What Does it Say?

I am sure the sportswriters all across the globe all have similar topics regarding the state of Italian football. What does it say, when three of the top Italian teams, in Inter, Juve and Roma all go down in defeat over the course of two days in UEFA Champions League play? Does this mean English football is that much superior to the game the Italians play?

I watch plenty of footie from the UK and Man U, Chelsea and Arsenal are much like their Italian counterparts in terms of quality of football on the pitch and their positions in the table every year. Of the three Italy v England matches, two of them were scoreless draws in the first leg. Only Arsenal managed a lone gone, courtesy of a penalty kick, after dominating Roma for much of the match. Arguments can be made for the other matches, as Mourinho defends his team’s play against the Reds, while Juve came close numerous times versus Chelsea, but came up short in the end.

Of the three Italian team, Inter’s exit is probably the most shocking, come up short in a 2-0 loss to SAF and the Red Devils. Seems only fitting though, that in his years at Chelsea he was at the top of his game, only to lose another match to Man U. This was the real title that Jose was after, not the scudetto in Serie A. Mourinho last won the CL in 2004 with Porto and exited in the semifinals twice while at Chelsea, so while his track record is proven, his team just did not have enough to finish off SAF’s Red Devils.

The Roma match was a roller coaster of emotions, being down 1-0 AGG heading back to the Olimpico for the second leg. After a dominating performance by the Gunners, it was talked about pregame to be much of the same. Yet Roma is always resilient and a tougher team to play in Rome and they proved it yesterday. It only took 9 minutes when Juan found the back the net, after a pass came through the box and was slotted past Almunia.

This was a big goal goal for Roma and their fans, as it allowed them to draw even on aggregate goals. Roma proved to be the stronger side much of the match and produce quality chances in front of Almunia, but could never finish. As with most matches, there was a controversial no-call by the Spanish referee on Matto, as he appeared to have his jersey pulled from behind by Clichy, causing him to go to the ground. Yet nothing was rewarded and game play continues.

Baptista had a horrible showing much of the match. He came on late in first period as Juan exited due to injury and seemed to be a step behind and a pass off. He did have a chance to seal a victory for Roma on a beautiful cross which was flicked on my Totti, but Baptista tried for the one-timer and it was for not.

Arsenal showed some prowess late in the second half and much of two, 15 minute overtime periods, but the score remained 1-1 as the match went to spot kicks. Dona was riding high after he saved the first attempt, as Roma converted. Unfortunately, Roma’s season would come crashing down after 7 penalty kicks when Max Tonetto stepped up and put the ball over the crossbar. While I don’t lay the blame on him, I do put some of the responsibility on the shoulders of Mirko Vucinic, who half assed an attempt right at Almunia, evening up the PKs after the second round.

So where does that leave Italy football? Sure, Inter will go on with win their third scudetto in Serie A, while Juve and Roma will both finish in the top five and be back in the Champions League next year. What does this say about the World Cup, upcoming in 2010? I don’t believe England has a better squad than Italy and now with many players imported to play in countries like England and Italy it’s more difficult to judge the on field talent when its brought together. The 2008 Italy squad was unique, in that all the players played in country. Not the case any longer. I do think Italian football will need to look within, in order to have better showing next year. Here is to Man U winning the Champions League, as well as the Premiership, the FA and the League Cup, which they have already completed.

We Go As Roma Goes!

Okay, so the adult soccer…err…football league I am involved is not Serie A. Not even college caliber. I am sure 15-20 years ago some of these players were good college players. I have noticed a few standout midfielders and strikers the past three weeks. This week it was great to see AS Roma notch their first Serie A victory of the new campaign. Sure, they are still trailing the likes of Juve and Inter, but they will move up the table after this week.

Our outdoor team moved up this week with our first win after drawing the first week and loosing a tough game last week. Hurts when you let in only one goal, but the offense cannot muster quality shots on goal. Thankfully this is NOT the indoor team I am on and our midfielders and strikers have good touch and control and know how to find the back of the net. That was the case on Sunday, where a late second half goal was enough for us to pull out a victory.

Nine weeks remaining in the season and we are not doing too bad. From what I was told we are doing much better than the last time we were in the top flight. I guess they had no dedicated goalkeeper, which made things difficult and there was no such thing as a close loss.

What makes this league enjoyable, aside from winning, is the group of individuals involved. Many are married with kids and it turns into a family affair each Sunday for a few hours. After the game, there is beer and soft drinks, as well as food. We have a BBQ one time during the season as well.

Another two games this week, indoor action on Wednesday, which I assume will be a lose unless our field players can actually find the net and not the one that surrounds the boards of the pitch, but the one hanging in the back of the goal. I am looking more forward to the early outdoor game. Should be a great time.

Serie A Returns!

After another off season that featured Euro 2008, Italy’s Serie A returned this past weekend. I was excited to see Roma being televised on Fox Soccer channel on Sunday. Unfortunately, Sunday, 6am came, I sat down by myself, a coffee in hand and damned if it was not AC Milan versus Bologna. I was upset after seeing Roma advertised.

All was not lost, it was good to see one of the perennial four teams that should be near the top of the table all season long, AC Milan. That team is LOADED from the back line to the front line. Especially with the addition of Shevachenko and Ronaldaniho, as well as Mattheu Flamini and Zambrotta. The talent is somewhat mind boggling, but the bigger question will be can the Rossoneri play as a TEAM?

There are many great individual players from Kaka to Pato, to Sheva and Ronny, but when all are healthy (Kaka was missing) there will have to be some hard decisions made as to the starting XI and who the offense will be centered around. Pirlo has run the Milan offense in past years, it will be interesting to see what sort of command that Ronny has on the field next to Pirlo or up front.

