Die Another Day

Romania's Adrian Mutu scores past Italy's goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon during their group C Euro 2008 match at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich on June 13, 2008

I basically had no real loyalties when I sat down to watch Italy vs. Romania encounter that could have resulted in the world champions being ousted from the tournament, and I don’t know why but deep inside my heart I was hoping for a Romanian victory. I then realized that this was because of Fabio Grosso. Yeah, the same Italian defender whose diving capabilities got the Italians through the Round of 16 against Australia in 2006 World Cup, Germany. And the rest is history. I cried hoarsely with the Australians as they debated with the referee who awarded the would-be world champions an injury time penalty kick for a foul on Grosso by Lucas Neill in the box. Totti made no mistake and Italy sailed through on Australia’s expense. Who knows Australia might have won on the penalties!

So with this melancholy on my mind, I sat down to watch Italy going against the unpredictable Romania. Both the teams looked determined and created equal chances but failed to find the net. Italians though got unlucky when a header by Luca Toni, just before half time was judged to be offside. Pretty hrash but I am not complaining! Ten minutes after the restart, a free-kick by Romanian right-back Cosmin Contra from deep inside his own half, spelled disaster  for the Italians as Zambrotta’s header back to Buffon was intercepted by Adrian Mutu, who flicked the ball over Buffon with a clinical touch. I danced with the Romanian fans as they celebrated their lead over the world-champions. But it was too early as Italy counter-attacked with all their might. Rossi managed to head back a corner by Chiellini across the goal to allow Panucci to equalize.

The Romanians should have claimed victory after the Italian goal-hero Panucci was judged to have brought down the Daniel Nicalue just 10 minutes before full time. I gloated as my vision of Italy getting eliminated in the group stage was proving to be turning into reality. But Gianluigi Buffon had other plans. His penalty save spared Italy form being ousted from the tournament and their involvement in the tournament was still left hanging slender thread after the game ended 1-1, with a game to go against France which I believe Italy can win taking in account the lackluster performance by the French in the tournament until now. A Romanian victory on the Dutch would be too much to ask for if the latter have their way, which I think they certainly will have considering their recent form.

So all in all, it comes to this. The Netherland and Italy will qualify from the ‘Group of Death’ with French and Romanians heading home to enjoy the rest of summer. This means that Italy has really survived to die another  day and I would be sincerely praying that their coup de grâce is performed by Luis Aragonés’s men in the quarter-finals.

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