It's still hard to believe that the United States tied a team that's one game away from the semifinals. We think maybe the Italians should be disqualified on that indignity alone.
So, it's the notorious floppers from Italy vs. the scrappy underdogs of Ukraine. The second of the four quarterfinals matches, and the one that's supposedly the biggest "on paper" mismatch of the quarterfinals. We won't lie: We're rooting for Ukraine. We suspect some of you are too.
Your live-bloggers are the fine folks from F.C. Camena, a soccer site that's much more studied and intelligent about these matters than we are. (It's a very fun site, actually.) It's Eusebio and pjdinho, and they may have "cameos from the other members of the team, weighing in with their observations as well." We are honored they wanted to be a part of this with us. Follow along in the comments, and enjoy all the Italiany-Urkainey goodness.
And, of course, we want to say thank you to the good people at Deadspin. We're big fans and it was an honor and a privilege to hang out in your neck of the nape this afternoon to talk footy. Please do stop by F.C. Camena if you have moment and say hi. After all, it is the Greatest Football Club In The Entire World, Ever.
FULL TIME Italy 3-0 over Ukraine: We've conferred on two (2) coasts, and we agree that the player of the game is Signor Zambrotta — that was the kind of performance that lets the rest of the Italian team shine. Well done. And we will all begrudgingly tip our caps to the Italian side — whom we swore we would root against for the remainder of the tournament/ the rest of our lives after the game in K-Town — for playing impressively and handling themselves well. Maybe they have a little more karma than we all realized.
90'+ Luca Toni has made sure Ukraine sleeps with the fishes.
90': Ukraine can't be too disappointed about how the World Cup went. Sheva got to play on the big stage, officially checking himself out of the Ryan Giggs club, and they lost to a team that was clearly their superior (though we'll admit they did have their chances). Plenty to be proud of. I'm sure they'll be toasting their moral victory in Kiev!
89': One last bit of magic from Sheva in this World Cup... and it's called a dive. Good to see the ref is still taking this game seriously.
88': Did ESPN just show us the Telemundo feed of that friendly?
87': I'm pretty sure the last time the President of Ukraine attended a sporting event he suffered an assassination attempt. Let's hope he gets out of the AOL OK with nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises.
86': A header by Ukraine. BLAH.
84': Worst Ukraine meltdown since Chernobyl?
82': As a fan of whoever's playing Italy, I'll be supporting Germany in the semifinal matchup Tuesday. California Klinsy!!!!
79':Let's hope Sheva is involved with this set piece . . . and a solid blast punched away by Buffon. It hasn't hurt that Buffon is having an outstanding game
78': In case I forget to say it, this Italian team has been total class. The operatic gesticulations have been minimized, and they've actually played a free-flowing game.
75': Time for more fun facts. Did you know that the Bill James of football is Ukrainian? Professor Anatoly Zelentsov developed a complicated statistical system for both tactics and evaluation of footballers. This is the sort of thing I need to know a LOT more about.
75': Ukraine deserve at least a consolation goal.
71': And that was definitely the most Camena-like goal scored in the World Cup thus far.
70': Heckuva run from Zambrotta. That was well earned. I guess there's plenty of time for ill-advised tackles and spiteful cards from Ukraine.
69' Goal Italy 3-0.Zambrotta was covered by two defenders but Shovkovskiy still comes out unnecessarily and leaving his goal wide open for Toni to slot home.
69' And while the chances dwindle for Ukraine, the bottom line reminds me how much the Phils suck this year.
68': So lockdown mode means that Totti is going to have to keep running. Well well well. Mea culpa.
67': Oooh! Oooh! They're doing the White Stripes thing!
65' "Two knees collide." Samauri Camoranesi goes down _very_ easily at the top of the Ukraine box. No stretcher needed... as soon as play stops he's fine.
64' The Ukraine manager looks like he should be coaching the Red Army gymnastics team. Is that a tag hanging out the back of his tracksuit?
61': So we'll say that lockdown mode officially begins when they take Totti off the field?
60' Gusin with another header... off the crossbar! Maybe Ukraine are not finished yet!
