Friday, November 16, 2007

Italy vs. Scotland - 11/17/2007

Tomorrow, Italy plays Scotland in a very important Euro 2008 qualifier. Italy is on the road, in Scotland, and will have to play the best squad they can put on the pitch for 90 minutes. Why? Italy is currently third in their group ranking, behind both France and Scotland. Italy has only one loss, but they have played less qualifiers to this point than both Scotland and France, so they have one less win than both teams, with 7 as compared to 8 wins for both Scotland and France. The draw against France this past summer didn't help, which Italy easily should have won.

What you see on the right is Italy's new away split. There are more pictures here, just toggle between "previous" and "next". The Uni Watch blog called it 'disgusting', but this is the same Uni Watch that gets the occasional column on and which called last year's Italy jersey "boring". In fact, it was a marvel of modern fabric and the best design worn by the team that I have ever seen - I have a replica, and the fabric is super light, wicks away moisture very, very well, and has welded seams to keep the weight of the jersey down. It's like wearing silk, but silk that doesn't absorb any water. This is especially important if you're running for 90 minutes and sweating more than any American football player does in 4 or 5 games. Americans simply don't understand soccer uniforms - the MLS ones have to have all kinds of piping (which is okay as long as it's controlled) and huge logos with team names - typically American, which is okay. I think part of the disconnect is that league teams abroad do not have names - there's no "Liverpool Beatles". It's just Liverpool Football Club, or whatever. So in international play, the teams sometimes have nicknames, but they are simply known as Italy, Germany, etc. When there's no team colors, just a country's flag or traditional soccer garb to use as a reference, color schemes become less creative (until recently - the new, England jersey was a huge hit in Germany, as was the Portugal wine-rid color, and the Italy jersey, despite Uni Watch's comments).

Anyway, Italy's new away split has a weird gold strip and a collar, as well as funky numbers and a logo that's far too high up on the left chest - why not make the team logo bigger, keep it at center, and leave the Puma logo where it was? I hate the collar, to be honest. Why does a soccer player need a collar - for tradition? It also seems the jersey has more gloss in the fabric, which could add to the weight. These guys are star athletes, running around a soccer field, and need the lightest possible material to do their job. So PUMA decides to add a collar...??? I'm hoping they get such negative feedback on this thing, that they hold off on redesigning the home jersey. Interestingly, the home and away Italy jerseys have historically been very different. PUMA has been on a home-run streak with design - workout clothes, shoes, and their pride and joy, the Italy kit from the 2006 world cup. But I think they overshot this one.

Oh, there's a game to be played, right. If Italy can get this win, it'll pretty much guarantee them one of the top two spots for Euro 2008 next year. They should be able to control their own destiny at that point with only 2 games remaining. And then the real tourny begins next summer in Austria & Switzerland, which should feel like home games for Italy considering Germany is the only decent competitor closer to both countries. Plus, I'm becoming a Donadoni fan - the coach really knows what to do when he's pressured, it seems, and has been putting the appopriate players out there when needed. He's like the Tito Francona of the game now - he has loads of talent at his disposal, just needs to ensure he knows where to put it and when. Winning this game and entering the finals of Euro 2008 will stave off any talk of Lippi coming back to the team. I love Marcello Lippi as much as any Azzurri fan, but we don't need a coaching scandal/replacement in the middle of trying to get an 8th and then a 9th win in these qualifiers.

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