World Cup Profile: Italy
Look at these old men!
Today finds Italy under the spotlight. They were winners last time, they have an average age of about 40, and they take football strategy really seriously. But, underneath it all, who ARE these people? Read on to find out…
Only Brazil have a better World Cup record. Italy have won the tournament four times – in 1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006 – and, yes, they’re the current holders, thanks to some great penalties, and an astonishing headbutt from Zidane. They were unbeaten in their recent qualifiers, and if you fancy them, their odds to win the thing are around 15/1 on Betfair.
Classic World Cup Moment
Beating the great Brazil 82 team was NOT expected. In Brazil, the match still known as the “Sarrias Disaster” – named after the stadium where it all took place…
Buffon will be as essential as ever in goal, but what Italy really need to win the World Cup is goals. Without Toni or Del Piero in the squad, much weight will hang on the shoulders of Alberto Gilardino – their top scorer in the group stages, which included a rather impressive 13 minute hat-trick against Cyprus. His Golden Boot odds are currently 49/1 on Betfair.
Most Intriguing Family Background
What do you get if you cross a discus thrower with a weightlifter? Gianluigi Buffon. Seriously. That’s what his parents did for a living. Then they had sex, and a great goalkeeper was born. Hmm, England need a decent goalkeeper. With that in mind, can someone please arrange for Geoff Capes and Sally Gunnell to go on a date? Tell them it’s important.
Italians don’t really need nicknames, just their actual names are enough. Totti, Pirlo, Toni, Chiellini – how could you possibly improve on these? One man, however, does have a nickname, and that’s the barking hound Gennaro Gattuso, aka Ringhio (Growl) – so called, because he looks like an angry puppy when he plays.
Missing in Action
There are a few notable absentees this year, with Luca Toni, Alessandro Del Piero, and Liverpool’s Alberto Aquilani all left to book a fun-packed summer holiday somewhere nice. The biggest downer, however, will be the tournament’s lack of Totti, who looked set to go after teasing everyone at the beginning of the year, when he said this:
“If Marcello Lippi calls me up, if I am fit and if the group wants me, I will go.”
What a crock!
Strengths and Weaknesses
Historically, the strength of Italian teams boils down to great teamwork and a strong defence, and this one is no different. They grind out results, with their traditional version of chess-meets-football. On the downside, most of their starting players are deep into their 30s, and they lack a playmaker with real sparkle. Hence, they could be very boring to watch.
Current Number One in Italy
Ligabue, Un Colpo All’ Anima
To show your support…
If you really want to show your support for Italy this year, simply lurk outside the pub on a moped watching the game through the window, only occasionally pausing to explain to passing girls exactly how you would ideally make love to them.
Most blatant use of sex to sell football…
No, Martin Keown, this is not. Meet Laura Esposto! Phwoar!
If Lippi were a TV character, he would be…
Captain Mainwaring. It’s impossible to look at the Italian squad without being rather taken aback by how old they are – hence this hilarious Dad’s Army reference. The backline on its own boasts an average age of about 34. In football terms, that’s ridiculous.
The Spoiler Predicts: Well organised, but lack the firepower to really threaten. Quarter finals.