Italians thriving on adversity again

March 29, 2007

Bekilted Scotland fan folds up flag after watching Italy's winItaly’s 2-0 win over Scotland showed once again how the world champions have learned to thrive on a bunker mentality.

At last years World Cup it was the fallout from the Serie A match-fixing scandal that galvanised a team more usually renowned for reflecting the deep internal divisions in Italian society.

On Wednesday it was 10 days of unrelenting press criticism of the team and coach Roberto Donadoni that spurred the Azzurri to their best performance since beating France in the World Cup final.

The kilts, booze and bagpipes of the Scottish fans provided a colorful sideshow but this match was really a case of the Italians against themselves, the world champions showing they can bypass their old self-destructive tendency.

By the time the teams arrived at Baris San Nicola stadium, the criticism of the team had worked its magic. The ground was full, the anthem was sung with unusual gusto, and everyone including the journalists who had been attacking the team with such venom leapt from their seats to punch the air when Luca Toni scored the winning goals.

Italy are now pretty well placed in Group B, within striking distance of the leaders, and as long as the criticism keeps on coming they should make it with something to spare.

James Eve reports for Reuters on sport from Rome

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