Italy's Sharp Shooters Go Gunning For Trapattoni
This weekend in Dublin will have the strangest feeling. Italy are on the brink of qualification to defend their World Cup crown in South Africa next year. But standing in their way are two Azzurri legends.
Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli have swapped their native blue for the green of the Republic of Ireland and, so far, it has suited them down to the ground. The Irish, by hook or by crook, have pushed Italy hard in their group. A win at Croke Park would make Marcello Lippi sweat even more.
But how likely is it?
It is impossible to answer that without considering the qualification context. The Italians need only a draw to clinch top spot while Trap's men must win and hope Fabio Cannavaro and company somehow mess up at home to Cyprus a few days later.
The first part of the script is possible but the second, surely, is unthinkable.
Certainly, if the Azzurri show up in Dublin expecting a stroll they will get a harsh wake-up call. I don't think any Irish side ever took it easy on an opponent in front of its home fans. The players will be primed to look for a high-profile victory.
However, at the back of my mind there is a nagging doubt about what might happen when two Italian tacticians go head to head. A draw might be a convenient result for both. Italy would secure the group, Ireland a shot at qualifying as a best runner-up.
Sometimes, of course, such cynical thinking does not come true.
The last time the two teams met the whole game was compromised by the early sending off of Giampaolo Pazzini. This time, I hope it is a clean, fair fight.
May the best team win, then. Or draw, perhaps. But at the end of the night I think we can be sure that, one way or another, at least some Italian eyes will be smiling.
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