Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An Italian Defense

Well, not much of one. Or rather, Italy versus Holland showed how much of a defence they had...which is not much. Watching the game, Italy didn't put up much of a fight, a surprising performance from the world champions. Nevertheless, Holland kicked some real butt, and I am very pleased with their performance.

A lot of neutrals naturally plumps for the likes of France, Germany and England when it comes to playing good football. While those are not surprising, I'm not particularly surprised, given that these nations have a relatively big scope to draw upon; not just within their own national boundaries but also from areas won of conquests past. Holland's ability to consistently produce quality football players (though admittedly they do have some help from their own colonial past: van Bronckhorst and Boulahrouz also qualify for Indonesia and Morocco respectively) have always provided plenty of food for thought for me.

So, I suppose I can say that I'm not particularly surprised at the quality of the Dutch performance. I am, however, a bit more so at the amount of criticism that the Italian team has received. Yeah, they didn't play well, but many commentaries talk about the game as if the Dutch never existed on the pitch to begin with.

My biggest qualm, however, lies with criticism regarding the midfield players selected by Donadoni. I have read on at least two websites of the fallacy of selecting the Milan midfield trio of Gattuso, Pirlo, and Ambrosini. "They only managed to finish 5th in the league," moaned the naysayers. "Why are they selected ahead of the likes of de Rossi?"

Such proclamations exposes a shallow depth of knowledge with regards to the subject at hand.

Taking just a look at the players who were selected, if you had said that Gattuso and Pirlo would have started the match beforehand, I doubt whether much complaints would have been heard. Ambrosini's selection was a bit more surprising, but I can totally understand Donadoni's thinking: perhaps a deeper understand amongst the players (especially those from the same club) would help. After all, no matter how much one player is eulogised, football is a team game, and it is on the basis of this philosophy that the World Cup was won to begin with. And these are quality players, the kind who would find a fleet of other clubs lining up to sign them should they become available.

As it turns out, it was a ploy that did not quite work, and no doubt Donadoni would have learned something from the game. There were plenty that was wrong with the team, but blasting the midfield for being from Milan seems absurd to me.

After all, since when had the finishing positions of any particular club should influence the quality of a player (or bunch of players)? With regards to Milan, there were plenty of reasons that they finished 5th in the league, and the quality of midfielders is certainly not at the top of that list. Misfiring strikers (Gilardino), injured players (Ronaldo, Inzaghi), an over-reliance on one player (Kaka), an ageing defence, an inconsistent keeper (the play-acting Dida) and having Pato only for half a football year are all contributing factors.

Perhaps the naysayers would do well to actually watch some football before the European Championships.

Maybe then they would look less like idiots in their assessments.

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