Shameful showing has Italy reeling
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
An Italian soccer fan reacts while watching a live telecast the World Cup match between Italy and Slovakia. (REUTERS/Max Rossi)
DURBAN – It is quickly becoming known in Italy as La Vergogna.
It is an Italian word that cuts people as deeply and quickly as any more pointed profanity or vitriol. Simply, it's The Shame.
It's a word that humbles on delivery, drips off a person like an ill-fitting coat and stays with them like a scarlet letter embedded on someone's cheek.
There are few newspapers, media outlets or commentators that haven't used vergogna overnight as Italy reels in shock after its elimination from the 2010 World Cup in Africa.
"Going home in shame," said Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Shameful Italy," chimed in La Repubblica.
Italy was eventually done in by a 3-2 loss to Slovakia. La Vergogna was far deeper than that loss. Italy finished last in a group that included Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand, a group "a good Third Division team would have given a better battle than Italy did," wrote one newspaper.
The loss to Slovakia was the final blow but in reality, Italy did itself in long before that effort. It tied Paraguay and New Zealand attempting to do what Italy does best, do the minimum early and then explode at the tournament continues. This time there would be no explosion, just implosion.
Throughout, Italy fans and media alike expressed more than shame. They expressed L'orrore (he horror) at the lack of quality, skill and imagination in the Italian style of play.
"One of our ugliest national teams ever, actually, the ugliest ever," said La Repubblica.
This team is being dumped into the same class as Italy's most reviled team, the 1966 team that was dumped out of the group stages when it lost to North Korea, the minnows of all minnows.
It is easy to say "we told you so . . . we told you the Italians were too old and too slow. We told you they have few people who could score. We told you they had too many band members but no conductors."
There were plenty of warning signals this was going to happen. Italy came to South Africa a year ago for the Confederations Cup and showed nothing. Instead of working with younger players to see how they could do, the Italians went with the same group.
Their qualifying campaign was business-like but hardly overwhelming. Yet many pointed to the four stars on their shirts signifying the number of World Cups and blindly believed history would see them through.
It's easy to blame manager Marcello Lippi but how many great midfielders did he have to call on? How many goal scorers did he leave at home? The one issue he can take complete blame for is his stubbornness in refusing to pick players who may have some temperament issues such as Antonio Cassano.
It would have been nice to see someone actually show something, some anger, some intensity, a heartbeat, anything the first 260 minutes of the tournament.
"Four years ago, we were hailed as champions, today we are playing like billy goats. We made a very bad impression," said Italian midfielder Gennaro Gattuso.
There is rarely anything positive that comes from such a dismal performance. But it must have been an eye opener for incoming national team coach Cesare Prandelli to see how little there was in the kitty.
Some newspaper called it the darkest day ever in Italian soccer.
With many of the 2006 world champion team unlikely to be around for Brazil in 2014, Italy needs to begin developing young players, not allow them to rot on the bench while foreign imports log most of the minutes. It's why Italy produces so few great midfielders and strikers. Most of those positions are occupied by South Americans or players from countries other than Italy.
But the first thing needed is a change in attitude and approach. It's time to change their mentally and style of play because it's outdated. Unless Italy is happy with winning a World Cup every 24 years.
Now that would be a vergogna.