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Italy add to football’s rich lexicon

June 30, 2012

Italy's return to the top ranks by reaching the final of Euro 2012 has added a few more words to the world's considerable footballing lexicon.

Italy’s return to the top ranks by reaching the final of Euro 2012 has added a few more words to the world’s considerable footballing lexicon.


Italy’s tournament started under a cloud, with betting (scommesse) scandal in football (calcio) once more sullying the country’s reputation.

Defender Domenico Criscito even had to give up his place just before the team’s departure for Poland after his room at the team’s training camp was searched.

But after the “Totonero” (Black market lottery) in 1980 and the match-fixing “Calciopoli” (Football Monopoly) in 2006, Italy won the World Cup. A good sign?


Literally, “biscuit” or “cookie”. Derived from horse-racing where the phrase “to give a biscuit” meant “to dope a horse”, the term became synomous in football with two sides “having an arrangement”.

Italy still has bad memories of a 2-2 draw between Sweden and Denmark in Euro 2004, which saw both Scandinian sides go through from the group stage at their expense.

Italy was afraid that a 2-2 draw between Spain and Croatia in the group stage this time round would have had the same result. But the Spanish won 1-0 with a last-minute goal.


“Rhombus” or “lozenge”. In football, a four-man midfield with one man hanging back.

Since the quarter finals, this has consisted of playmaker Andrea Pirlo, with Claudio Marchisio wide out right and Daniele De Rossi out left, with either Thiago Motta or Riccardo Montolivo further upfield.

In England the “rombo” is called the diamond formation, which aptly sums up coach Cesare Prandelli’s midfield gems.


Currently a word out of favour given Prandelli’s success in revolutionising Italy’s game based on possession of the ball and attacking.

But when Italy are ahead, as they were against Germany in the semi-final, the players know how to bolt the door (catenaccio) of its defence to get the win.

“Trilli Campanellino”

Italian name for the “Peter Pan” character “Tinker Bell”, immortalised by Pirlo, whose nickname refers to the magic produced when the ball is at his feet and his flowing hair in the wind.


“The Blues.” Nickname of the national side. Also called the “Nazionale” but never the “squadra azzurra” or “the blue team”.


“Half a point.” Refers to the supporting role in attack. A role currently occupied by Montolivo. More commonly used than “false nine” or “nine-and-a-half”.


“The spoon.” Italians don’t call a chipped penalty a “Panenka”, after Antonin Panenka, who scored the cheeky spot kick in the 1976 European Championship final to secure a win for Czechoslovakia against West Germany.

Instead, Italians call it “the spoon”. In the quarter-final, Pirlo was only too happy to give England goalkeeper Joe Hart a taste of the spoon. After all, he had put out his tongue.


“Depth.” Or Prandelli’s mantra, which he’s been shouting at Mario Balotelli for the last two years.

But against Germany, “Super Mario” listened well and the lesson paid off. Launched into the “profondita” by Montolivo, he kept one step ahead of Philipp Lahm to score a magnificent second goal.



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