In My Opinion

Linda Robertson: A lousy day for Italy fans watching World Cup in Miami Beach

lrobertson@ MiamiHerald.comJune 24, 2014 

To ascribe heartbreak to Italian soccer fans who watched the Azzurri get eliminated from the World Cup would assume far too much affection for the team that lost 1-0 to Uruguay on Tuesday.

“They deserved it,” said Francesco Cecchini, wiping his palms in the universal symbol of finito.

Inside Rosinella restaurant on Lincoln Road the mood was one of resignation and distaste as Italy failed to advance beyond the group stage for the second consecutive World Cup.

Not even serial biter Luis Suarez’s chomp on the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini could be used as an excuse. Chiellini pulled down the collar of his jersey to show the wound and plead for Suarez’s ejection, but the referee ignored him. Nor was the ugly incident enough to rouse Chiellini’s teammates.

Italy was like overcooked pasta in losses to Costa Rica and Uruguay, limp in both attack and defense.

Needing only a draw against Uruguay, Italy’s famous Catenaccio, or deadbolt protection of the goal, was picked by Diego Godin, who headed in the game winner off a corner kick in the 81st minute.

“GOOOOOOOOL!” cried the announcer on Univision.

“Ciao!” cried patrons, realizing it would take a miracle for punchless Italy to rally, especially with 10 men on the field due to an earlier red card delivered to Claudio Marchisio and the benching of “Super” Mario Balotelli. There would be no goal — only a long trip home from Brazil.

Leonardo Capobianco slapped his table and shook his head. He moved from Rome to Miami nine years ago. He saw the match as metaphor.

“It’s a big shame,” he said. “They started playing in the last seven minutes. Why did they wait? It’s the wrong attitude for Italians. We always feel we are so cool when we should play hard and work hard — in soccer and in life.”

Rosinella is a mecca not only for genuine Italian cuisine but for soccer lovers and soccer players. Run by the Doino family of Rome since 1997, the restaurant counts among its loyal customers Francesco Totti, Claudio Caniggia, Daniele De Rossi, Alessandro Nesta, Antonio Di Natale and Alessandro Florenzi.

“Soccer for me is like bread,” said owner Tonino Doino, who attended Roma games as a child and was steeped in the club’s history by his late parents, Antonio Doino and Rosa Cirone.

Doino blamed Italy’s lackluster Cup performance on coach Cesare Prandelli, widely criticized by Italian media for his personnel and tactical decisions.

“No Totti, no party,” said Doino’s brother and Rosinella co-owner Roberto, summing up displeasure with Prandelli’s choice to leave Totti off the team.

Totti, the Roma playmaker known as Il Bimbo d’Oro (the Golden Boy) and Il Re di Roma (the King of Rome), is 37 but could have provided a spark or an example, having played on the 2006 Cup champion.

“We have nobody who can send the ball to Mario Balotelli, we have no leader, and you always need a leader, whether it’s a business or government or soccer,” Capobianco said. “Where is our leader? Where is our Totti or [Salvatore] Schillaci?”

Cecchini concurred. The real estate broker used to play semi-pro soccer near Bologna and coached Milan’s youth academy teams in Miami. He is not fond of Balotelli, whom he called “crazy-minded and erratic,” or Prandelli, who used three different lineups in Brazil.

“Only one forward against Costa Rica?” he said. “This is what happens when you think too much.”

In the chaotic aftermath, Suarez was called “Dracula” and “Jaws III” in Italian website headlines as Italian players demanded the Liverpool striker — known for his beastly temper — be removed from the tournament.

Uruguay’s coach dismissed the accusations as “cheap morality.” Prandelli resigned.

And at Rosinella, fans walked out into the blazing heat.

For four-time Cup champion Italy, it was an inglorious exit.

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