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Saturday, June 2, 2007

Far Flung Faroe Islands

Later tonight at 1945 local time, Italy will face the Faroe Islands in a Euro 2008 qualification game. The Islanders are entirely amateurs, and reside in a fairly remote section of the North Atlantic. "Faroe" means "Sheep Islands" in Danish. This island has historical roots with Greenland, Iceland, and the Shetlands. According to Wikipedia, the Faroes are an independent region of the Kingdom of Denmark since 1948. Their language is Faroese, and not Danish. Despite their remote location, they have Internet access with a country code of .FO.

The Faroes, which comprise eighteen separate islands, have about 48,000 inhabitants. Most are employed in the fish industry, or they raise sheep. The Faroes have a very low unemployment rate. Interestingly, a few Brasilians have played in their soccer league, as was chronicled by Alex Bellos in his book, "Futebol, The Brazilian Way of Life."

Alessandro Del Piero will start up front in a trident attack against the Faroe Islands. Most likely with Pippo Inzaghi and Tomasso Rocchi. He had an interesting comment that appeared in today's edition of Football Italia.

In the Faroe Islands it really is like another world,” he said. “It’s curious to think that I will be marked by a carpenter.”

After his experience this past season in the Serie B, no doubt a marking carpenter will not surprise Alex. More likely, his opponent will be a fisherman or sheep herder. This is going to be a delicate game under very difficult field conditions. The winds may gust up to 60 mph (100 kmh), and the weather will be in the range of 12 degrees Celsius, or about the high 40s F. No doubt it will feel much colder with the wind chill factor.

Three years ago in Marcello Lippi's first game in charge of the Azzurri, they lost in Iceland. Traditionally, Nordic teams have done well against Italy. Let's hope that tomorrow's winds blow the way of the Azzurri in a must-win game. The Faroe Islands have lost all six of their previous Euro 2008 qualifiers. They have only scored one goal, and conceded twenty-three. Encounters such as these develop character, or reveal the lack thereof. For the Azzurri, as the defending World Champion, they must demostrate that games are not won on paper in remote regions such as the Faroe Islands. Even if they are undermanned for this match, the are the World Champions.

France and Ukraine also meet today to decide first place in Group B.

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