Scotland-Italy

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lbb
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Scotland-Italy

Post by lbb » Fri Nov 16, 2007 2:24 pm

Saw my first piece of anti-Azurri this morning. Little sticker on a bottle recycling bin - Italia=pish. Very clever. Hope it doesn't turn 'ugly' on Saturday if it all goes wrong. Probably not a good idea to be in an Italian restaurant on Saturday night, mind you.

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To the game, I don't think we should fall for the Italian arrogance on this. They won't fancy it either. They'll be nervous, they've got a lot to lose and they'll get far more stick than us if they don't make it. They'd have preferred to have had qualification wrapped up long before now so don't let them kid us.

Do we have 2 goals in us if Italy score? I dunno, tbh. I think it would be right to try and rattle them in the first 10 minutes when they'll want to settle. If we don't score early, people need to be ready for a long afternoon. I'd be comfortable in the final 15-20 minutes still level. Italy will retreat into their own half in that case and a lucky break is all we need.

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Post by Lisbon67 » Sat Nov 17, 2007 1:16 am

Judging by your earlier posts I don't think you'll be too happy with the team selection



1-0 Scotland

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Post by Scottish » Sat Nov 17, 2007 2:07 am

I'd agree Italy will be just as nervous as Scotland but I wouldn't read too much into either the repercussions of failure being greater for them or - as some have suggested - the domestic violence last weekend. The Italians often perform at their best in adversity - witness their two post-war World Cup wins both coming off the back of domestic scandal.

I'm more worried about what appears to be a premature return of the 'Wha's Like Us' syndrome. The run-up in the press this week has been appalling. I know there has been little else to fill the sports pages but some of the stuff has been absolutely dreadful.

It started on Monday with Darryl Broadfoot in The Herald and a column straight from the Bumper Book of National Stereotypes which managed to mention Don Corleone, Versace, Armani, Gucci, Joe Dolce and Mussolini - at least two of whom weren't even Italian and one of those is fictional (unfortunately the fictional one isn't Joe Dolce). Worse, it wasn't even remotely funny. After that even many Rangers supporters must have been saying 'come back Spiersy, all is forgiven.'

It's continued through the week with stories about the many occasions the Italians have blown important games (thank goodness that's something we Scots know so little about, eh?), how wearing white is unlucky for Italy, 17 is the Italian 13 when it comes to unlucky numbers and moans about teams in other sections going through with fewer points than Scotland.

The worst though was the piece in The Scotsman yesterday speculating on the results needed over the next few days to get us a top seeded place for the World Cup draw. Shades of Argentina 1978!

The last time we let ourselves get carried away like this was just before the second leg against Holland for Euro 2004 and we all know what happened then.

I hope Big Eck kept the players well away from this kind of crap. Still, I'm far from pessimistic. We have an excellent home record and no team in Europe should ever arrive at Hampden Park thinking an easy game is in prospect. Not that the Italians will. They are far too experienced to think this is in the bag.

I share the concern about our chances of scoring twice (and none too certain about managing it even once) but hope to be pleasantly surprised if that turns out to be necessary. I think at the worst we will be left hanging on Wednesday's match in Kiev. And on that score that's what made Georgia so disappointing. Even a draw there and another point tomorrow would have forced France to win in the Ukraine - never an easy thing to do.

As it is I can think of a lot of other countries including one not too far away who would rather be in our position right now, knowing one home win and qualification is guaranteed.

On that score I take a contrary view to most. I think England will qualify. A home win is the most common result in football and if there are two of those tomorrow and another at Wembley they'll go through. Hell, even one of those tomorrow might do them and they can even take pleasure in a draw in Israel.

Northern Ireland looked as if they blew their chances in the summer with defeats against the 'minnows' after achieving some outstanding results in their group but if they can beat Denmark tomorrow they will still have at least a theoretical chance of qualifying going into their last game and if that's coupled with a draw or a Swedish win in Spain they'll actually go into their last match knowing a win will take them through.

If we think Georgia was a bad result for us think how much they must be ruing defeat in Latvia and double defeat by Iceland.

