Italy wants Argentina friendly dedicated to pope
Lionel Messi’s Argentina playing Mario Balotelli’s Italy in a
friendly dedicated to newly elected Pope Francis. That’s something
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli would like to see.
”We’ve played friendlies with all the best national teams, only
Argentina is missing,” Prandelli said Wednesday, a day after
Italy’s 2-0 win over Malta in a World Cup qualifier. ”If we could
arrange it, it would be nice to have an audience with the pope, who
comes from Buenos Aires and loves football, and then go all
together with both squads on one bus to the stadium. I couldn’t
dream of anything better.”
The hypothetical friendly would likely be held at Rome’s Stadio
Olimpico, a short drive from Vatican City. While no match is
scheduled yet, Italy does have an open friendly date in August.
As it turns out, Italy’s last match with Argentina was also a
friendly in Rome, in 2001, which Argentina won 2-1. Before that,
Diego Maradona’s Argentina knocked host Italy out of the 1990 World
Cup on penalties in a memorable semifinal match in Naples.
Prandelli’s religious commitment is well known, as demonstrated
when he led his entire coaching staff on 3 1/2-hour nocturnal
pilgrimages to a monastery outside Krakow, Poland, during Italy’s
run to last year’s European Championship final.