This game was boring. In a good way. Exciting would have been Moscow, plucky underdogs that they are, discovering that they had nothing to fear and no tomorrow, playing the game of their lives as they take one more dramatic game from better opponents.
Fortunately for us, that didn’t happen. The betting odds were in our favor. The pundits didn’t even want to discuss the game. In fact, I think that we had to look very hard to find out when the game was even going to be played and who would be carrying it.
It was dull and methodical and it showed exactly why we deserved to be there. We were the better team by a long stretch and we played to our strength. We didn’t get ahead of ourselves. We didn’t panic. We didn’t blackout and pull a Muntari costing us the game.
The Mantra was: percentages, options, organization. Inter played the numbers – they brought numbers to attack, they held the ball up and got numbers behind the ball in defence. Inter kept options open – there was always a pass backward to make if there was any trouble. Inter was the organized team on the field – there weren’t any risks and the team wasn’t disturbed by events on the field. At all times players had a responsibility and a zone to patrol or attack depending on who had the ball.
My Inter Player of the Game
120 UEFA appearances by Javier Zanetti
10 Champions League games played this season – 2 more guaranteed
6 Games won
1 Game lost
3 Games drawn
7 Goals against
12 Goals for
I started and stopped writing this section a couple of times because I don’t know where I am going with some of this. Was this supposed to be an obituary of a sort?
Let me start at the beginning. I am thrilled to get this far into the competition. Last season when we were tossed out at The Round of 16, it wasn’t a big deal to me as I knew that it was the minimum that we had to get to. We got a bucket load of money for that sojourn and yay for us. A team the size of Inter pretty much counts on getting to The Round of 16 and the cash it brings as a matter of course. Not because the team is arrogant per se, but the money is usually already spent by the time the team gets a fat check in the mail. It’s true of every “big” club that makes it to the Champions League, The Round of 16 winnings are usually well spent by the time they actually earn it.
But there is no way the team spent the entirety of this check yet. By making and playing in the Semi Finals, Inter will probably receive around 10 to 20 million Euros more than they did last season. More money, hopefully wisely invested, is a nice thing for a club that I predict will have some significant turnover this summer coughcoughRicardoQuaresmacoughcough.
But I pretty much see this as the end of the line. I like to think that I am wrong, but I just can’t see it past Barca. Inter have quality and Inter have depth but Inter do not have the longevity or singleness of purpose that Barca have and that is a pretty significant advantage to overcome.
What I mean by this is that Inter this season alone has around 5 new players on the team. I don’t mean that there are 5 new players hanging around the bench, nay-nay, I mean 5 new main contributors that can be found on the field at any given game. Here they are: Lucio, Motta, Sneijder, Milito and Eto’o. These are 5 good players. These are 5 smart buys in what has been a very good mercato. But they have yet to log in one complete season together. This, of course, isn’t counting Mr. Mariga or Mr. Pandev.
They are good players but are they the team that can beat Barca is over 2 legs? No, they aren’t, is the simple answer. They could be in one game – almost anything could happen in one game, and they could be good enough to hold Barca in another game. But the percentages don’t look good to me. I know, I know, Mourinho says that the dream is still alive and the players have all come out and said that they can win it all. Would I risk 10 bucks on it? Yeah, I am probably that dumb, but I don’t think that I would go over 10…
And underpinning this whole thing is something else that bothers me. If we don’t win the League – but make automatic qualification into the group stage of the Champions League – and are booted out by Barca (let’s leave the Coppa out of this for right now) is this season a success because we have proved that we finally have a team that compete on several fronts – and therefore bringing Moratti’s wet dream to life - or is it a failure because we didn’t garner one of the 2 trophies that the Muckity Ups said was our goal? Keeping in mind the gobs of money/respect that these heights in Europe bring but also our proven ability to win the League Championship, I am at something of a loss.
On the whole, it’s a better dilemma than we had a little over half a decade ago – at which home game do we drop the Vespa?