As I hope we all know because we’re smarter than average bears here, Italy is that country in southern Europe that looks like a giant boot. So naturally they’d be pretty decent at the kicking sport, with four World Cups (last in 2006) and a European championship to their name. The one European title was in 1968, but they were runners-up to Spain last time and unlike the last two World Cups (out in the group stage) Italy at least normally gets to the knockouts in the Euros. Over the last few years their FIFA ranking has dropped–they’re currently 12th after being a top 5 team in 2012. Part of this decline may be that the Azzuri is an older team, with a lot of players in their late 20s and 30s and in need of younger players to start filling in and leading the next generation of Italian footballers, but I don’t normally watch soccer and am possibly talking out of my ass. I can’t tell you about recent form or tactics, just that they’ve (relatively) sucked less this year than last because they’ve gone up in the magical FIFA rankings from 17th.
My main memories of watching the Italian team are from that 2006 World Cup, which is best known for French player (and current Real Madrid manager) Zinedine Zidane headbutting an Italian player in the chest in the freaking FINAL. Of course if you do that the Italian’s gonna go down, the Italians’ embellishments are only rivaled by Messrs. James and Crosby (Conn Smythe be damned). But yeah, my mom’s side of the family was happy because it’s not like the U.S. is winning a World Cup any time soon. Also I remember one of the players dropping his shorts afterwards. That was a little weird.
Unfortunately that 2006 triumph also gave the world this.
I would now like to take this time to apologize to the rest of the world on behalf of everyone with Italian descent for bringing Seven Nation Army to the forefront of sporting events. Maybe it’s because of the post-Decision Miami Heat, or the Orioles becoming good again (but Buck Showalter is cursed and will never take you to the Series although the year after he leaves put your money on the O’s), but goddammit do I hate that song. Jack White can kindly and cordially go fuck himself.
Anywho, the Azzuri are in Group E, opening their slate against group favorites Belgium before playing Sweden and Ireland. HOWEVAH, as I’m finishing this off they just topped Belgium 2-0. So I think with that they can win the group and get a nicer draw to start the knockout phase, even if they only draw Sweden. So I’ll say they’ll make it as far as they don’t have to face Germany or France, whether that’s until the quarters or semis or whatever. All I know is someone will fall down completely unprovoked at some point. Now for an actually good party/pump-up song, Darude–Sandstorm!
…I’m kidding, don’t worry.