David J. Neal

David J. Neal: Italy fans fall silent at Miami Beach’s Segafredo

The view from the cozy interior of Miami Beach’s Segafredo during Friday’s Costa Rica-Italy match lacked only a Vespa scooter.

Movie track lighting, rusted movie reels and photos of Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and jazz artists harkened back to the cool post-World War II Italy. People at the tables under the outside awning peered through the window at the single TV inside, the way folks in the early 1950s used to look through living room windows and appliance store windows at the sole TV in the neighborhood.

They looked on with reserve not usually associated with Italian fans as the four-time World Cup champions fenced evenly with the Group D underdog. The Azzuri’s inability to swat aside the upstarts truly angered only one follower. A small, gray-haired man entered, stared at the still-scoreless game, loudly fired off several seconds of furious Italian and marched out.

A couple of near-misses by superstar Italian striker Mario Balotelli, one an easy chip over the goalkeeper, brought muted groans.

Just before halftime, Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini ran over Costa Rica’s Joel Campbell in the penalty area. Verbal cringes at the sure penalty kick call gave way to almost embarrassed whistles and inhales at no call. Costa Rica’s goal on a Bryan Ruiz header shortly thereafter just seemed karmic.

Stefania Sorrenti occasionally watched from the doorway with her dog, King. Both wore Italy jerseys. King’s carried Balotelli’s No. 9. King’s father, Konan, wore the jersey four years ago, said the Milano-born Sorrenti.

The Segafredo crowd saw more of King than Balotelli in the second half. Aside from Balotelli’s yellow-card offense, that is. Costa Rica confounded Italy, as the usually defensive Italians so often have done to other nations. The lack of scoring chances drained the room’s hope such that the final whistle brought only silent, swift, almost single-file exits.

“I guess Italy was a bit confused,” said Piero Unione, a Segafredo regular who watched from his table outside. “Costa Rica has been going well.”

So has France. Later Friday afternoon, WD 555 on Jefferson Avenue offered up a wine-and-fondue special for France vs. Switzerland. That made sense. The French do wines well, and fondue is a Swiss, Italian and French dish.

Epicurean groups collected at long tables and at a massive, U-shaped white marble bar to watch Les Bleus’ evisceration of the Nattering Nabobs of Neutrality.

Each of France’s five goals drew a huzzah and a few seconds of applause, similar to cheering Alain Prost as he passed during a good qualifying lap at Magny Cours. Then, back to consumption.

A sole Swiss fan got relief via a pair of late goals and a friendly sendoff from nearby French fans after the 5-2 thrashing. Good fondue and good grape make for good relations.

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