60': Uh oh. The Italians grab another, off the dread short corner (note: short corner is typically only "dread" for the team taking it. But the Italians make it work, helped by a bit of confusion in the back for Ukraine. And by "confusion" I mean "they forgot to get goal-side of the 6'4" dude."
59' Sorry Ukraine. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL Italy. 2-0. Perhaps that great chance was still on their minds as they let the guard down for a quick, skillful header from Luca Toni.
58': Okay, Buffon is officially standing on his head. Ukraine probably should have finished one of those, but, well, if Buffon is going use his ninja skillz like that, there's not much to be done.
58' It's hotting up. Sheva is sent through on the right and unloads a shot which Buffon saves, bounces off Cannavaro's face, another shot from Ukraine, saved off the line from Zambrotta, and then finally cleared. That should give Ukraine a jump. Just a lucky bounce away from equalizing.
56' Tricky lob from Totti on a free kick just outside the Ukraine goal. Comes to nothing, but still draws praise from JP and C4L (Captain for Life Harkes)
55' Sheva & Ukraine are to Italy as LeBron & the Cavs are to the Pistons?
54': Just when you think that Ukraine and Sheva have a head of steam, Gattuso busts them up and send Italy the other way. Tighty-whiteys or not, Gattuso is exactly the sort of player who tends to be on successful teams.
53' Far better effort from Ukraine this half. Just need sharper timing on the runs in the box.
50' And unlike hockey, these nets do NOT come off their moorings. Ouch.
50' Off the corner kick, ball eventually finds its way to the back post where Gusin heads towards goal - and Buffon makes an amazing fingertip save and knocks his head into the post. That looks painful.
49' Ukraine run down the right wing, cross and a dangerous deflection for a corner kick
47' Right in the jacobs for Cannavaro. For once he has every reason to be down for a break. Very humble indeed, Harksey
According to the CIA Factbook: the sex trafficking of Ukrainian women is a serious problem that has only recently been addressed. So they've got that going for them, which is nice.
HALFTIME: pjdinho says: Ukraine are in big trouble. Expect a lot of falling down, time wasting and 10-men-behind-the-ball from Italy in the second half. Nothing plays into Italy's hands like an early goal. But... if anyone knows how to score against the Italians it's Sheva.
HALFTIME: Eusebio says: I guess we could say the game has gone to form, in that the heavy favorites are winning. The large swaths of ground in the Ukraine half do not bode well for keeping the Italians to one goal, but Italy have politely agreed to ease back on final passes and shots. The Italians have yet to go to lockdown mode, which is at least keeping it lively. (But we have to assume lockdown mode looms.)
45'+: Yes yes! The magic spray! Spray that ankle! Spray! The spray is good! The spray cures all! How come we've never seen this magical product on an American field? Is there some sort of FDA holdup? How is it that the MySpace generation hasn't made a party drug out of it? These are the things we need to know.
45' Ukraine not getting a ton of pressure down the middle. Looking for long balls to the wing but not getting on the end of them.
42':The singing in the stadium sounds great. I was extremely jealous of the Italian fans' songs during the USA-ITA game, especially when they did the White Stripes thing (the first couple bars from "Seven Nation Army"). We really should have thought of that first. On the flip side, we did do an excellent job deploying "America, $%&#; Yeah!" from Team America.
41' Little stumble from Buffon after a seemingly weak strike from Sheva. More where that came from.
40': Lovely through-ball from Totti...and then...errr...nothing. Wasteful. Still, those acres of space on the Ukraine side of the field do not bode well. This is exactly what Italy wants.
39' Officials doing a good job in this half. Not letting any crap dictate the flow.
36' Ukraine kits have a Wolverine from the 80s look. Or perhaps even LaSalle College High School. Dig it.
36': Did it really take until the 36th minute to mention the match fixing scandal? JP and Harkesey are not nearly as annoying (or erroneous) as Celo and O'Brien.
33': Tymoschuk with a shot from distance. "First real chance for Ukraine." But it was no more than a half-chance, as they say.
32': Someone needs to tells the Ukraine that they should play someone at the "defensive midfield" position.
32' Another nifty diagonal ball from Totti. Perotta receives, gets tackled and falls down. He's hurt. (Remember, he's Italian)
29' Extremely nifty flick from Totti. Generally speaking, it was a bummer he wasn't in form for this World Cup, if only because he's probably the most gifted Italian playmaker since the pony-tailed one.
