Italians are known to perform their best when under immense pressure and the current atmosphere in the league is only conducive for the national team’s chances at the World Cup.
The Italian national side and the Italian clubs are amongst the least liked in Europe. People regard Italian as anti-football and Inter’s midweek win over Chelsea only intensified this criticism. This past week we saw tensions reach a boiling point in the league as Jose Mourinho found himself in the midst of a storm following his antics during the Inter-Sampdoria game. Leading personalities in the game labelled Mourinho as a ‘troublemaker’ and as a ‘harm to the Calcio’. They believe that the Special One’s tirades against the Italian game – the latest one came after the Champions League game – were destroying Italy’s image. But if one looks at the history of Italian football, such adversity only sparks the national team into action.
When Italy won the World Cup four years ago it would be fair to say that no one expected the Azzurri to do so. The Italian game had been rocked by the Calciopoli scandal and there were doubts been cast even about Marcello Lippi’s position as the coach of the national side. The Italians had an easy passage into the finals thanks largely to a simple qualifying group but nevertheless they were far from favourites for the tournament. Lippi’s team was discarded as too old and their style of football considered outdated. People were quick to point out Italy’s failure in Euro 2004 to back up their claims for an Italian failure on the biggest stage. Despite all the negative press and all the condemnation levelled their way the Azzurri managed to come out triumphant.
The scenario was very similar to the one seen in 1982 when the national team had been rocked by a betting and match-fixing scandal. Paolo Rossi who went on to become the tournament top scorer was one of the players who was fined and censured by the league authorities for his part in the proceedings. And yet the team prevailed under extremely tasking circumstances to come out victorious. The atmosphere around the country is currently very tense with referees coming under the spotlight once again. Wednesday night’s game between Milan and Fiorentina saw aggrieved reactions from la Viola after they were denied a penalty in the final minutes.
There are calls from all quarters for Coaches and Presidents to calm down their rhetoric as the chances of violence seem to be escalating at an alarming rate. Lippi’s team selection has been the butt of all jokes throughout his tenure and once again the Italian team finds itself been regarded as a spent force with the World Cup closing in. But the beauty of this situation is that the Azzurri thrive in it. If there is one team that can pass insurmountable odds, it is Italy. So it wouldn’t really come as much of a surprise if the Italians manage to string together yet another decent run in the summer. The simple logic being – the more you hate them, the better they get.