IAN LADYMAN: Watching talented Italy players fall, dive and waste time against Belgium was a load of rubbish… are Roberto Mancini’s side clever or just CHEATING?
- Italy moved into the semi-finals of Euro 2020 by stunning hotly tipped Belgium
- The Italians were up to their old tricks, with Ciro Immobile ridiculed for a dive
- Some call it clever, but are Roberto Mancini’s side’s tactics not just cheating?
- Plus, Premier League clubs might be put-off by Romelu Lukaku’s latest display
There were five minutes added on to the end of the Italy v Belgium quarter-final and Roberto Mancini’s players managed to make sure the ball was in play for about 30 seconds of that.
Some call it clever. Others call it game management. But cheating is also a verb that is available.
Italy are a fine team. They play quick, intense football and show that it is possible to be organised and pragmatic without neutralising the natural flair of your best players.
Italy stormed into the semi-finals of Euro 2020, continuing their incredible run this summer
However, while their football is great to watch their on-field antics have a tendency to turn ugly
Despite losing their star man, Leonardo Spinazzola, to a ruptured achilles tendon on Friday, they should be too much for Spain to handle at Wembley on Tuesday night.
Equally, watching them fall, dive, clutch, gasp, cry, roll around and generally waste as much time as was humanly possible in the final 20 minutes of their win over the Belgians was unedifying.
Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic should have been stronger. Yellow cards mean virtually nothing in a quarter-final given they are all wiped after that stage of the tournament, but still Vincic could have spoken to Mancini or captain Giorgio Chiellini about pre-meditated acts of gamesmanship that pretty much ruined the last quarter of the contest.
The poor practises on show as Belgium were edged out made for a disappointing spectacle
More widely, we should be thankful that such nonsense does not take place regularly in the Premier League.
Our domestic game has its share of issues with player behaviour, but it does not have anything that remotely approaches what we saw in Munich.
If England make the final on Sunday and it is Italy they find waiting there — which, granted, is presumptuous on two counts — Mancini’s team will present all this rubbish as part of their armoury.
Though anyone who points this out beforehand will doubtless be accused of lazy stereotyping.
Brighton are expected to sell England squad defender Ben White to Arsenal and know they may well receive bids for Under 21 wing-back Tariq Lamptey, too.
But the south coast club remain content that they will once again keep hold of the one defender they value above all others: Lewis Dunk.
Lewis Dunk has become the heart of Brighton’s team and the club are desperate to keep him
Re-think on Rom
Romelu Lukaku has looked unstoppable with the ball at his feet on occasion over the past three weeks and his stats for Belgium — 64 goals in 98 games — are extraordinary.
But if I was a big English club thinking about bringing the 28-year-old striker back to the Premier League for next season, that far-post miss against Italy would be the image I would struggle to shake from my mind.
Romelu Lukaku’s stunning form last season stepped-up talk of a Premier League comeback
End of the road
Switzerland put up a very good fight against Spain but it was only right that they progressed no further.
The Swiss were one of three quarter-finalists — alongside Czech Republic and Ukraine — who had finished third in their group.
Between them the three nations won just three group games — against Turkey, Scotland and North Macedonia — and that should not have been enough to warrant an extended stay.
Switzerland’s shock run to the quarter-finals was finally cut as Spain edged a penalty shoot-out
Kidd still rockin’
You can tell a lot about a person by the music they listen to but it is not only Brian Kidd’s love for Bruce Springsteen that sets him apart.
Kidd won the European Cup as a teenager at Manchester United and was by Sir Alex Ferguson’s side when the club returned to domestic eminence in the 1990s.
More recently, over 12 years on the staff at Manchester City, Kidd has helped three different managers lift 13 trophies.
Kidd, 72, left City last week but does not wish to retire. It will be a surprise if this kindest, wisest of men is without work for long.
Crystal Palace have hired Patrick Vieira as their new manager while Fulham have taken Marco Silva. Why?