28': Gattuso's back. For the avoidance of doubt, that was Gattuso in his underwear that was all over the billboards in Germany?
21'Ukraine 0 cards until tonight, and now 2 in the half. The Italian style of play rubbing off perhaps?
20' - A tactical substitution for the Ukraine. Striker Vorobey comes on for defender Sviderskiy, who just picked up a yellow. This seems a bit of a hasty change to announcers JP and Captain For Life John Harkes. But really, what has Ukraine done so far?
17' Free kick to Italy, 35-yard low line-drive shot by Totti is easily saved by Shovkovskiy
16': And we have our first card. I feel a lot better now.
14' - Nice ponytail Camoranesi
14'Gattuso is first in anguish. "My achin' back!"
13': First mention of legendary club Dynamo Kiev, which was essentially the Ukraine national team when the Soviets were running things. Fun fact: when the iron curtain fell, Dynamo Kiev secured a license to export nuclear weapons parts! Seriously. I read it in a book (Soccer Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper).
11': Someone tell Kalinichenko he stole Pavel Nedved's hair.
9':: Nifty cut through the center of the field by Perrotta, though he doesn't get the shot through. Errr, Ukraine really need to be closing down space in the center of the field.
6': Whoa. That was a TON of space 35 yards from the goal, well taken by Zambrotta. We'd like to believe that this won't rattle the Ukraine. Really, we would. But, errr, this isn't a good sign. Still, there's plenty of time to settle the match down. Let's see that fighting spirit, Sheva!
4' Camoranesi and his free-flowing locks with a run from midfield and a shot just wide. Goal kick.
2' First dive for the Italians, throw in for Italy
PREGAME: Pregame speeches about why discrimination is "bad" in "society." Charming. Though I would have preferred Mr. Cannavaro to share his thoughts on drunken Italian fans spitting their blood at otherwise charming Americans who happened to be sitting in the Italian section during Group Play. Not that we would know anything about that. Not at all. A time to make friends(tm)!
PREGAME: Ukraine's glory has not perished!
Quarterfinal matchup from the AOL Arena ("You've Got Football!") in Hamburg. Italy (winners in Group E) vs. Ukraine (runners-up in Group H).
The most recent encounter between the two nations was a 0-0 June 2 draw in a friendly match in Switzerland as part of the build-up to Germany 2006. We'd like to promise this match will end up with something other than a scoreless draw and penalty kicks. But when Italian teams and Sheva are involved in big matches (2003 Champions Leagues final we're looking in your direction), it isn't always a free-flowing affair.
So far, Italy lead the tournament in disgraceful play. Italy manager Marcelo Lippi claim they will "aim to entertain." Note to Signor Lippi: Diving and faking injuries are NOT entertaining. Also, Signor Lippi has been going increasingly bonkers in his press conferences of late, but you really can't blame him when higher-ups in Italian soccer are mysteriously plummeting from windows in the midst of the tournament. Italy reached the quarters by beating Australia 1-0 on dubious penalty call in 94th minute. Today, three defenders are out of the lineup: Alessandro Nesta injured, Marco Materazzi and Daniele DeRossi meaning a start for Palermo's Andrea Barzagli. In fact, Italy seems to be fielding a defensive lineup of five midfielders and Luca Toni as a lone forward.
Ukraine are this tournament's surprise entry in the QFs - and not just because they have not received a card in any of their four matches (and good luck keeping up that streak this evening). They are led by captain and new Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko who has owned Italian defenders for the last 7 years while playing at AC Milan. Critics paint Ukraine as a one-man team, taking an overly defensive posture in their round-of-16 overtime session with Switzerland. Sheva dismisses such talk, and says they'll be taking the underdog approach: "We must try and play as a team, summing up all our reserves of fighting spirit to make up for our lack of technical ability." Hmmm, that sounds suspiciously like the F.C. Camena motto ("Camena: A tactical system of football/ soccer characterized by extreme fighting spirit, impassioned defense, opportunistic attacking, and a proclivity for petty revenge"); perhaps Sheva would like us to arrange a swap!