Michael Young

Unloved Uruguay
July 03, 2010

I will admit under the cover of darkness, with a long head start from those who might disagree, that I supported Uruguay against Ghana.  Beirut had been gutted by the Brazilian loss in the afternoon (and here there are the Brazilians and there are the Germans, all else being commentary), so all that was left behind was a sense of solidarity for the little guy, for Africa, for the Third World, for the poor… Which is why, at a football dinner last night, the air turned to permafrost when I, rather alone, cheered Sebastian Abreu’s cheeky penalty that won the match for the “Celeste.” Echoes of the

Why Italy Flopped
June 24, 2010

There are a number of theories for why Italy slinked out of the World Cup so shamefully. That the team was old; that coach Marcello Lippi could have picked better attackers; that the Juventus-based central defense with Cannavaro and Chiellini was shaky, and dismally proved it with their club all season long, and so on. In my view, while these criticisms are all in some respects true, the real problems lie elsewhere, particularly in two places: tactically, the absence of anything we might call an effective midfield; and, more generally, the declining standard of Italian football.

Is Italy Fatally Insular?
June 17, 2010

I’ve been reading Rob Hughes for many years, always with interest, but a recent piece of his in the New York Times (from his On Soccer column in the International Herald Tribune) made me wonder about the pretzel logic that can sometimes accompany political correctness.  The theme of his article published on June 15 was that Germany, thanks to its multicultural team, was displaying a new vigor, while Italy, top-heavy with, well, uh, Italians, was on the skids: There seems to be a new, vibrant, powerful Germany: a side whose players are too young to fear defeat and whose diverse ethnic backgroun

The Italian Job
June 13, 2010

I still remember the moment I found the religion of Italian football—like all religions a story of obsession, agony, and deceit. It was the 67th minute of the first round match between Italy and Argentina, held at the River Plate stadium in Buenos Aires on June 10, 1978. I was in Beirut, squinting through the smears of my black and white television, when Roberto Bettega took the ball outside the penalty box. He passed off to Paolo Rossi, immersed in defenders, then ran into the open toward the penalty spot.