I think AC Milan will have chemistry issues, especially if somewhat is not getting the ball or or the playing time. We have seen it before on other teams that loaded with talent (Man U, Chelsea, Real Madrid, etc). This is why I don’t think AC Milan will raise the scudetto this year.

AS Roma returns with a few off season changes including John Arne Riise, Julio Baptiste and Jeremy Menez coming in on transfer which should solidify an already strong team. Now if Totti would stay healthy for a full season, they could truly challenge Inter for the scudetto. One thing Roma has is chemistry. They have not brought in high dollar transfers, but players who will fix a role for Roma. One part of their game that still lacks is their bench depth. Many young and inexperienced players who will need to play very well when called upon.

As for the other contenders I watched both Inter Milan and Juventus, both of whom drew this past weekend 1-1 to Sampdoria and Fiorentina respectively. I was not too impressed with the performances of either. I know Inter will be very tough as they have been in past years. I don’t see this draw to start the Mourinho era a blemish on their record. New manager, new system and a few new faces and Inter will be tough to take down.

Juventus continues rising to the challenge coming out of Serie B after being relegated due to scandal. They won the ‘B’ and were promoted and played well last year. This year they return a great squad with one of the best keepers in the world in Gigi Buffon. Solid on the offensive part of the game, but their defensive might be cause for suspect.

Regardless of what allegiance you have, mine is to Roma, it will be a great Serie A season I am looking forward to the thrills and excitement of the 2008-2009 season. As for the NFL…eh, not so excited.

Sunday’s Beautiful Game

Sunday is set up to be the biggest day in Serie A (Italian football for all you Yanks) in a long time. Inter Milan and AS Roma are only separated by 1 point, after Inter has choked away an 11 point lead that seemed insurmountable back in February. Since that time a string of losses and injuries have dealt Inter a tough hand.

AS Roma has been one of the hotter teams in Serie A, but at times have lose games against clubs they should have defeated. February Juventus beat Roma 1-0, a 1-1 draw versus Cagilari and another versus Livorno has not helped the Giallorossi.

Thankfully the last two weekends Inter has not been at their best, a 2-1 lose to city rivals AC Milan at the San Siro followed by a 2-2 draw versus Siena, a game Inter should have won but World Cup winner Marco Materazzi could not convert on a penalty kick.

Both games will be televised on Fox Soccer Channel, Inter Milan will play Parma, who is fighting to stay in the Serie A, while AS Roma will travel to Catania. Parma definitely has something to play for in hopes they won’t be relegated, but need help from Roma, who should defeat Catania.

This is why Serie A and football is “the beautiful game.”

Giallorossi Live!

Looking back on this football season, it has been a season of missed opportunities for AS Roma in Serie A. Unlike last season which saw Inter run away with the scudetto title, this year has been a banner year!

Roma  has seen some excellent play while on the pitch from the starting  eleven, lead by their captain, Francesco Totti. But it has  also been the brilliant managing of Luciano Spalletti. His timely substitutions and  tactics have seen Roma sore in the club ranking, as  the best team in  Italy and arguably one of the best in Europe.

While a Serie A  title is not out of the question, Roma must get the “monkey off their  back” in Champions League play against Manchester United, the best club based on Fox Soccer’s World Club Rankings. And who is number two? AS Roma!

Last season in Champions League play, Roma was embarrassed, 7-1 during the  second leg versus Manchester United and as luck would have it, these two giants face off again this season in CL play. Roma is  definitely in form currently, albeit a slip up last week in a loss to  city rival,  Lazio, 3-2 on a last minute goal.

As it goes now a strong showing  in league play has set Roma up with an excellent chance in Champions League play and an even stronger  finish to Serie A, as their remaining  fixtures are not all that challenging. Matches against Genoa, Sampdoria  and Udinese are all top  half of of the table, but all more then  winnable, regardless of how CL  play finishes up.

Another Sunday

So Week #2 of the NFL is here and it will be another weekend I don’t watch football and turn my television to Premiership and Serie A footie [soccer]. Northern California has to be the worst place in the country for NFL football at the moment. Two terrible teams in the Raiders and 49’ers, who I believe will have a combined 8 wins between them when the season come to an end. Even with all 16 home teams selling out this weekend, there are no second games on FOX in the morning and CBS in the afternoon. Then again the match ups of Raiders v Ravens and 49’ers v Rams are just not that enticing. It’s no wonder I play fantasy football and pull for individual players and not teams.

The footie schedule is much stronger on Fox Soccer Channel and GOLTV today as my favorite Italian Serie A club, AS Roma go up against Siena. I already have my DVR set to record this match since I will miss about half the game as I am driving home. But this is quickly becoming my regular Saturday and Sunday schedule, watching footie and forgetting football. The big game of the day is Manchester United v Arsenal at Old Trafford beginning at 8:00PDT. Other Serie A matches from Italy include Lazio v Palermo and Atalanta v Catania.

It’s not that I am loosing interest in the NFL, as much as I am gaining more of an interest at getting back into footie. Guess I have the World Cup to thank for that. Forza Italia! Of course if the San Diego Chargers are playing or another game of interest I will watch, but until that time, the TV schedule for the NFL has truly been ass! I would gladly pay $9.95, hell $19.95 to watch the Chargers play each Sunday. I know Comcast offers an MLB and NBA package, but I don’t believe there is one for the NFL, like Direct TV has. Even watching football streaming on the Internet, give me that option.

I bought the MLB package this year for $89.95. Now the price might sound steep at first, but when you consider you get every out of market baseball game, it is a small price to pay for nearly unlimited games! I get to watch the San Diego Padres at my leisure (except when they play SF). Not sure this would work for the NFL, but it would be a great option to have. I can even buy individual UEFA Champions League match for $9.95. Hopefully the trend in the future will be offer more events on streaming media. Guess time will tell.