As fears of Italy possibly being the next casualty of Europe’s financial crisis grew, a few of her countrymen took to the field as they faced an broken but fearless Irish side.
Certainly, that image of the 2006 World Cup Champions was the one that reserved my thought as the four-time World Cup winners and one-time European Champions took to the field, where they determinedly overcame the Irish to reach the quarterfinals.
I cannot express on how popular the Irish may be in the footballing world but I think we all know by now, how admired the Italians are for the way they play football. In case there was any doubt, today’s game came down to this: Them walking through fire to progress.
And fire it was, as it always seems like they are cursed with bad omen in football. The Italians have become habituated with stories of match fixing, betting, and corruption. And just when they thought it was all over, on the day of their opening fixture against Spain, few members of the national team were reported to be involved in a betting scandal, one of them being first choice keeper – Gigi Buffon.
The Italians coming off simultaneous draws against their last two oppositions needed a win to qualify and hence, entered today’s contest with a sense of realizing the path to glory. The celebration on hearing that Spain had won their game against Croatia said it all.
The Irish looked positive from the start forcing Italy to defend. The latter viewed to be trying so hard as the kept forcing the ball with their erroneous passes. It was just senseless; the way they were giving the ball away.
In a game, that was nothing but lackluster to the eye, only two players stood apart. One of them was Di Natale, also known as Toto, who looked very active, running and working hard on the offensive end as he always does. Then there was Andrea Pirlo, as it was his perfect delivery to Cassano that led to the first goal. Quite frankly, not a lot of players exist today who is as silky as he is when it comes to the quality of passes.
The only brilliance to come out in second half was the spectacular effort that Balotelli came up with. We all know there are only two versions of Balotelli when he takes to the pitch. In this case, it was his positive side that showed up again, as he managed to steer a difficult ball into the goal while having his shirt pulled and facing the Italian goal. That, my friends, cannot be learned. It was his natural ability, which we were blessed to witness today.
As for now, for a limited period of time, the recurring banter on the scandals that have hit Italian football will be lost in discussion.
Saying it again, in another truism: This was the battle not only for their progression but to redeem the honor of the many Italians that had devoted their life towards the sport. Today, we witnessed a fight that may come to define them as an outsider in the path to winning the Championship, not that of an expected one but definitely, a persistent one.