Finally, I hope the 5pm kick-off doesn't affect the crowd too much tomorrow and the extra couple of hours is used for gargling instead of swallowing. We'll need as much noise behind us as we can get.

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Post by LEATHERSTOCKING » Sat Nov 17, 2007 10:43 am

It`s difficult to know just who to cheer on this evening. Head says Scotland, heart says Sophia Loren - "Everything you see, I owe to pasta." Sigh.

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Post by Scottish » Sat Nov 17, 2007 1:14 pm

The lady herself doesn't seem to be in much doubt.

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Post by LEATHERSTOCKING » Sun Nov 18, 2007 2:26 pm

Douglas Alexander in today`s Times - "Yet if Sophia Loren in her prime had headed the winner, Scotland supporters would have still found it ugly." Nope, can`t agree. I`d pay big money to see Sophia @ any age from circa 1950 to date heading a goal in the last minute @ Hampden or, indeed, anywhere. To be honest, I`d just pay big money to see Sophia Loren. I do wish she`d stop pestering me though. My wife`s becoming suspicious.

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Post by Scottish » Sun Nov 18, 2007 7:23 pm

I do hope we're not in for a prolonged bout of 'we wuz robbed.' I can understand McLeish and McFadden's reported comments as being made in the heat of the moment but I hope they'll be able to take a more objective look in a day or two. Sure, the free-kick should have been given the other way but it was only a free kick not a penalty and in the type of position teams defend against week in week out. It wasn't the ref who gave Panucci a free header at goal.

And if anything the breaks went our way. If Di Natale's 'goal' had stood that would have been game over there and then. It certainly looked to me to be more legitimate than Ferguson's strike. We are in danger of allowing a rousing performance for 20 minutes or so to obscure the fact that Italy controlled the first half with comparative ease and could have been two up before Scotland got going.

If McFadden had proved as good at scoring with easy chances as he is with difficult ones it might have been a different story. Still, he has been an outstanding player in this campaign and without his contribution we'd never have got as far as we did.

Overall while I didn't think Scotland deserved to lose I can't claim we should have won and I think that those who think that way do us no favours. It exaggerates the undoubted recovery that has been made and makes us think we are better than we actually are.

Fact is that no team can afford to lose four qualifiers and get through. We needed four points from our last two games to be certain of qualifying but we needed just one point from those games to put some pressure on France going into their last game and we didn't get it.

Nor are we as sound defensively as we might like to think. The back four play well as individuals but not as a unit and that cost us dearly in losing two eminently avoidable goals. We've kept just one clean sheet in the last nine Hampden internationals.

On the plus side that's five 50,000-plus gates in succession at Hampden for the first time since 1979.

What now? The World Cup draw is only a week away and we must turn our attention to that. A second seeding will help but we shouldn't be fooled into thinking that's a guarantee of qualification or even a play-off place. We had second seedings for both the 1994 and 2002 World Cups and failed dismally in both.

Also, given there's almost a year until the start of the WC qualifiers there's a very real chance we might be looking for a new manager by then. I hope not. Alex McLeish has surprised a lot of people (this writer included) in this campaign and I hope he stays on in the job. But if he were to get an offer from the English Premiership it would be hard to resist when put against almost a year's inactivity and nearly three years before the 2010 World Cup.

I'd like to see the SFA arrange some friendlies (once the WC draw is known of course) against sides similar to those we will face in qualifying. I think mistakes have been made in the past by arranging overseas tours designed to make a quick buck - I don't care about winning the Kirin Cup, I'd sooner have being playing top quality opposition at home. We have a chance to do so in the run-up to Euro 2008 when those fortunate enough to be there will be looking for warm-up games. I hope we take that chance to get some games under our belt before the WC qualifiers start.

Though it might look a long way off right now the 2010 World Cup - if we qualify- might be our best chance of beating the 'home before the postcards' jibes. It'll be played in a time zone which is not that far ahead of our own and in their winter - it will be the closest to European conditions ever for a non-European World Cup.

