26 July, 2014 / Ramazan 27, 1435

"Venceréis pero no convenceréis." You will win but you will not convince. It’s a phrase first uttered by Miguel de Unamuno during the Spanish Civil War. Since then it has become part of the Spanish football lexicon. And it’s a phrase that has repeatedly been referenced during Spain’s Euro odyssey this year. As the national team has stuttered through the tournament, their legions of minions have decreased. There are still those who continue to think of la Seleccion as “their” team.

But the casual fan/glory hunter has found a new bandwagon for this tournament: Germany. It makes sense too. Germany have been everything that Spain should’ve been: gloriously attacking, aggressive and ruthless with panache. They are the prime examples of a young, exuberant and supremely talented team realising what they are capable of. They have not been as reactive as they were two years, but their ability to entertain hasn’t suffered due to this slight change in ideology.

The third team – whom Germany takes on tonight (and are expected to stomp over) – hasn’t been garnering the sort of attention the two favorites have. Cesare Prandelli’s Italy are a flawed team but they are the only team in the competition who can say with confidence, that every one of their matches has been entertaining. And one would think that of the three remaining teams in the competition, they should be the ones that appeal to the Pakistani fan more than any other.

Just look at the evidence: the Azzurri went through a sharp decline over the second half of the last decade, culminating in the disgrace of summer 2010. Since then, now under new administration, they have slowly climbed back up the international ladder and restored the pride associated with the national team. They have done this by employing methods that are alien to their history. Devoid of what were once their most prized and distinctive assets (world class defenders), they have changed their philosophy, and have challenged – and surprised – the best in the world. The team – which has defied most expectations – is one which has a curious inventory: a couple of old dogs in the middle of their swansongs; a bunch of failed wunderkinds who are finally showing a bit of consistency; a handful of journeymen footballers who wouldn’t have ever expected to make the national team; and one eccentric prodigy who is capable of anything.

During this time, their country has gone through an economic and political meltdown, and even the sport has not escaped the financial and moral corruption that is rife in society. Allegations of match-fixing weakened the team, but they have soldiered on in their attempts to restore their reputations. Surely if anyone can have sympathy and fraternity with the Italians, it has to be the Pakistani cricket fan.

But even beyond that, there is much to like about them. There is, of course, the joy of watching Gig Buffon and Andrea Pirlo roll back the years. Pirlo’s performance in the quarter-final versus England was reminiscent of Zidane against Brazil six years ago: a veteran showing the kids – and the world – who the boss is. Then there are the likes of Cassano and Montolivo – anointed successors to Baggio and Totti, respectively, in their youth.

To see them, finally, achieve what their talent deserved makes one believe in the power of second chances. Then there are Marchisio and Bonucci who could never be considered wonderkids; but they have shown how desire and ambition can trump talent, or the lack of it. But more than anyone else, this is Cesare Prandelli’s team. Here’s a man who was willing to opt out of the tournament that he has prepared two years (if not his whole lifetime) for, if it meant cleaning up the game in his country. His words and his actions – such as making the players train on land confiscated from the Mafia – have been designed to restore honour and dignity to the national team. And what the world has seen from Italy over the past three weeks shows that he may well have succeeded in that aim.

He has also moved away from the caution that had dogged Italy from 2006 to 2010; his acceptance of mavericks has been unique in modern football. He’s got players amongst whom he has got one who burnt his house down with fireworks, another who admitted that if he wasn’t a footballer he’d be a criminal, one who claims to have slept with 600 to 700 women, and a man who changed a Serie A season as an 18-year old. And that’s just his regular front two.

The subs are a whole different kettle of fish altogether. Tactical innovation and diversity, a propensity for mavericks, a last hurrah of a great generation, underdogs in their remaining matches and the football equivalent of the our cricket team: supporting Italy should be the obvious decision to make for a Pakistani. But with no guarantees of glory or consistency, perhaps we might be better off restricting our heartbreaks to one sport. Forza Italia? No. Viva Espana!


The writer is a sports nerd, and does not believe that opinions other than his own are valid. He can be found presenting his opinions as fact on his blog and twitter.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (38) (Closed)


