing in Corriere Della Serra, possibly under the influence of Prozac.

“Describing the game as “perhaps Italy’s finest performance since the war”, Sconcerti then goes into hyperbolic overdrive.

“We played as if giving freedom to the talented midfielders and two diverse attackers came naturally to us,” he enthused. “Now losing to Spain would be a massive pain. We do not deserve it. The Spanish play, but we are inventing a new European football. It is our time.”

In Germany, by contrast, the mood was sombre, especially so given the level of optimism that had accompanied Joachim Low’s team to the finals.

Morgenpost devote their front page to a picture of Balotelli and the single word “nightmare”.

“Gone! Gone! The dream is gone!” laments Bild. “Again no great German victory. Again, no title,” they report. “The last one we won was in 1996, 16 years ago.” Sixteen years? Our heart bleeds. Come back in half a century and we might give you some sympathy. Anyway, we digress.

Bild wastes little time identifying scapegoats and singles out Lukas Podolski, Mario Gomez as two players whose time has been and gone. Or in Gomez’s case, never arrived.

“And once again we lose to the Italians. The fact remains: in a tournament, we cannot beat them,” they continue. “And our beautiful run of 15 competitive victories is broken. Oh, how bitter it tastes! Jogi, where were was your golden touch this time? Löw gambles, but what worked so well against Greece was wildly off the mark against Italy. Gomes and Podolski are total failures, and both need to be frozen out in the near future. Against Italy our Ozil tornado was just a gentle breeze – and the rest was not up to much. Schweinsteiger is an example – he has been nowhere near his World Cup form, and when it mattered he was very poor.”

Die Welt insist “the script of the defeat carries Low’s handwriting”. “He chose the wrong tactics and the result was this bitter elimination.”

Team of the tournament

The latest Castrol EDGE Index ratings make for interesting reading.

The ratings have been updated since the conclusion of the semi finals, although, they do not appear to reflect what actually happened in those matches.

For instance, despite an underwhelming display against Spain, Cristiano Ronaldo retains his status as the top ranked player at Euro 2012. Whereas, Andre Pirlo, generally acknowledged by all impartial observers to be the player of the tournament, languishes in 21st spot behind such luminaries as Davi Silva and John Terry, as well as German midfield pair, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, neither of whom got near him last night.

There are six Spaniards in the top ten, two from Italy, Mario Balotelli and Claudio Marchisio, and the list is completed by Portuguese defender Pepe.

To view the complete list of all the players involved at Euro 2012, click here.

On their best behaviour?

Apparently, not one England fan was arrested in Ukraine over the course of Euro 2012, although judging by a report in the Kyiv Post, that statistic may well have been down to lax local policing rather than good behaviour.

“There have been no arrests of England fans I am pleased to say. We have worked very hard with both the embassy and consular services and are very happy,” said assistant chief constable Andy Holt, a monitor who travelled with the England contingent.

However, looking at this piece, it would appear that while the Dutch and Swedish supporters endeared themselves to their Ukraine hosts, the English fans were on occasion, drunken, boorish and violent.

There were alarmist warnings issues beforehand about the possibility of England fans returning home in a coffin, and judging by accounts of their behaviour, it would appear that many, perhaps mindful of the threat to their safety, travelled with an outwardly aggressive demeanour.

Then again, these being England fans, I’m probably giving them far too much credit.

Words come back to haunt him

On the eve of their Euro 2012 semi final against Italy, Germany captain, Phillip Lahm, was scathing about Italy’s inability to finish off England.

“We watched the game at our hotel and England were comprehensively outplayed, ” he said. “It should never have reached penalties. The Italians only had themselves to blame for allowing the game to reach that point. They were very wasteful in front of goal. If that had been Germany, we would have put England out of their misery during the 90 minutes.”

Pride does indeed come before a fall because, as we saw last night, this Germany side is hardly infallible.

“This is very bitter,” he said. ” .

”But we weren’t clever enough.

 It is a very, very bitter defeat. We made dumb errors and conceded our goals. It is bitter because our team have so much potential.”

Indeed they do, but they’ve had that potential since 2006 and six years on, they still have nothing to show for it.

Mmm. Deriving pleasure from the misfortunes of others. I’m sure Germans have a word for that kind of thing.

Quote of the day

“Cristiano Ronaldo demanded the last penalty. I said to the coach I would accept any order.”

Nani lets the cat out of the bag and effectively accuses Ronaldo of lying, when he said it was the coach who decided the order in which the players would take their penalties in Wednesday’s shootout defeat to Spain.

Goal of the day

There can only be one contender and it’s Mario Balotelli’s second in Italy’s 2-1 win over Germany last night.

Goalkeepers are different

While his team mates milked the applause, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon stormed off the pitch with a look of thunder on his face.

It seemed a strange reaction after Italy’s finest performance in the past 6 years, but it perhaps indicated that here was someone not prepared to rest on his laurels.

Buffon, a World Cup winner in 2006, explained his reaction to Italy’s victory over Germany.

“We are playing for something unique and totally prestigious, so it’s not right with the performance we put in to risk it in the last five minutes and play with fire,” he said. “If they had scored with a lucky ricochet for 2-2, we’d end up losing in extra time 9-2.

“We are playing in the Euros here and cannot take it lightly. I always evaluate performances and attitudes rather than strictly wins or losses. We are still young, apart from a few old men in the squad, and need to learn. It’s only right for the old men to tell them off and stir up trouble. We played a great game and could’ve won with a larger result, but there were times when we were even and made the most of incidents. It doesn’t take much to change a match. It went well for us.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of attitude that will make make you few friends within your own dressing room, but make you very popular with your fellow countrymen.

Here’s Buffon storming off the pitch.

Finally…

There was a critical summit meeting in Brussels last night during which EU leaders attempted to thrash out some kind of agreement to stabilise the economies of the Eurozone.

The stakes were high, indeed, the future of the euro itself was at stake as the respective leaders attempted to end months of discord by reaching consensus on a path forward for Europe.

So with so much on the line, what dod the leaders of Europe do? They did what any self respecting person would do in their circumstances, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italy Prime Minister Mario Monti, and the other leaders smuggled in iPads to watch Italy beat Germany 2-1 in the Euro 2012 semi-final, according to the Sun.

The euro? That’s a lame duck currency anyway, might as well enjoy the football while we still can.

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