Finally, while the whole 'glorious defeat' notion is one I detest (I'd rather be a 'jammy winner') let us remember we went toe to toe with teams that at the outset were ranked one and two in the world and another ranked in the top six in Europe. We were only knocked out in the final minute of injury time in the final match.

Cliche it may be but when the draw for this competition was made many would have scoffed at taking it so close.
Last edited by Scottish on Sun Nov 18, 2007 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Scottish » Sun Nov 18, 2007 7:29 pm

LEATHERSTOCKING wrote: To be honest, I`d just pay big money to see Sophia Loren. I do wish she`d stop pestering me though. My wife`s becoming suspicious.
I'd like to help you out but I've got enough on my hands at the moment dealing with Halle Berry and Penelope Cruz.

And don't get me started on yon Catherine Deneuve....

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Post by lbb » Mon Nov 19, 2007 9:21 am

The freekick against Hutton was so inexplicable and coming so late in the game, coupled with the end result of the freekick, that a certain amount of frustration is bound to kick in. I don't think McLeish is helping himself, or us, with his comments about the referee being removed from the international game. All governing bodies take exception to such comments.

The first goal was just a terrible one to lose from our point of view. Even at the time, it was obvious we weren't switched on. As soon as Scott Brown kicked the ball out for a throw-in, you could see a cluster of Scottish players simply stand still. The whole thing seemed to happen in slow motion. Dreadful.

Both offside calls were so marginal that they could have gone either way. I think defeat was harsh but, like yourself, I can't say victory was denied us. I do think the Italians were the better side in the first half but we were also unfortunate not to score in this spell through Hutton and Weir. McFadden should have scored in the second half, natch. It was a great recovery, mentally, from the players after the early goal and a bit of pummelling in the first 20 minutes or so.

It's galling to think that England may well qualify on Wednesday with 24 points and it's going to be hard to take for a while yet. One of the positives will surely be our improved seeding for the World Cup qualifiers and the bulk of this team should be good enough to go in that campaign.

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Post by the hibLOG » Mon Nov 19, 2007 10:31 am

I agree it's not terribly productive to go on about the free kick decision. It's been extensively pointed out that Scotland benefitted twice in the game from the other linesman's errors to redress the balance, errors that related directly to goals being scored or not rather than just providing an opportunity. Two wrongs don't make a right, but as Donadoni said, that's football. Swings and roundabouts and all that.

Nevertheless, the earlier decisions were rapid judgement calls half way across the pitch in the midst of some pinball action. Linesmen frequently get those wrong. The fatal free kick incident took place right under the linesman's nose and his decision was so transparently wrong that it can't escape condemnation. Like the infamous last minute penalty for Rangers at Tynecastle a couple of seasons ago it was a decision in place and time that appears almost calculated to drive conspiracists into a foaming frenzy.

It's fair to call that decision, but as you say we have to call Scotland's defending from it. What I find lamentable, apart from allowing Panucci to get the header in, is that Scotland didn't put a man on the post as they surely would had it been a corner, which it practically was. Watching the replay I think it is McFadden who is just trotting about marking no one, not far enough back even to cover the ball to the near post.

So much for the past and the gallant effort, what about the future? The core of that side will be around for a few years yet, with only Weir being the obvious old man out. Hartley hasn't got too much longer in him I suspect, nor perhaps Naysmith. The rest have years in front of them, but I would hope we can see better levels of performance from the likes of Fletcher who I thought was well out of touch at times.

Defence was our weak spot on Saturday, the excellent Hutton excepted, and I wonder who we've got coming through to boost the ranks at the back. Who have we got to understudy Naysmith especially? Don't mention Gary Caldwell, please.....
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Post by bobby s » Mon Nov 19, 2007 10:49 am

I think that any team that concedes two goals at home is going to struggle at the top level.

I've not seen the first goal again, but I'm told what happened was that the throw in was taken with a different ball 20 yards further forward from where the ball went out thus giving the Italian players a bit of an edge as the Scots defenders were preparing to defend further up the pitch. Maybe the ball boys should have been primed better, maybe the players were sloppy it doesnae really make any difference now.

