Italians gleefully gloat about French farce

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It doesn’t take much for Italians to get into a pickle over the French.

And so it was no surprise to find the old rivals demonised at every turn following Thierry Henry’s helping hand.

You would have thought that Italian honour had been scorned - maybe it had in part, what with Giovanni Trapattoni in charge of the hard done-by Irish.

It is pretty easy to paint a picture of what would have happened if Italy had been in Ireland’s position: match abandoned.

Of course, it has been headline news ever since the final whistle in Paris and each of the three main sports papers – La Gazzetta dello Sport, Corriere dello Sport and Tuttosport - have given ample page coverage to la mano di Dio (the hand of God).

A few wags in pro-Inter cafes in Milan couldn’t resist asking: “What do you expect from someone who played for Juventus?”

It has also been an excuse - if one is ever needed - for TV channels to air the Zinedine Zidane head-butt on Marco Mattezari again, and then follow it up with Fabio Cannavaro lifting the World Cup in Berlin.

Cannavaro was soon on hand to take up an old and bitter theme on this side of the Alps: the constant French criticism of Italian football.

“They have always been giving us lessons on how football should be played,” gloated the Azzurri captain.

“Unfortunately, there wasn’t much fair play from them on Wednesday and they are no longer in a position to lecture us.”

Corriere dello Sport dug up an old Raymond Domenech interview on the FIFA website where Italy’s bête noir claimed that “winning was not the only thing that counted.”

“Yes, Monsieur Domenech do you still have the same opinion?” was the pay-off in their editorial.

Borrowing a misquote from Casablanca, Gazzetta’s Friday headline ran: “Let’s play it again.”

The non-sporting dailies also got in on the act as the morale high-ground was reclaimed for the Italian nation on behalf of all the downtrodden and exploited.

The vilifying of the French seems a bit rich coming from a press corps that has been on Marcello Lippi’s back for the last few months, despite Italy qualifying for South Africa with a game to spare.

Whipping up the pro-Cassano lobby and treating the World Cup-winning coach like a lame-duck president; speculating on who will be the new man in charge come next September is no way to treat Lippi.

He was jeered at Cesena – a club he coached back in the late ‘80s – during the friendly with Sweden and apparently there were those in the stands ‘encouraging’ spectators to chant “Cassano for Italy.”

The Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa even got in on the act; demanding that the Samp star return to the international setup.

As they say, Italy is a country of 60 million football coaches.

However, this new low in relations between the la Nazionale and il popolo could just be the incentive for a repeat of 2006.

What the whole of Italy will be hoping for is that they meet the old enemy along the way.

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