First he spat out his chewing gum, then he let rip with his anger. Marcello Lippi was entitled to smile after Alberto Gilardino gave his team a comeback win over Cyprus in Parma on Wednesday night. Instead, he was anything but happy.
The source of his frustration was a perceived lack of respect towards his team. With Italy trailing 2-0 to their lowly rivals, there were whistles and jeers from the seats of the Ennio Tardini stadium. Worse was to follow—to Lippi’s ears anyway—as they started to chant the names of players they felt should have been in his squad.
Antonio Cassano sprung to everyone's mind.
The Azzurri coach’s tirade at the full-time whistle was understandable; however, his team, which had looked to be going nowhere for much of the match, showed a lot of guts to turn the game on its head.
He felt they did not, and do not, get the recognition they deserve.
Lippi changed his team completely from the side which started against the Republic of Ireland—and it showed.
They slipped behind when Okkas beat a sluggish offside trap in the 12th minute and looked to have lost all hope when Michail doubled the Cypriot lead early in the second half.
But this is a side which has made resilience its middle name.
Old stagers like Rino Gattuso and Fabio Cannavaro stepped up to the plate and ripped possession away from the visitors. Daniele De Rossi provided greater drive when he came on as a substitute.
And Alberto Gilardino did what he does—score goals. On this occasion, a hat-trick.
It was a 3-2 victory which allowed Italy to finish their group unbeaten and also let Lippi get a few things off his chest.
"These boys deserve some respect," he said. "They are world champions, don't they deserve a little help when they find themselves in a bit of trouble?"
"I am furious," he added. "I'll call up players when I see fit to do so. But that's not the issue—the issue is a lack of respect towards a great bunch of players who have all the heart in the world."
It was hard to argue with the evidence in Parma.
This team may never win awards for beautiful football, but it will never lie down and accept defeat.
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