Friday, June 27, 2008

UEFA Euro 2008: Arreviderche, Donadoni

The final chapter to Italy's Euro 2008 campaign came Thursday when the federation sacked head coach Roberto Donadoni, replacing him with Marcello Lippi, who piloted Italy to the 2006 World Cup title. Donadoni was set up with an automatic two-year contract extension if Italy had reached the semifinals. With the Azzurri falling in a shootout after a 0-0 draw with Spain, he fell one win short of securing the extension. Federation chief Giancarlo Abete noted that Donadoni was not fired, his contract was simply allowed to expire.

I think Donadoni got a raw deal here. True, Italy won only one of four games at the Euros, but without Fabio Cannavaro, who missed the entire tournament, Italy escaped a tough group. Once in the quarterfinals they faced Spain without Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gatusso. While Italy was clearly the weaker team against Spain, you wonder if the inclusion of those three players might have been enough to get them through. We'll never know. If Italy wins a luck-of-the-draw shootout, Donadoni earns his extension and probably sticks around. Is he that much worse a coach because Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Di Natale missed penalty kicks?

When you win the World Cup two years earlier, expectations are high, so Italy's decision, though perhaps hasty, is far from shocking.

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