SAK
Jun 28, 2012 09:06pm
hahaha....where are all the German fans now ?
Social Media App
Jun 28, 2012 11:43am
Good one Omar :D I'm supporting Germany too.
omar
Jun 28, 2012 08:43pm
Oh God! What a horror for Germans. Outplayed and outclassed by Italians. Spot on Cheema, I have enough courage to come back and congratulate. Good luck for the final for Italian fans.
SAK
Jun 28, 2012 12:18pm
Negative tactics ? Did you watch any of the Euro games ?
A A
Jun 28, 2012 12:16pm
It's Germany all the way I hope! Could bear to read the whole blog ... highly doubt Pakistani fans are any more behind Italy than they are behind Germans.
Wasim
Jun 28, 2012 04:09pm
Illogical argument to claim a logical choice. Anyway, nice try.
Guest62
Jun 28, 2012 04:27pm
Only As Individual Player , the support and praise is worth for the Mid Field Masterful PIRLO , the rest of the Italian team are average team . If one has to praise the Skill , The Stamina , The Will to counter the threat then just look at the German team as a whole . The Match against Greece was a right reminder to this effect after Greece scored the goal to level it 1-1 , some how the whole German team went mad and they scored 3 goals within 12 minutes to setlle the match beyond any doubt . I used to favour Holland team since 1976 till last world cup but some how that team has gone down the drain in the process after loosing an Ugly final display , to Spain .... Germany is the team to watch and support . Like Pakistani Cricekt team ( yoyos ) I would not watch Italy play BUT only to see the mastery of PIRLO in action
@SamiSaayer
Jun 28, 2012 04:05pm
a lot of writers label people 'glory hunters' very easily. fine, man city fans are likely to be glory hunters but you can't call german supporters glory hunters. they actually have genuine supporters. i'm an england supporter who won't win anything in my life time and that makes germany my back up option. as much as i love mario as a character, to whom you surprisingly didnt give much weight in this piece, i would still route for a 2-1 german win tonight.
MJK
Jun 28, 2012 01:36pm
Mr. Cheema ; When you get time ponder over the present state of Pakistan's Field Hockey Team & give us your 'valid' opinion. Summer Olympiad is around the corner.
Javed
Jun 28, 2012 11:45am
Now that's strange as i thought the final was set to be b/w Spain & Italy, obviously once Italy has thrashed the Germans, ultimately Spain taking the Euro cup. So fingers crossed!!
omar
Jun 28, 2012 01:08pm
There is just one team who deserves to win this tournament and that is Germany. This article is fictitious and lack's concrete data from in historical perspective. In reality it is Germany who have climbed the ladder from no where to playing 2 semi-final of a massive tournament. Italy was and is always a big threat and is almost always a favorite to win any major tournament, don't forget that they won the world cup in 2006 which is not so long ago. However Germany has been lackluster in their display in big competitions and it was only from 2006 and onward that Joachim Low's team has started to show signs of massive improvements. It is only Germany who have won ALL their games so far and entertained us much more than any other team in the world. If Germany had the easy-peasy run of 8 games in last worldcup which Spain for some reason enjoyed...trust me, Germans would have won the world cup by a far greater margin than a close victory in semi-final and final by Spain. All the GoGo for Germans. I will still come back to this article if for some reason Germany fails to win!!
Salman
Jun 29, 2012 03:18am
ahahahahhaha Italy won 2-1 :P
aqb
Jun 29, 2012 03:35am
and U all were sayin ??? :P
mgb
Jul 01, 2012 06:48am
From a total outsider (meaning a non-Pakistani with very little interest in cricket) I have to say that this is an extremely enjoyable article to read. Germany was on the top of my list as a possible finalist and winner but the Azzuri have cast that emotion aside now. Spain have been disappointing, but are still a force to reckon with and truly intriguing to watch due to the very unusual formation of 4 at the back and 6 mid-field players any of which can score when the opportunity arises. And yes, Pirlo is a joy to watch though I fear that Balotelli's performance against Germany will be the peak for this tournament, basically going back to the enigmatic inconsistent display we got from him at City this last season. May the best team win!
Jatin Goyal, India
Jul 01, 2012 06:53pm
to add to the comparisons, doesnt Pirlo resemble Imran Khan not only in his looks but also in terms of adding a semblance of sanity to a team of mavericks..
Saadia
Jun 30, 2012 07:11pm
I think many like author missed a big point about German team. German team is youngest with bright future, if you ever watched German sports program before the Euro cup was started then you would know that they clearly said that they are preparing these kids for World cup and Euro cup will be a training field for them. No matter what Germans play fair and even they did not win the cup they left so many fans with optimism. Rues, Kroos, Bender brothers who are only 18 are bright future of German national team. While Italians are just grandfathers team I doubt if many of them will be good enough for world cup matches.
omar
Jun 28, 2012 01:30pm
Apologies. I mixed the 8 goals scored by spain in the last world cup to 8 games. It was a run of 4 easy games and that too resulted in a 1-0 loss to Swiss by Spain. Spain by scoring a meager sum of 8 goals became the first team ever to win WC by scoring such a small amount of goals. Ironically, Germans scored almost twice as much and were left biting their nails after a 1-0 loss to Spain in semi-final. Time for revenge now!!
