Mails: Loving ‘right bunch of b***ards Italy’

Date published: Tuesday 14th June 2016 9:51

Another very good Mailbox – add to it with mails to


This is all a bit dull
I disagree with Mike Rolls from yesterday’s mailbox, I believe the tournament could do with a few high goalscoring matches they don’t all have to be one-sided events you can have five goals spread between both teams the contest so far have felt too tense with very little reward.

Case in point, in Euro 2000, England lost two five-goal thrillers, Holland beat France by the odd goal in five and Yugoslavia played in a 3-3 draw and 3-4 defeat that had an Aguero moment and that was all in the first round.

The tournaments been okay but it needs a bit more oomph.


It is all a bit tight but so much football is fun…
It’s early days, but so far the expansion of the tournament has had the predicted negative effect on the group stage. Because even third-place teams can advance, there’s little reason to risk anything. So decent sides like Ukraine and the Czech Republic, instead of attacking a vulnerable Germany and Spain, mostly sat back and hoped for the best. (The Czechs’ heroic resistance was a lot of fun to watch, though.)

Also, because we have 24 teams instead of 16, we get game but limited sides like Ireland and Sweden, whose efforts resembled nothing so much as a particularly helter-skelter relegation six-pointer.

The failings of the system were nowhere more apparent than in Northern Ireland vs. Poland. No disrespect to Norn Iron, who were fantastic in qualifying, but when a team that topped its qualifying group feels it necessary to absolutely park the bus against a good but hardly exceptional side, something’s wrong with your competition.

On the positive side, Belgium-Italy was wonderful, and there have been some excellent goals. Bale, Dier, and Modric may have been helped by poor goalkeeping, but Payet’s was a beauty, Hoolahan’s weaker-foot strike was sweet as can be, and both Iniesta/Pique and Bonucci/Giaccherini were classics of their kind.

In any case, you can’t go wrong with lots of football, and the three best features of international tournaments: 1) classic kits without advertising; 2) the Italian national anthem; and 3) a close look at good players you haven’t seen much of before. So far I like Victor Lindelof (Sweden), Ivan Strinic (Croatia), Arkadiusz Milik (Poland), Pavel Kaderabek (Czech Republic), Yevhen Khacheridi (Ukraine), Elsed Hysaj (Albania), Yann Sommer (Switzerland).

My top performer so far? Mark Clattenburg.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA (somehow supporting both England and Wales on Thursday)


Jeez. How good were Italy?
Don’t say I didn’t tell you so (mail never got published) but Italy are dark horses…

If two teams can lose 20 games in a row and come in to a tournament and still make it to the quarters, it is Germany and Italy…they are the epitome of a ‘tournament team’.

Performance was outstanding from minute zero, extremely impressive passing, coolness on the ball and quick pressing.

Belgium were disappointing as I thought they would be…couldn’t get the big names in to the game but mostly due to the Italians’ play.

Great win for Italy, I want them to do well because I used to tell girls I was part Italian back in my younger days…never worked mind!!
T, London (they’ll prob lose next two games now won’t they?)


…Man, I bloody love Italy! They’re a right bunch of b**tards. Cynical yellow cards, time-wasting, but best of all, a defence as hard as a rock which allows them to counter-attack at will.

They’re going to be really hard to beat. Much has been made of how good this Belgium side is and they made some really good, incisive moves towards the end to try and break that Italian defence down. They went really close at times too, but with a screaming, shouting Buffon and the defence in front of him, there wasn’t really much more the Belgians could have done as the game wore on.

I enjoy football the way the Italians play it as much as I enjoy a well-executed, intricate passing game. I think the Italians can win this tournament.
Kabir, New Delhi


It’s all about mentality
I was with an Italian friend who was obviously very happy with the result against Belgium.

I suggested that it must feel especially good considering lots of people have been writing off the quality of the squad. “Yes,” he replied. “The squad is not great, but the mentality will always be Italian…”

And then I thought about Gary Cahill, complete with his Captain’s arm band, slumped on the floor at the full time whistle after the Russia game.
Naz, Gooner


My wife told me there was salad and quiche to eat last night when I arrived home as she was leaving (for the evening, not for good). So I sat in front of my tellybox watching Italy v Belgium eating said quiche and salad finding I couldn’t take my eyes off the remarkable Graziano Pelle.
JazGooner (Giroud was sooo last year)


The trouble with Belgium…
It looks (to me anyway) that one of the things holding Belgium back from being a great team is that they don’t have a core of players from one club who play together week in week out, (like the Dutch and German teams of the 70’s for example), just like in the World Cup in 2014 Belgium look like a bunch of very talented players who’ve only just been introduced to each other.

