World Cup fact: No European country has ever won the World Cup when the tournament was held outside of Europe.
Here's the thing about that fact: you read it and understand it, but sort of think its a fluke or a coincidence or something. Not something that you would take seriously and take into consideration when making World Cup predictions. But apparently it's legit. What European team has played well thus far in the Cup? The Netherlands. And that's about it. Both Germany and England barely qualified for the second round. Spain, the favorites, have yet to qualify and are in a win or go home situation. Sure, Portugal won 7-0 the other day, but it was against North Korea. We can talk more Portugal tomorrow after they play Brazil. France bowed out in the most embarrassing way possible. And now Italy is done.
So here are my Italy thoughts:
1. Italy's style, or modo if you will, is to play defense and look for the counterattack. They are very proud of their strong and impenetrable defense. Which is fine. I think it's incredibly boring and can hardly stand it, but to each their own. But the Italian defense was TERRIBLE this World Cup. In all three games their defense gave up early goals. Italy was playing from behind the entire cup. This modo only works if you have 1. a good defense; and 2. good forwards. Someone like Roberto Baggio that can singlehandely win games for you (or lose games depending on how you look at it). It's somewhat ironic that the thing that helped Italy win the World Cup four years ago, was actually their biggest weakness in this Cup.
2. Frankly, they don't deserve to move on. I realize that is obvious since they aren't moving on and because they failed at their own game. But Italy is better than what they gave us. Not much better, but better. I don't mean any offense to Paraguay, Slovenia and New Zealand, but if you can't beat any of those teams, you don't deserve to play more than 3 games in the Cup. I know no team is a push-over, but you have to do better if you have veteran players and are the defending champions. Really no excuse.
3. Come on coach, shake his hand. This happened with France as well. The head coaches of both Italy and France didn't shake the hands of the opposing coaches after their teams lost and were eliminated from the Cup. Maybe not that big of a deal and maybe coaches never shake hands in the World Cup, but I'm pretty sure they do. It's not the opposing coaches fault that your team completely self-destructed or that your team didn't start playing with urgency until after they were down in each game. In fact, it's your fault. So shake his hand. Give him kisses or whatever it is you do over there. Might as well keep good relations with other coaches. They are the ones that are still going to be employed.
4. Combining all of the above 3 points, this is why I was frustrated by Italy this World Cup. Coming into the Cup, I don't care for them because I think they are boring. The best thing to happen in any Italy game is for the opposing side to score first. Because then Italy decides to play offense and it gets exciting. Which is what happened in all three games. Suddenly, I find myself rooting for Italy because they are now the underdog. But then I think, "wait a minute. They should be better than this. They shouldn't be losing to New Zealand, or even Slovakia." So then I go back to rooting for New Zealand and Slovakia because they are actually the true underdogs. But Italy played so well against Slovakia today and really played like a quality team, well, they did for the last 10 minutes until their "shut down" defense gave up yet another late goal. But they finally showed heart and grit, which made them likable. When Slovakia started stalling at the end of the game I was sort of upset at Slovakia. Even though Italy created and perfected the art of faking injuries or fouls and stalling in games.
For instance, in the video below, after Italy finally scores a goal and are now only down 2-1, one of the Italian players runs into the goal to try and get the ball to run it back to the midfield so that they can quickly start the game again. There is some sort of scuffle with the goalie and before you know it, the Italian player is flailing on the ground as if the Slovakia goalie took out a rusted spoon and just scooped out one of his eyes. Granted, the replays show the Slovakia goalie did sort of punch the Italy player, but he barely hit him. And even if he hit you over the head with a bat, you are still down by a goal with only 5 minutes left! Quit moaning in pain and trying to get the ref to give the goalie a yellow card. What good does that do you at this point?!!! You need a goal, not a goalie with a yellow card. Despite the dire circumstances, the Italian doesn't ever pass up the opportunity to embellish a foul. And despite all of this frustrating behavior and even though I can't really stand them, I still sort of wanted them to pull out the last minute victory, which is frustrating.
Regardless of it all, another European power is out. Maybe we should just fore go the rest of the games and just give the Cup to Brazil or Argentina. Or maybe even the US...those Americans sure are sitting pretty right now.