Shoaib Ahmed
Jun 28, 2012 10:49pm
@mediagag: After reading the comments, 'I told you so' somehow just doesn't cut it.
@HassanAli88
Jun 28, 2012 11:06am
The Article has certain flaws in it. Describing Montolivo as a successor to Totti, seems rather difficult considering both play in different positions, Montolivo's natural position is a centre midfileder or a regista and never really broke into the Italian team until 2010 WC and that too courtesy an injury to Pirlo, whereas Totti is a Trequartista, and can and has been successfully employed as a Second Striker and a Centre Forward. Montolivo is being favoured by Prandelli and since he was his manager at Fiorentina, despite Montolivo's unease at playing in the CAM position in 4-3-1-2 formation. Furthermore, saying that Marchisio and Bonucci were not wonderkids, well in Italy they were. Bonucci was hailed as a future great when he broke into Serie A with Bari and formed one of the most solid defence partnerships with Ronocchia during his time in Bari and immediately transferred to Juventus the next season for a reported 15.5 Million euros. With regards to Marchisio, he has been repeatedly compared to the great Tardelli by the Juve faithful and Italian newspapers. His potential was perfectly on display during his loan season with Empoli and anyone who saw him play would realise that he was a wonderkid which can further be proved by the fact that since his return from Empoli he has been a regular starter in Juventus!
Muhammed Ali Asif
Jun 30, 2012 06:27am
Its obvious, English football fans are alien to Italian football. Have always been and still are. And then come the typical stereotypes with it.
Raza
Jun 29, 2012 12:26am
they may have negative image of football but when their play comes one of the best tactical game italy will produce Forza Azzurri !
Kickus
Jun 29, 2012 12:31am
you my freind have a serious inferiority complex. are you talking about the same team that made it to the wc semi final and have been making it to every semi final of a major tournament played since 2009? or maybe your talking about the team that beat the world number one team 3-0? or let me guess, you are just like the rest of the majority of Pakistani cricket fans who after one or two losses can't get enough of criticizing the team and wanting a change!!!
Solomon786
Jun 29, 2012 07:06pm
Pakistan should leave aside cricket; it's become boring and materialistic. do what the rest of the world does -- play Football. We have so much football talent in our country. Dont believe me? Go to Lyari, go to Balochistan in and around Makkran coast and watch those youth in action.
Hasnain
Jun 29, 2012 12:40pm
Boring negative football? Which matches have you been watching? Italy gave Spaniards run of their money in first match. The were good against Croat for first half atleast and were clinical against Ireland. Against England they were superior team and should have won by 3 goals margin if they would have converted 30% of the chances and what they did with Germans must still be fresh in your mind. This is not Lippi's Italy.
Maestro
Jun 29, 2012 01:45pm
Great article! Another team which resembles the Pakistan Cricket team are the Dutch. Supremely talented yet eternally divisive. Sounds familiar? Pirlo and Italy showed who the boss was. Germany has a highly talented team but it has continued to lose tournament after tournament mainly because they do not have a leader. They need to bring back Michael Ballack to restore leadership in a leaderless though highly skilled German Midfield.
A.Bajwa
Jun 30, 2012 12:34pm
Vive la Spain.
Ahsan
Jun 29, 2012 09:43am
Mario Balotelli was absolutely phenomenal last night!
adnan
Jun 28, 2012 10:13pm
Why not support team Lyari to make it world class.
Javaid Iqbal
Jun 28, 2012 11:40am
The current Pakistan team does in fact have everything in common with Italian football. Boring negative tactics with a pinch of match fixing and any other type of cheating. I am obliged to support Pakistan but I find no reason to support a team which has always been the poster boys for negative football. I think the logical thing for Pakistanis to do is to hate Italian football as they hate the current state of Pakistani cricket.
Not-A-Football-Fan
Jun 28, 2012 10:04pm
Sorry to say Omar Sb., but you should have asked your team (Germany) first if they were in the mood of winning the game against ever victors (Italians) :-)
Haider Jalal
Jun 28, 2012 09:37pm
So, Germany lost...Your thoughts Omar?
Raza
Jun 28, 2012 04:45pm
Yeah the Azzuri's are the most underated side of the tournament and they can be unpredictable at times. I hope they'll surprise everyone and go on to win the euro's.
omar
Jun 28, 2012 11:29am
I will come back to this article after Germany has thrashed Spain in the final within 3 days from now.
Javed
Jun 28, 2012 11:28am
Return period of Italy is 12 years, and I think it is going to bounce back on the top.... let us see tonight.
Abubakr Usmani
Jun 28, 2012 02:42pm
There is no one who 'burnt his house down'. Mario Balotelli's home had a fire in a room , which was controlled, when supposedly his friend exploded firecrackers. Check ur facts beforehand.
BB Ashar
Jun 28, 2012 05:47pm
a very well written article and surprised to know a paki knowing as much of football as demonstrated here!!
Asma
Jun 28, 2012 05:21pm
nice blog, there are similarities b/w Pakistan cricket team and Italian footbal team. but Iam supporting Germany today. and i hope they take the trophy as well.!
Fifa12
Jun 28, 2012 05:11pm
Ha what a joke!! Look around and see who Pakistanis support.. Its the German team which most definitely is the obvious choice