Best wishes.


…Belgium seem to be on the other end of the spectrum of what I’m going to call ‘the Leicester effect’ (trademark pending). So for Leicester that meant that they had decent players, not world beaters by any stretch of the imagination, but decent players who happened to come into their respective primes last season.

Belgium are on the other end of the spectrum. They have the biggest collection of ‘world beaters’ playing under their flag at the Euros at the minute. Hazard, Lukaku, Courtois, De Bruyne, Witsel would walk into nearly any team in world football. Fellaini, Origi, Alderweild, Vermaelen etc would be a welcome addition to any team as well.

Where Leicester and Belgium differ though is the word ‘team’. Leicester won the league this year, miraculously to be fair, but they played as a team. When the expensively assembled teams were losing their heads (Chelsea, transitional United, city at the end, Spurs being Spurs) they played as a strong unit. Belgium seem to be the exact opposite, fantastic individual players but they can’t seem to play as a team.

Is it the constant adulation and plaudits that these players get for their club that, in their own mind, elevates them above their peers to the point that they don’t want to be out shined (outshone?) even to the detriment of their country (a la Ronaldo, debatably). If so then the togetherness, teamwork and selflessness that Leicester displayed this season should be a wake up call to the whole football world.

Long may it continue. I hope Iceland win the Euros, Stoke win the Premier League next season and no one gets killed in Russia at the next World Cup.
Or am I being naïve? Or just a bit drunk?
Dan (blue scouser living in London)


Whatever the reason, they’re awful…
What an epic flop from Belgium today, couldn’t even beat an aging Italian team.

Lukaku is worth how much? Surely his value has dropped by now. Is there a Meyerside curse, cause Origi wasn’t much better when he came on in his place.

How much is Hazard worth now? I remember when he entered the EPL and he was being selective and arrogant about which team he would go to.
Chris (Canadian Gooner) Toronto
…How frustrating must it be for the Belgium support? They have probably the best player for player team in the tournament but a manager who makes them play like a poor United!

I had forgotten how bad they were in the 2104 WC in my rush to back them at 11/1. I can’t believe he is still in charge and I want my stake back!

Cracking game though and Italy played well all over the pitch. Bonucci looked a class act however Darmian looked worryingly out of his depth.
Plato, MUFC


Unorganised Belgium v Solid Italy
Well that was a rather entertaining yet frustrating game to watch. Kevin De Bruyne was quite dreadful wasn’t he (besides that one pass to Lukaku)? Lukaku was trying at first, but couldn’t seem to get good touches, and what a chance he then missed. Origi as replacement was even worse with his touches. Why was Fellaini even starting? What did Witsel do? Why didn’t Dembélé start when you needed someone to hold that midfield properly and not give away the ball needlessly? Hazard was good going forward but the under-performance from the others made him look bad.

Awkward but glimpses of good defending from Belgium despite the two goals against them, mainly from Courtois. Lack of proper organisation all over the pitch opened up the defense for Italy to attack. Some great tackles from Ciman, Alderweireld and Vertonghen. Other than that, what the hell? Italy had a masterclass team performance with no nonsense plays. A bit too many yellows but they got the result they wanted, so well done.

Those from F365 who had Belgium winning the Euro, are you starting to doubt your choice? I would.
John Blakeway


Don’t judge Lukaku too harshly
Yes Lukaku had a horror show last night, probably one of the worst games of his career so far, but please don’t judge his performance too harshly.

He was a lone front man up against three fantastic centre-backs who don’t suffer the same unfamiliarity that usually comes with a national side pooling players from loads of different clubs. These three have spent years winning title after title along side each other in exactly the same system, style and philosophy that Italy are using this tournament. In front of the same keeper too.

That back three is easily the best defensive unit at the Euros and Lukaku isn’t going to be the only striker made to look ordinary.
Ben (The Italian Beckenbauer….oooooff) Gleeson


On Kane and Lukaku
Two things.

Firstly I just realised Harry Kane and Rio Ferdinand have the same voice.

