Ahead of Italy’s clash with New Zealand on Sunday, Italy and Roma midfielder, Daniele de Rossi, has some choice words for his teammates: don’t be like France. There’s no doubt that de Rossi was engaging in some very serious hyperbole yesterday when he likened Italy’s situation to that of Les Bleus saying that, ‘Losing to New Zealand would probably mean we would risk going out like France,’ but let’s humour de Rossi for a moment and consider the thought.
The Italians didn’t exactly put on an inspiring display against Paraguay in their opening match but you know what? At the end of the day, they managed to hold their weight against a side, which qualified for this tournament in style and is actually being tipped to do big things in South Africa. And although, Italy, the defending world champions, are not expected to pose a real threat in terms of repeating their 2006 performance, comparing Italy to France, a side that never quite looked like the even wanted to be at the World Cup in the first place, is off the mark. Take into consideration that Italy never get off to a rip-roaring start at the World Cup: they’re notoriously slow as molasses starting out and grow into the tournament as it goes on, playing better the bigger games get. They managed a similar result at World Cup 1982, drawing their opening group match in a tournament that they eventually went on to win. In fact, they drew all three of their group matches that year and still went on to win the damned thing.
The real story with Italy so far, is that they’ve managed not to completely and utterly embarrass themselves. They’ve held themselves together which, unfortunately, is enough to put them past a lot of teams in my book right now. It’s not exactly the most harrowing of compliments, to be sure, but simply not embarrassing yourself has been a difficult thing for the bulk of the big-name sides at this tournament to do. Getting the easy stuff right has been hard for sides like Spain, England and France. Many of Europe’s marquee names have been more of a chore to watch play than a weekend recreational league. So, Among a slew of ‘big-time’ teams putting on some very, very ‘small-time’ performances, Italy are doing just fine. They’re certainly no France.