Tag Archive: Italy



Uruguay forward Diego Forlan has joined Brazilian side Internacional after his Inter Milan contract was terminated yesterday. Forlan had moved to Italy from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

Something of a flop at Manchester United – his first European club – having cost the Red Devils over £500,000 per league goal at £6.9 million, Forlan has rebuilt his career in recent years, enjoying much more prolific spells at Villarreal and Atletico Madrid after leaving Old Trafford in 2004, as well as winning the Golden Ball at the 2010 World Cup.

Forlan’s move to Milan never quite worked out for either party

Having managed a much-improved strike-rate of around a goal every other league game at each of his Spanish clubs, it was only a matter of time before a European giant such as Inter came calling. Unfortunately, after signing at the San Siro in August 2011, Forlan struggled to emulate this record. Just two league goals all season led to the club tearing up the last year of the Uruguayan’s contract, making him eligible for a free transfer.

Signed as a replacement for Inter legend and Anzi Makhachkala-bound Samuel Eto’o – who had scored 37 times in all competitions in 2010-11 – Forlan was always likely to feel the pressure at a historically expectant club. Despite scoring on his debut in September against Palermo, Diego would find the net just once more in Serie A, having to wait until March for his next – and last – league goal for Inter, against Catania.

A move to Porto Alegre-based Internacional, who finished fifth in Brazil’s top flight last season, represents a chance to move back to his home continent for Forlan. His illustrious career has come the full circle: Forlan’s first club was Argentine giants Independiente; Brazil’s Internacional could well be his last.

The signing is likely to benefit both parties, with Forlan able to escape his Inter nightmare while winding down his career closer to home, while Internacional will likely bask in  increased shirt and ticket sales after the unveiling of Uruguay’s all-time top scorer. Indeed, a club statement read “Diego Forlan is the new reinforcement of Internacional. The Uruguay player is in Milan and will arrive in Porto Alegre on Saturday. The player will be unveiled tomorrow.”, while Forlan himself had earlier this week admitted he was “excited” by speculation linking him with a move to Brazil.

The world’s most casual unveiling? Forlan wears his new shirt

Although Forlan will undoubtedly be the crown jewel in Internacional’s squad – which is entirely comprised of South Americans – he is not the club’s first player to have proved himself in Europe and at international level: Internacional alumni include AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato, World Cup-winning midfielder Dunga, Juventus new-boy Lúcio and Villarreal forward Nilmar.

Forlan becomes the second foreign superstar in the space of two weeks to move to the Brazilian top-flight, following Holland legend Clarence Seedorf’s transfer to Botafogo on 30 June. The pair, who have both won over 80 caps for their country, will join fellow footballing celebrities Ronaldinho, Neymar, Deco and Luis Fabiano in the 2012-13 Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, a league that is growing in stature and appeal to European fans with every marquee signing.

 

Images: Forlan at Inter Milan – http://www.nuevaeradeportiva.com/; Forlan in Internacional shirt – http://www.sambafoot.com


England will face off against Italy in today’s Euro 2012 quarter-final – and the outcome could decide both how the Three Lions’ performance in the tournament will be remembered, and how long Roy Hodgson will be in the national team hotseat.

Following a solid showing in the group stage, where England qualified along with France after narrow victories over Sweden and Ukraine and a draw with Les Blues, English optimism has been gradually building ahead of the knockout stage.

Hodgson’s men had entered the tournament unfancied and without the heavy burden of a country’s expectation – something that has plagued previous England teams, especially the so-called “Golden Generation” of Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard and co. The fact that the former Liverpool, Finland and Inter Milan boss was only appointed on 1 May, just over a month before England’s first game at the Euros, meant that the English press and public prepared for failure in Poland and Ukraine.

A 1-1 draw with group favourites France, which saw a defence-minded display from the Three Lions, was in line with this realism. This was an England team that knew its limitations, that knew when to play for a draw and when to commit men forward. The only real worry that emerged from England’s opener was the side’s inability to defend a lead: Joleon Lescott’s header on the half-hour mark was almost immediately cancelled by Samir Nasri’s powerful drive nine minutes later.

The turning point in Hodgson’s reign? Danny Welbeck bags the winner against Sweden

If England fans had thought that match lacked excitement and drama, they were to be pleasantly surprised by the team’s second group game, against Erik Hamren’s Sweden. Perhaps ironically given the recent and increasing clamour for English football to adapt to modern ways and adopt the aesthetically pleasing football of the Spanish team, England’s opener against Sweden, as versus France, came from the typically English route of a long cross from the wing met by a bullet header from close range.

This time, it was Liverpool targetman Andy Carroll who found the net, with Steven Gerrard once more providing the assist for his clubmate. Unlike against France, England held their early lead until half-time, only to capitulate and allow 34-year-old Swedish defender Olof Mellberg to net twice in the space of ten minutes, albeit with a slice of fortune for his first goal.

At that moment, any English pessimism appeared to be justified. Suddenly, the draw against France was not such a good result after all.  No wonder expectation was low: this England team was trailing to an average Sweden side ranked only one place above Ireland.

Less than twenty minutes later, self-professed pundits were hailing the tactical genius of a man they had just slated for giving such an apparently awful half-time team-talk. Substitute Theo Walcott equalized for England before outpacing the Swedish defence to set up Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck for one of the most impressively-improvised finishes of all-time (if he really did mean it).

A solid, if uninspiring, 1-0 win over hosts Ukraine in England’s third game was enough to see Hodgson’s men top Group D following France’s shock loss to the Swedes. Wayne Rooney’s goal three minutes after half-time proved to be the decisive moment in a tight affair – as in their clash with Sweden, in Ukraine England were facing a side that needed to win to avoid elimination at the first hurdle.

Expect calls for Hodgson to be rewarded with a knighthood should England reach the semi-final

Whether a slender victory against the Yellows – in which Ukraine even had a goal wrongly disallowed – could be considered a “good result” is debatable: Oleg Blokhin’s men are, according to FIFA, a worse team than the likes of Panama, Armenia and Gabon. In the pressure-cooker situations of a major tournament, however, many England fans were simply relieved to see their side progress.

Tonight’s clash with Italy, themselves the survivors of a group containing Spain and Croatia, will go a long way to deciding whether Hodgson is still in charge come the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Should England lose, don’t be surprised to see a “don’t say we didn’t tell you so” smugness in media coverage, and an apparent necessity for change, while a victory will merit calls for Hodgson to be knighted as his men are hailed as national heroes.

England may well have learned the consequences of piling too much pressure onto their players the hard way, but once more supporters have allowed themselves to become too expectant; how England are now considered favourites against Italy – a side that drew with Spain – but were thought of as underdogs against France – who last night lost 2-0 to the reigning champions – shows that we have not fully learned our lesson.

Images: Welbeck goal vs Sweden – www.therepublikofmancunia.com; Hodgson – www.thesun.co.uk