By Alessia Palanti Special to Published Jun 25, 2010 at 4:12 PM

Within the last few days, history has been made in different ways for different teams during this tumultuous World Cup. Let us start with something new -- the prowess of the American team for scoring late, crucial goals once again displayed itself against Slovenia. For only the second time, the United States finds itself in the round of 16, and for the first time, it follows a group stage win.

The Highbury Pub exploded in a cacophony of raucous energy in the 91st minute of the match after Landon Donovan followed in a Clint Dempsey query for the victory. Invictus. From the line dancing on the bar to the endless chants chasing each and every car passing the pub like a squally wagged puppy, the scene matched anything I have ever witnessed in my years in the States.

And now for something both old and blue -- the Italian national team. For America, a sports page has been turned -- a signature moment book marking something singular in a country that has neglected football as a main sport, a sport loved and respected by the rest of the world. A new history begins, and there is much room for growth, potential. And affection. For Italy, their loss to Slovakia marked a moment when something else entirely was turned-mainly my dead ancestors turning over in their graves. A tragedy has ensued, as the national team had not lost during the group stage since 1974.

Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it-and apparently Signor Lippi does not read the histories. In the 1974 World Cup, national coach, Ferruccio Valcareggi-trying the replicate the historic 1970 run to the finals (only losing to Pele and Brazil)-chose a nearly identical lineup from four years earlier. Of course, the team lost in the group stage. Invictus is Latin for unconquered; now, the Italians are "potuisse victum"-the conquered.

Frustrated-check; embarrassed-check; surprised-not at all. I never imagined we would be eliminated this quickly, but I knew that Marcello Lippi's stubborn reliance to the 2006 team was dangerous. In the games of the Cup, along with the preceding friendlies, I questioned his mental sanity and stability-now I have my answer.

I would like to take a moment to say "Grazie, Signor Lippi, for ruining 59 million Italian summers." It's only been four years that football journalists, pundits, ex-players, coaches-really the entire country-has given you sound thoughts as to make-up of the national team. To think of what this World Cup would have looked like had he chosen from the wealth of energetic, driven, and talented Italian youth is angering because it would have been marvelous, brilliant. But in some ways it is really a relief. I have nothing to do for the next three weeks. I am emotionally free. Italians the world over can now focus on the important things in life. With younger players, there was a legitimate danger that our summer would be lost in joy and exuberance much like the summer of '06.
At least he takes responsibility for his actions and choices and points fingers at no one but himself. The players did the same. The Italian press is massacring this team with headlines like "Vergogna!" ("Shame!"), and "Tutto Nero" ("All is Black"). In Italy, football is life and life is football. But I commend the team and Lippi for taking responsibility for the "disastro" and losing with dignity. Winning the Cup in 2006 healed the wounds of my country. When the national team plays it is the only time all Italians identify as being Italian. In a country of 20 disparate regions with distinct identities, the country is united once every four years. It will be a weird, unsettling feeling not having Italy in this tournament, and it will take getting used to. It feels a bit like missing your own birthday party.

I, along with the rest of the country, am looking forward to the next national team that will be coached by former Fiorentina coach, Cesare Prandelli-a genuinely brilliant man and an impeccable dresser. We move on and look forward to a brighter future, a brighter Italy.

And now for something borrowed. From the other side of the globe, the US's exemplary performance has secured a Saturday afternoon meeting with Ghana. I was working at the Highbury when they played Slovenia, and I felt intuitively that the team would score at the last minute. I am grateful that I experienced firsthand one of the most heartfelt reactions ever seen. I thought the walls were going to come down: tears were streaming down people's faces; individuals who have never spoken were now hugging each other. My utmost respect and admiration for the team and their devoted fans; I wish them the best in this football adventure. And with tears in my eyes- one shed for America stirred by your passion, and one shed for you Italy in sadness-I prepare for the next stage.

The odyssey continues...


Alessia Palanti Special to
Alessia is a freelance writer from Florence, Italy. She has lived in Milwaukee for almost two years, with frequent visits back to her hometown.

She received a BA from Beloit College, where she developed as a modern dance choreographer. She has worked in the arts administration world in Chicago and has interned at The Repertory Theater in Milwaukee.

The performing arts -- film, theater and music -- are her passion, and she believes that the stage is not limited to scripted, but rather expands even the length of the soccer field.

She works part-time at the Highbury Pub in Bay View, which inspires her to share her cross-cultural experiences and her ideas on "the beautiful game."