Same goes for the free kick as mentioned above: it was a ridiculous decision but the defending wasn't good enough whatever.

It was a hard group, we did perform better than expected, but our final two games showed the lack of a cutting edge when it mattered. That's why France & Italy are going to Austria & Switzerland and not us. Winning when it matters is a great habit to get into.
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Post by bobby s » Mon Nov 19, 2007 10:54 am

scottish wrote:Finally, while the whole 'glorious defeat' notion is one I detest (I'd rather be a 'jammy winner')
You and me both. I find that there is never anything glorious about defeat, just defeat. Glory is for the winners.
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Post by the hibLOG » Mon Nov 19, 2007 12:24 pm

bobby s wrote:II've not seen the first goal again, but I'm told what happened was that the throw in was taken with a different ball 20 yards further forward from where the ball went out thus giving the Italian players a bit of an edge as the Scots defenders were preparing to defend further up the pitch. Maybe the ball boys should have been primed better, maybe the players were sloppy it doesnae really make any difference now.
Twenty would be a bit of an exaggeration. It was a bit further up the park but no worse than the creeping you get at most throws. Scott Brown made the tackle to put the ball out and he was still well positioned to mark the thrower. Hutton got sucked in to double mark the thrower (!) instead of filling the space behind him and looking out for the runner and Fletcher was guilty of turning his back and then had the nerve to complain about his teammates' marking after the ball went in. Not the only time he moaned at others for his own deficiences.

Domenech had complained about the ball boys time wasting after France's defeat at Hampden, so maybe they were on a warning from UEFA to keep the balls moving. To be fair that's why they have multiple balls now and the Scotland defence should have been alive to that. They were basically still asleep at that point inthe game.
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Post by Skyline Drifter » Mon Nov 19, 2007 1:32 pm

Over the piece I felt the better team won and whilst the officiating crew certainly didn't have their best day ever (didn't actually think the referee himself got too much wrong, his assistants were both awful though), there's no doubt they benefitted us more than Italy. The free kick for the winner was a scandalous decision but it was effectively a corner. The way some are bleating on you'd think he gave Italy a penalty for it and told Gordon to leave his goals for good measure.

It's a measure of the way we've come on leaps and bounds that in such a group we took the campaign right to the final minute and it's a shame that we aren't at least asking a question of France on Wednesday. I remain convinced that Gilardino was merely trying to waste time by giving away a daft free kick in the final minute and stopping Hutton clearing early and, having been surprised to get the free kick, I was astonished Italy loaded the box and even tried to score. Given that a draw was fine for them I can't believe they had defenders up in the box for a last minute set piece at 1-1.

It's also a measure of this squad that one down inside a minute and a half against the World Champions and outplayed for the opening half hour or so they rolled their collective sleeves up and clawed their way back into the match. For 10 - 15 minutes after the equaliser I really thought we were going to do it. Sitting in the back of the West Stand behind the goal I thought McFadden's effort had gone in at first.

Yes, it's a shame, and yes we couldn't get it done in the end over the last two games (and how vital was that one dreadful performance in Georgia, had we won there we could have happily taken and held onto the draw at home to Italy instead of gambling more men forward). But I am proud of the way we performed in this campaign. First team to beat France twice in qualifying EVER. Eight wins. In a group of unique quality we might still end up as the top points scoring side not to qualify.

I look forward to the World Cup draw with hope.

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Post by Scottish » Mon Nov 19, 2007 1:36 pm

Gary McAllister was having a go at the ballboys ( I recall Jimmy Hill once blaming the speedy response of the ballboys at Ewood Park for Blackburn conceding a goal which led to relegation!).

It wasn't any worse than the normal 'yards-stealing' we see every week. They were switched on. We were switched off. I think the reason might well have been that Scotland weren't expecting Italy to throw the ball into the box. Conventional wisdom would have dictated a slow Italian start as all they needed was a 0-0 draw. Our players probably thought it was going back to the halfway line.

I agree re Fletcher. You could see in the Georgia game he hadn't fully recovered from injury and I think he's only played two full games since then. I'd have taken him or McCulloch off before Brown.

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