Thursday, June 24, 2010


Italy Coach: "They Had Terror In Their Legs"

by Wayne Robins

The most candid, intuitive apology we've ever heard offered by a coach came this afternoon from Italy's soccer coach Marcello Lippi after his team, the defending World Cup champions, was eliminated by Slovakia, 3-2. More important, through three previous matches, including an infamous opening game 1-1 tie with supposed tournament patsies New Zealand, the Azzurri (or the blues, after the color of their uniforms) played without heart, passion or confidence.

English-language Italian soccer site Football Italia reported Lippi's postgame comments that were as astounding as the results of the play. Speaking of his experienced team (eight of the 11 starters were over age 30, according to brilliant ESPN announcer Ian Darke), Lippi said:

"They had terror in their legs, heads and hearts," Lippi said. Trailing Slovakia 2-0, Italy went on a furious run in the last 15 minutes of the match, scoring a goal and having a tying goal waved off because of an offside call that replays showed to be justified. Slovakia made it 3-1, and then Italy showed championship resilience by scoring yet another goal in extra time before time ran out.

"I don't know why they changed in the last 15 minutes. I clearly couldn't prepare them for such an important game, if they played for 75 minutes unable to make any mark - in my view exclusively due to a psychological problem - then it is only the fault of the Coach."

There's a dollar here for any U.S. sportswriter who asks a losing Super Bowl coach (just think of a Bill Belichick or a Bill Parcells) if his team lost the big game because they were insufficiently up to treating their players' emotional insecurities. Meanwhile, Italian football authorities are considering replacing Lippi with film director Dario Argento, the horror cult impresario.

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