Or, we can call it: Yet Another Semi Annual Reminder From An Italian Team That Defense Is Part Of The Game.
Some people call defensive play anti-football. I think that's the dumbest thing I ever heard. Anti-football is either 1. Married to Uncle Football or 2. Bowling.
Bowling is anti-football. It's a sport that you play 1v1, you can smoke and drink while doing it, the uniforms are a completely different animal, there are special shoes... but absolute opposites on many levels and kicking that ball is ill advised.
And I say all that as a bowling enthusiast. But I think the point is made. Defense is just the opposite of offense and a valid part of the game. I hope that other teams in other leagues continue to ignore that entire aspect of the sport. It'll certainly make things easier for us in the future.
The season was already special when we walked out on the field. We were the League Champions and we were the Domestic Cup Champions. Despite all the talented players playing on all the clubs in Italy we were the only ones to win silverware at all.
The season would already have been special had we lost this game. This was the farthest we had come in this competition since the 1971-1972 season - despite the dodgy math perpetrated by others, 1972 was not 45 years ago - when we lost in the finals that year to Ajax 2-0 (both goals were scored by the Ballon d'Or winner of that season, Cuijff).
My Inter Player of the Match – it’s never been a simpler choice:
Cesar: There were two really dangerous chances that Bayern created in this game and Cesar dealt with both of them cleanly. Plus, it was his distribution that created the first goal. 7.0
Maicon: Because Bayern play a 442 with attacking wingers, Maicon was severely limited in his attempts to go forward. He had a couple chances to go up the field. But he played defense incredibly well. Nothing came out of our right side. Part of that was Bayern’s inability to attack without Ribary or Robben, but part of that was Maicon and Eto’o’s solidity in the back third. 7.0
Lucio: There was some talk that Lucio wouldn’t be able to handle the big stage. That’s the difference between people who know and people who hope. If you were a person who knows what they are talking about, then you would have known that Lucio has handled bigger than, or as big a stage already in his trophy laden career. He was solid and an integral part of the best defense in Europe. 7.0
Samuel: Walter is one of those players that people are rediscovering. It’s like a surprise to some that he’s still good. In fact he’s one of the best. He was huge today, blocking shots and cover out wide for others. He was a presence in the middle that acted like a deterrent forcing everything to slide to the outside. 7.0
Chivu: Chivu struggled a bit covering Robben today. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because Robben is a good player. But Chivu got help when he needed it and was able to communicate and coordinate with his help to get the job done. Robben is a good player but he was often trying to get the job done alone. Chivu is part of a good team – by sharing the load Robben was shut out. By the way, a big “Fuck You” to all the Bayern supporters and English commentators who were whistling/criticizing his “gamesmanship”. Because of his “gamesmanship” he had to be subbed. 6.5
Zanetti: What can be said that hasn’t been already? He, at times, was defending up past the center circle as part of the defensive framework. He was also the fullback when Chivu had to leave the field. He got the team out of trouble a few times and he was always ready to respond to Bayern’s attempts to run the counter. He was so happy when he lifted the trophy, that was the point that I realized what this game meant to him. 7.0
Cambiasso: Cuchu bossed the midfield. He’s so aware on the field that he can tell people when they are clear, who to mark and when to hurry. Cuchu is like the glue of the midfield… and he was a damn fine destroyer today as well. 7.0
Pandev: Pandev had two golden chances to score, that it’s a shame that he ended the day with nothing. I thought that he brought a ton of possession to the team when they needed it most to rest and regroup in the defense. He also advances the ball like nobody’s business. It’s just such a shame that he left the game with nothing. 7.0
Sneijder: He deserves so much credit for his game today; I don’t know what to give him for a rating. He ran his ass off, more than he really had to. First of all, he chased down a ton of balls in the first half when Bayern was putting everyone to sleep passing in their own half for 20 yea… er minutes. He also came back to help out Stankovic sort out his assignments until Deki was able to get his bearings. He also laid up a sweet, sweet pass that led to the first goal. When Milito returned the favor, he could have had one of his own. 8.0
Eto’o: Eto’o has only been with us for one season and I am struggling to understand why Barca let him go for Ibra. Using this game only as a template, he did so many things that Ibra just won’t/didn’t do. Eto’o came back to help on defense. Eto’o passed to Milito for the glory of the second goal, when he had a small opening for himself. Eto’o worked with his teammates in the structure of the gameplan instead being apart from it. Eto’o was a wonderful team player today and for that, I appreciate him. 7.5
Milito: It’s not that Milito is physically doing things that Ibra couldn’t. It’s that he finishes the simple easy ones. Today, Milito was fed two through balls he could run onto, make a move and then shoot. Two shots, two goals. Both shots were one on one with the keeper – after he disposed of the not up to the job defenders who tried to stop him. Both shots were with his right and both were to the far post with a little instep spin – just like they teach you when you are a kid. Simple, effective and productive. 8.5
Alright, what's the over/under on the number of babies named Diego in about a year? Anyone?
