Inter’s crying game
Posted on March 21st, 2012
Claudio Ranieri fought back the tears. He let out an inaudible sob then sniffed as though to pull himself together. It was Inter’s 104th birthday and their coach could cry if he wanted to.
A late 2-0 victory away to Chievo brought liberation rather than celebration at Inter. They had spent 47 days tormented by their own inner demons in a winless wilderness.
The search for a way out had taken its toll. After staying strong and keeping everything inside for so long, it was time for Ranieri to let it out.
“I was moved,” he said. “My show of emotion means that I care. I was happy for the lads because they were playing really well and deserved it after everything we’ve endured.
Ranieri of course isn’t the first to shed a little tear for Inter. A veritable river has been cried in the club’s name throughout its history.
Il Corriere della Sera recalled how the great Giuseppe Meazza wept once it became apparent he’d lost feeling in his foot and would have to leave Inter in 1940.
Beppe Bergomi broke down after Inter knocked out Aston Villa from the UEFA Cup in 1990 following a draining comeback from a 2-0 defeat in the first leg to a 3-0 win in the second.
Ronaldo too held his head in his hands and choked up on May 5, 2002 when Inter lost the title to Juventus on the final day of the season. And that’s not all.
Who can forget José Mourinho’s man-hug with Marco Materazzi outside the Santiago Bernabeu after the 2010 Champions League final?
Or the events of just last week, when Esteban Cambiasso welled up and hid his face under a training top after being whistled off by the fans as he was substituted against Catania.
For all the pain, Inter’s suffering is still far from over and remains deep-rooted.
Their return to winning ways was, in La Gazzetta dello Sport’s opinion, nothing more than a “good birthday present” as “their season seems finished.”
A podium place in Serie A and qualification for the Champions League has long been compromised. Rescuing it now when Napoli are making an irresistible charge for third spot appears improbable.
A 6-3 thrashing of Cagliari on Friday night made it six wins-in-a-row in all competitions for them and was particularly sweet, given it came on a weekend when the other contenders for that position, Lazio and Udinese, both stumbled.
If one studies their run-in it’s quite clearly preferable to Inter’s, who still have to play four of the top six and have the small matter of eight points to make up from here until the end of the campaign.
First, though, there’s Marseille in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
Despite trailing 1-0 after conceding an injury-time winner to Andre Ayew in the first leg of their Last 16 tie at the Stade Vélodrome, Inter have reason to be confident.
There were encouraging signs in their performance against Chievo.
When striker Diego Milito saw his spot kick saved by Chievo `keeper Stefano Sorrentino after 14 minutes, it looked as though Inter’s misery would continue.
An anguished look shot across the face of the club’s owner Massimo Moratti, who was sat in the stands at the Bentegodi, and it didn’t dissipate, as Wesley Sneijder then hit the top of the crossbar.
But Inter’s heads didn’t go down. Not this time. If they had, Walter Samuel and Milito wouldn’t have been able to nod in their goals in the 87th and the 90th minutes.
On the whole, the team showed a good temperament and bright ideas. Nothing to set the world alight, sure, but an improvement, in particular from Sneijder, which breeds a sense of optimism.
Sneijder built his reputation at Inter on turning European ties around. His displays against Dynamo Kyiv in the group stages and then Chelsea at this point of the treble-winning season come to mind.
The question is: can the playmaker, now re-emerging from a long slump in form, deliver to that effect again? Inter will certainly hope so.
If there’s a team left in the Champions League in as big a crisis as they are then it’s certainly Marseille.
Since their triumph in the first leg, they’ve collapsed, losing each of their last four matches in Ligue 1. To make matters worse, they haven’t scored in over seven hours either.
Hope for their strikers comes in the knowledge that Inter haven’t managed to keep a clean sheet in each of their Champions League home games this season.
Belief, though, is in short supply after Friday’s capitulation to Ajaccio. “Marseille no longer know how to respond,” L’Équipe concluded.
It’s almost as though when they met Inter two weeks ago, they caught whatever their opponents were suffering from and have yet to recover.
The sick men of Europe have a lifeline on Tuesday. The prospect of a place in the Champions League quarter-finals is reason enough to get better. They probably won’t be in the competition next season.
One thing’s for sure: if Inter go through at San Siro, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.
This article first appeared on FOX Soccer