The telling thing to take from ItalyÃ¢ÂÂs defeat to Egypt is that Marcello LippiÃ¢ÂÂs current squad lack the required personality to be considered genuine candidates to retain their World Cup crown this time next summer.After going a goal down thanks to some school-boy defending at a corner-kick Ã¢ÂÂ there were nine Italians in the area against four of the opposition Ã¢ÂÂ and no one to command the situation and ensure there was cover on the back-post.Italy had spent the first-half more concerned with containing EgyptÃ¢ÂÂs midfield than constructing anything positive themselves Ã¢ÂÂ and only when the situation became more desperate did they throw caution to the wind.
"Huh? Where did he spring from?"
Even then, there wasnÃ¢ÂÂt a player to take the game by the scruff of the neck and turn things around - much as Roberto Baggio and Francesco Totti had done at various times in the past.
Giuseppe Rossi created the spark against the USA, but the Egyptians are a much more wily and technically proficient outfit than the Americans, and once ahead defended intelligently and in depth.Their man-to-man marking and blanket midfield smothered the Azzurri that such was the frustration the only tactic seemed to be floating the ball towards the lofty but immobile figure of Luca Toni.Just as worrying was the performance at the heart of the defence where the returning Fabio Cannavaro and his new club team-mate Giorgio Chiellini wilted under the slightest pressure from lone striker Zidan.Of course, it is just the way Italy like it going into SundayÃ¢ÂÂs final group game: all to play for and nobody giving them a prayer.If there is one country in the world that woos Italians more than their own then it's Brazil.The laidback lifestyle, the climate, the coffee, the stunning beauties seemingly unburdened with Catholic guilt and, of course, there is the shared passion for football.The feeling seems mutual when it comes to the beautiful game, and what truly great Brazilian has not played in Serie A in the last 20-odd years?When Italy plays Brazil it is more than just a game, it is an event that every fan wants to be part off.
And that is why on Sunday evening, with summer finally upon us, televisions will either be blaring out of apartments, dragged into piazzas and set up on the pavements outside restaurants to take in the spectacle.Even the droning of the vuvuzelas from the stadium will not drown out the buzz around the peninsula.
Every generation of Italian has their Brazil story Ã¢ÂÂ from the drubbing in 1970 to the miracle of 1982 through to the heartbreak of 1994, and no doubt they will be regaled again.OK, seeing as you asked...
Serie Aaaaargh! was in a packed piazza in front of a giant screen when Baggio lost his Zen in Pasadena and witnessed one tifoso so overcome with grief that he took out his despair on his beautiful Vespa moped, leaving it lying broken on the cobbles as he wandered off despondently into the night.
Baggio blows it in '94
No such acts of violence against inanimate objects should occur this time around, but it is the first time the sides have met in a competitive tournament since producing a thrilling 3-3 draw in the Tournoi de France in 1997.
FebruaryÃ¢ÂÂs friendly in freezing London was the wrong place at the wrong time to glean anything of significance on the state of the two teams, but SundayÃ¢ÂÂs Confederations Cup encounter is more of the real deal.Whether Italy can find their the character to overcome the Samba Boys is another matter.
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