Secondly, Belgium and England I think face the same problem. Kane and Lukaku. Big strikers with a big future. But not at this point for their countries. We all saw what a difference Origi made when he came on for the abject Lukaku. Now Origi is not as good as Big Rom. But he seems to bring a liveliness that allowed Belgium playmakers to thrive. Sorry Lukaku fans but you can’t blame this performance on Martinez.

As for Kane, he is better than Sturridge. Stead’s hilarious assertion that Sturridge is a better passer is clearly wrong. I think Stead meant to say Sturridge is a better celebrator than Kane. But he makes himself a nuisance and goal hangs with the best of them. And that is the one thing that was missing from the excellent England performance on Sunday. Kane wanders too much and doesn’t yet have Sturridge’s poacher’s instinct. So I would do a direct swap for the Wales game.

Loving the Euros though. Three weeks without football was tough.


Wilshere for Rooney? Oh shush
‘Interesting’ comments from Smith (Fellaini to elbow his way into the net tonight against Italy) stating Wilshere should be in the England first team ahead of Wayne Rooney. ‘Interesting’ in the sense that watching Boris Johnson discuss Brexit or a street fight is interesting, you know it’s madness but you just can’t look away. Jack Wilshere himself acknowledged in an interview with the Guardian today that he’d “read one report recently pointing out that Leeds United had appointed six managers in that time. Or to put it another way, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 117 times since Wilshere lasted 90 minutes in Arsenal’s colours”.

To look at that time span from and England perspective; Dele Alli has emerged, Ross Barkley has eight Premier League goals for the season far surpassing Wilshere’s best ever total of three (three seasons ago) and Danny Drinkwater has won a league title.

If you take Wilshere’s finest games for both club and country one was in my opinion (Arsenal fans please feel free to correct me) against AC Milan when he was still a teenager and the other was away to the ‘mighty’ Slovenia in the group stages of Euro’s qualifying. The Slovenia performance is probably the reason he’s in the squad in the first place but it was only Slovenia at the end of the day. Wilshere needs time and at this stage of his career it’s honestly impossible to know whether he is still or could still be the player we hoped for, injuries such as his have taken their toll on many players before and will continue to do so, we can only hope he’s over the worst of it and not been too slowed by it all. He’s lucky to be in the squad, never mind starting and he’s humble enough to admit that I think.

As for Rooney who I thought was clearly excellent on Saturday, Wilshere himself has an interesting view – “hhe understands the game so well” was Wilshere’s take. “His appreciation of the strikers’ positions…he reads their runs when not many other people would even see the pass. To get that pass right, with the right weight, takes a special player. Or the times, in training as well, when he picks up the ball deep and sprays a long pass. He never gets one wrong, he’s always perfect. That’s when you can tell he has something special.”

Rooney stays in midfield thank you, hopefully Wilshere can have an impact off the bench.
Rob, Guangzhou


Irish eyes should smile (slightly)
I know Ireland missed their chance. Yes, we shrunk out of the game when we needed chests out. BUT, that Ireland team didn’t look out of place on the big stage. Fine, it was Sweden, but even before a ball was kicked the boys had an air about that set them far above what we sent out four years ago. After a decent performance in a game that might have just shaded, we’re still in the thing and hope endures. It’s more than pure romance that’s telling me we can get the results we need if we take the lessons from tonight. For an Irish fan, that ought to be plenty.
Paul, LFC (Hoolahan’s finest hour), Wycombe


Loving Daddy Vialli…
Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed Gianluca Vialli on the Beeb tonight.

Knowledgeable, intelligent, interesting and humourous. He is exactly what a pundit should be. He also looks good in tight-fitting trousers which seems to be a punditry requirement now. I hope he is next John Nicholson’s Footy on TV series

I don’t think it’s a man-crush thing as I have Pirlo for that, but I would like to be held by him as he strokes my head telling me how proud he is of me.
John (I think I may have daddy issues) Porter


Injured yourself celebrating a goal in your sleep? Need a real lawyer?
I’m a restless sleeper. I toss and turn a lot. I’ve also watched 15 hours of Euro 2016 in the last four days. As a result of this, I last night dreamt that England scored the winner in the final.

When they scored, I lurched forward in celebration, waking myself up. I woke up in absolute agony. What I’m saying is, I’ve injured my shoulder celebrating a goal in my sleep. Hope everyone else is having a great day.
Seb (MUFC)

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