Winning the final game is a lovely bonus and the capstone to the season that any team in Italy has ever had. Moratti’s dream was to bring Inter to the kind of dizzy heights that his father and Herrera did. Have these past 4 years been comparable to La Grande Inter? I don’t know. I certainly haven’t given it the kind of thought that the question really deserves. But I do know this – and I am very confident of this – this is the best Inter team that I have been around for. It’s better than the record setting 1988 team. It’s better than the other record setting team of 2006. Trophy-wise, it’s the best team in all of Calcio history. Athletically, it probably is too, but then again, there’s no athlete of ten or fifteen years ago that can compare with the training and sports science that is available today.
As far as the game went, the best team won. That’s about it. Inter needed to make mistakes for Bayern to win as player for player, strategy for strategy, they were not as good as we are.
The Inter formation and objectives were flawless. Our wings were to pressure their fullbacks keeping them nominally honest and cautious. Our fullbacks were on their wings and our defensive midfielders were in position to close down the inside cutting Bayern wings or either of the more defensive center midfielders or the forward that would try to link the Bayern midfield to the main Striker. The counter attack was to be swift and ruthless. The transition back to defense was to be equally swift.
We made some mistakes, but then again, there is the difference between Milito and whomever Bayern had. Milito was calm and composed when he took his shots. Muller, or whoever it was, had a shot point blank on Cesar at the very beginning of the second half and he rushed it. Or Cesar made a great save. Either way, to paraphrase a legend, He drooled the drool of regret into the pillow of remorse.
I don’t want to criticize Bayern too much here, I mean they are a good side, but a team that fields those center backs – after letting Lucio go, mind you – they just aren’t up to snuff. They were carved open several times this game and they never looked comfortable. We had a rocky period ourselves right after halftime and we looked like we fell asleep once or twice, but Bayern’s duo never looked like they were sure what was going on. Plus, they looked under staffed. At times it seemed like they only kept two in the back and Van Bommel right in front of them. In short, they left too much space open to be attacked. Not good.
The celebration afterwards was like a lifetime achievement award. Many of us knew that this team should have performed better in earlier years in this tournament. In one case it was a baffling series of red cards and devastating injury against Liverpool. Another year we were eliminated from the semis by one of the Spanish teams that starts with a V that I can never keep straight, without losing a game in the tie that ended in a brawl. We were denied a clear goal against Milan that touched off a riot in the stadium causing the game to be abandoned. We hit the damn post twice and Cuchu lost his nerve in a gimme against Manchester United after Cesar put on a clinic in both games. There always seemed to be some weird Juju that kept a good team from going as far as it should have in this stupid tournament.
So it was both a relief and a joy to finally have something good happen. I know I have all summer to celebrate this one… and I plan to. All the hate and bitterness our rivals will undoubtedly show in the midst of this time will only enhance what is a warm glow… and no, that’s not only the large amounts of alcohol used in the joy making.
Anyway, the silly season is officially open to us now. Mourinho will leave or he won’t. Milito will leave or he won’t. Maicon will leave or he won’t. Marco will retire or he won’t. Whatever will happen will happen. It’s the nature of the sport for there to be turnover and these days it’s hard to keep a winning team together. We will get others to replace them and a new cycle will be started. It might be scary, but I tend to look at it like this. We have reached the top of the mountain; the only place to go now is down. But, with luck, we will find another mountain to climb soon. Will we climb again next season? Who knows? The journey is the adventure!
Undoubtedly, if Mourinho leaves he may take some players with him. I have been a huge fan of Maicon, ever since he arrived, I thought that he was a unique blend of speed, power, size, technical ability and amazing creativity. He might go this summer, like he almost left next summer. He could go to Real Madrid, or their equally big spending neighbors in Barcelona. I will root for neither team, nor will I root for any team that will take our players. They were special when they were here – they were special to me BECAUSE they were here - and I appreciate their service to the club and to my entertainment and at times to my cardiac episodes. But if they decide to leave – and its fine if they do, I won’t mock them in bitterness and I won’t go through any of the stages of grief – but if they decide to go, it’ll mean that they decided not to side with us in the next campaign. That is, when they chose to leave they will chose to leave everything of mine, including my time, consideration and affection.
So I am still in celebration mode. And I will be until the next season officially starts. No matter who is still with us, no matter who is newly with us and no matter who has left. Inter will always be Inter, the faces might change… but we are still Inter and that has always been good enough for me.
PS. Marco Materazzi: 5 Scudetti, 3 Coppe Italia, 3 SuperCoppe Italia, 1 Champions League, 1 World Cup, 1 Serie A Defender of the Year 2007.