If put on the spot, I'd say Germany will probably beat the Italians on Thursday.
Cesare Prandelli knows that his attack is currently missing too many golden opportunities, with Antonio Cassano woefully short of physical condition, and Mario Balotelli still fighting whatever colour of demons are teasing him this week.
He knows that his defence without Chiellini may struggle badly against a stellar Prussian attack. Its all very well looking good against Rooney and his colleagues, but Gomez, Klose, Muller, and especially Ozil are a real handful.
Prandelli knows for sure that the Germans, with this young talented and motivated side are even more formidable than normal, and certainly don't need the two extra days rest the draw has given them.
But the main reason I think they will win is another. The Germans are scared, and therefore they will not underestimate the Italians. Not like some others I can think of.
Open parenthesis: I mean, I dont like to say I told you so but.......
Despite all the evidence to the contrary; both quantitatively available from the record books that show no English win over Italy in nearly 40 years, and qualitatively for anyone who didn't wake up only yesterday to the fact that Pirlo has been a true “fuoriclasse” for 10 years.
And yet it was to be a close game they said. Too close to call they said. Roy was the man to get back to the basics of the good old British game, according to the English footballing eco-system of pundits and professionals. On what planet do they live?
Truly, when you get an extremely well paid BBC “expert” like Alan Shearer saying: “Italy are not known for their passing, but tonight........”, you wonder if the license payer is getting value for money! Not known for their passing? Like Jeffrey Archer is not known for his mendacity.
This is a guy who utterly failed as a manager with Newcastle, and proclaimed his football credo by appointing Iain Dowie as his coach. Signed up members of the cave of football illiteracy, overpopulated in the UK by dinosaurs of this ilk. The same ones who pay £35m for Andy Carroll, or prefer Butch Wilkins to Glen Hoddle and who think 4-4-2 is still relevant outside the WH Smith’s bookshelves.
Ah, the 4-4-2. How did that work out for you Roy? The tactical autism of the comfortable structure and routine that leaves you outnumbered in midfield is simply laughable. Keegan-esque in its naivety. And you thought you would win by leaving Pirlo and De Rossi alone against Scott Parker? Maybe you also think Greece can pay off its debts one day?
British football is, I would suggest, still a good few furlongs off the pace. Half a club short of the green. Metaphor of choice.
Sure the Premiership is a stellar success, but there the immune system has been overwhelmed by the chimera of foreign coaches and players. This was instead the worst England team in living memory. An affront to previous masters of the game.
England were like a mid-table Premiership team. And don't think it will change by numbers like 4-2-3-1.
Here’s the juice: in the UK, the fans and coach generally want you to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible into the other team’s box.
“Wow isn't that really exciting with loads of passion and goal mouth action?”
There is no value premium for keeping the ball and waiting for your moment. As Rio Ferdinand correctly noted, Italy see angles of the play that we don't. And that will never change. The fans don't want it.
Still, ignorance is bliss, as they say. And we leave the English to go home and again talk for a few days about coaching changes, the national school at Burton, winter breaks and possession football.
But we know it will all be forgotten in an instant by the red-top led masses when they fluke another couple of wins against the Moldovias of this world. Or Harry Redknapp gets credit for his team having Luka Modric.
Close parenthesis. Back to the real action fight-fans........
No, the Germans are ready, because they are scared. They were praying to meet France or England because, udite udite, they have NEVER beaten the Italians in a competitive game.
Let that sink in....they have never beaten them. Indeed they have lost spectacularly to them in semi-finals, in 1970 and at home in 2006. And in the final in 1982.
Most battles are won before you take to the killing fields. By preparation and strategy. Whilst the slightly metrosexual (for a German) Lowe is no Bismark or Rommell, they will be very prepared mentally, and tactically.
They will for sure match the Italians in the elegant drawing room that is the midfield. On Thursday, Pirlo will not be left unaccompanied, on his evening’s stroll in smoking jacket, to sprinkle his fairy dust.
Think of it, this is a country that is second of none, in anything apart from the creative arts. Pretty close to being the master race on a few occasions. Devastating organisation, discipline, will to win, spirit of sacrifice, fighting courage.
We all respect them for the way, after reunification, they beat themselves into financial shape. Self imposed wage freezes and hardship, whilst watching their neighbours live it large in the Clinton-inspired pass-the-cigar-monica gratification of the Nineties.
And now they have to pick up the credit card bill for Johnny Mediterranean. It's entertainingly cruel. The modern version of war reparations I suppose. Or as the current joke doing the rounds goes; “A spaniard, a Greek, an Italian go into a bar..........The German pays...... Boom Boom.
So how galling is it for them to know that they can never beat poor pathetic Italy, all emotional irrationality, mummy’s boy good looks, and too-flash-by-half style. Not to mention the splendidly politically incorrect Mr Berlusconi, who referred to Frau Merkel as an “unf***able lardarse”.
God it burns our German friends up ......the perfect PPV promo.
So as the wee teams leave the scene for their sausage and eggs, and croque monsieur, place you bets.......for the eternal battle of the decades. Artist versus artisan. Gods versus Titans.
Come Thursday, rien ne va plus!
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