Game 1 Monday June 12
Italy 2 Ivory Coast 0
Ernst Blofeld, Berlin, Germany
I watched this game in Berlin, on an outdoor screen with giant fake antennae, at a squat type place on the river Spree. I wasn’t the lone Italy fan, but I was outnumbered by others hoping for an African team to do well. I hoped for the same, just not in this game. This game was important because it was here, even in the pre-game build-up, where I realized that I truly was an Italy supporter. More than EURO 2004 when I lived in Holland and sorta cheered for Holland, more than prior to the beginning of the World Cup, when I was casually tossing my support around. I realized here and now, in their first game, that I wasn’t cheering for Italy just out of a geograpghic imperative, I was cheering for them because I supported the team. I wanted them to win with my heart. I tried to stay detached because the less I invested in one team, the more I could enjoy the tournament as a whole. However, this game taught me that I could still do all those things, but like it or not, I was an Italy tifoso.
Italy 1 USA 1
This game was the worst game of the World Cup. From all the smacktalk with Americans, the face tattoos and Italian T-shirts to the plan to watch the game on Tiber Island, in the heart of Rome, I maybe should’ve smelled trouble. But I didn’t. And Chiara and I left full of excitement in our hearts and returned bitter and frustrated. The jackass Americans could call this their best international result ever, for Italy in general, and Daniele “Elbow Smasher” De Rossi in particular. This was a black mark.
From it’s early promise, thigs went downhill quickly. Chiara and I managed to make it to the Tiber Island and get into the Cinema on the Tiber where they were showing the game. It was crowded outside around the door, but once we got beyond the barrier into the outdoor theatre there was plenty of space.
Eventually it became clear that that was the case because they were not intending to let anymore people in than their were seats. This means hundreds of people got screwed out a (beautiful) place to watch the game, whilst we shifted uncomfortably in an embarssment of riches. The dickheads who run the joint even went so far as to eject 4 or 5 teenagers form the premises. Their crime? Finding themselves a seat along the railings and watching the first 5 minutes of the game. How is it that this country can be the most crowded and rulefree country I’ve ever been to, with a lack of a modicum of personal space, yet suddenly get uptight for the one thing they should really cut loose for?
And then, the ugliest game of football I’ve ever seen unfolded before our eyes. It was as brutal as it was disappointing, and it was both in spades. Enough said.
Italy 3 Czech Repoublic 0
Druid’s Rock Irish Bar
I wanted to watch this game at Centro Sociale (squat) Angelo Mai downtown. When I got there there were some workfriends also keen to watch the game, but no outdoor screen. Because of the afternoon timing of the game the sun would wash out any images on the outdoor screen. Luckily we made our way to Druid’s Rock, an Irish Bar near Santa Maria Maggiore with the fantastic habit of playing a chorus of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” whenever a goal is scored. And, as the USA lost to Ghana on a couple of the TV screens, Italy pounded on the Czech Republic on the other. The place was crazy crowded with fans of each and every team jammed cheek to jowl. Afterwards there was dancing, and singing, or hanging your Uncle Sam hatted head, while a Ghanese jig was danced right around you.
I sported my blue Italian t-shirt all the way down to a falafel place with my companions for a victory falafel. We’d advanced. Italy had entered the knock out stages!
Italy 1 Australia 0
At Home in the Dark
I raced home from work to see this game. I had to flag a cab and race home, listening to the pre-game in the cab, and staying in contact with Chiara over the phone. This was it, knock out stages, baby.
I got home within five minutes of kick off. Chiara and I sat in the dark, glued to the TV, watching it all go down.
For many, particularly Australians, this game will be remembered for Fabio Grosso’s little fall down in the penalty area. Clearly a dodgy penalty call. But for us it’s what happened next that will be remembered.
Totti’s penalty shot. Totti has sported the horns for the last two international tournaments, getting redcarded in both Korea Japan 2002, and Portugal 2006. At 29 years old, this guy can’t have too many more tournaments in him, and with an ankle injury just two months old, and now with ten screws, he was doubtful to start. But he’s a leader, and a champion, and at this point anyway, he played like one. He stepped up to take the penalty shot. Knowing (even though he’s not that bright) that if he fluffed this chance, that’d be the end of the love and adoration Italians had heaped on him, despite his past fuck-ups. But this time, it’d be end of the line. he didn’t have to do it. But he did.
And we sat in the dark and watch as he did it, with pockets full of poise. Watching the close up camera shot it was clear he was going to score. And score he did. Hammering the ball into the back of the net. Keeper Mark Schwarzer had no chance, like a keeper shouldn’t have on a penalty shot.
And Italy was through to the quarterfinals.
Italy 2 Germany 0
Al Pachino Pizzeria
For this game Chiara and I decided to go to our favorite pizzeria, called Al Pachino, which is funny. The pizza is delicious, and it’s the only spot in Rome where we’re treated like regulars, usually getting a limoncello sulla casa after a meal. So we went, in our Italy shirts, and watched an excellent game of football, and then witnessed a masterstroke of management.
In this tight game, nobody scored through regular time, and likewise through into extra time. But Marcello Lippi, contrary to what people would expect, and common sense would dictate, made substitutions in extra time, pulling off midfielders (Camoranesi, and Perrotta) to add attackers (Del Piero and Iaquinta)up front. In extra time. The gambit paid off because Italy scored not one, but TWO goals in extra time, 119″ and 120″ respectively. Pure genius. The pizzeria went nuts. Celebrations had not finished after Grosso’s brilliant left-footed strike before Del Piero went in and tucked home another goal, giving us not only victory, but reason to jump into our car after the game and join the victory parade, complete with honking and cheering, though without a flag.