Mixed results for Italian clubs in Europe, while Marcello Lippi may be on borrowed time in China.
Italian teams did not do too badly in the latest round of European competition - with the exception of Juventus and Napoli.
Juventus struggled in its second match in the Champions League and managed only one point at home. The draw with Chelsea in the first round has the side on two points and already in trouble as far as qualification for the next round is concerned.
Napoli managed to do even worse, defeated 3-0 in Eindhoven.
For reasons better known two the club, the Napoli hierarchy decided to field a team of reserves. The result was a humiliating 3-0 defeat, compounded by no less than seven yellow cards.
Being technically poor is one thing, but this lack of discipline on the European stage is nothing short of disgraceful.
Inter Milan also chose to take the field with a team full of reserves, but they were of such quality - and the opponents so poor - that they come back from Eastern Europe with an easy 3-1 victory.
Coutinho confirmed that he has come back from his loan in Spain a much better player. So much so that he can hardly be considered a "reserve" for the Nerazzurri.
Lazio scraped through with a 1-0 win in its home match.
"Mission accomplished" one might say, especially after Serie A losses to Genoa and Napoli. However one cannot help wondering why the club would fight for a whole season in Serie A to get a spot in Europe if it then treats the competition with such contempt.
I have left the good news for last so we can erase the bitter taste left by Napoli and Juventus and, to a lesser extent, by Lazio.
Udinese was sensational in its amazing 3-2 win away to Liverpool.
The match looked all but over after the home side finished the first half with a 1-0 lead.
But an amazing Udinese recovery started very early in the second half with Di Natale equalising in the 46th minute. The Italian club then established a 3-1 lead and it took a magical free-kick form Luis Suarez to bring the Reds back into the match.
A neutral observer might successfully argue that Liverpool deserved at the very least a draw, but posterity will learn that Udinese registered a stunning victory in Liverpool.
AC Milan did just as well, if not better, winning 3-2 away from home.
Here, too, the neutral observer might argue that the Italian side was quite lucky to earn the three points, but then again you need a bit of luck to be successful in Europe.
Milan and Udinese certainly drew heavily from their good luck reserves.
An interesting aspect of the European results is the lack of any correlation between results in Europe and achievements, or lack of them, on the home front.
Udinese and, to a lesser degree, Milan are struggling in Serie A, but achieved excellent results on the European scene.
Meanwhile, current leaders Juventus and Napoli managed one point between them against European opposition.
But it will certainly be a different story this weekend when Napoli hosts Udinese and Juventus travels to Siena.
Both teams' difficulty in translating their good domestic form into good performances in Europe remains a concern however, especially when you consider that Juventus had high hopes for its return to the European scene.
In the next couple of days, they all return to Serie A duties. One hopes that Napoli will show greater respect for its fans and field a competitive team. It will, however, be without captain Paolo Cannavaro in the home match against Udinese ... maybe a blessing in disguise.
Ivo Pulga is the new coach of Cagliari. He was a player in the Cagliari side that won two consecutive promotions from Serie C1 to Serie A.
Italy has gone from 6th to 8th in the FIFA rankings. How did it manage to make the final of the European Championship only a few months ago?
Officials and supporters of Guangzohu, the Chinese team coached by Marcello Lippi, must be wondering what they have done to deserve a coach whose qualities, regrettably, do not match his arrogance, at least in the past few years. The team has been eliminated from the Asian Champions League. Any volunteers to help Lippi pack his elegant suits and board a plane to Italy?
Times can be tough in the lower leagues of Italian football. Take the players of Milazzo, a Sicilian team playing in the Fourth Division. The club stopped paying for its accommodation at a local hotel and 10 of them had to sleep in the team's dressing rooms.
No smoking in Italian stadia! And, please, do not laugh. The decision was made at the highest government level and smoking will not be allowed in Italian stadia, starting from season 2013-2014. In the same period pigs will keep flying.
Simone Farina, the former Gubbio (Second Division) player, is yet to find a club willing to employ him. Not good enough? Maybe too good, since he denounced efforts to get him and others to go soft with opposing strikers, allowing them to score, and win, against his team. As a result, he has been unable so far to find a club. Even Sepp Blatter is incensed. And he should know about dodgy deals.
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