Fiorentina were absolutely awful last night (apart from the saintly Sebastian Frey, whose brain fart on the first goal was made up for in triplicate in the subsequent hours and hours and hours of play). Dario Dainelli did a jaw-droppingly good impression of an old-time English centerback, booting the ball into Row Z every time he got anywhere near it. Midfield anchors Zdravko Kuzmanović and Marco Donadel vanished simultaneously, while Riccardo Montolivo went back into the months-long slumber after a tantalizing, two-match awakening. And Bobo. Oh, Bobo. Bobo was old.
But they survived. They played football that was only marginally more stylish that the herdball preferred by most four-year olds, but they did it together, and they got it done. Not only that, but they fouled the hell out of Everton in the second half which, in a way, was encouraging -- there were worries going into the tie that Everton's "physical style" would cause Fiorentina problems, and it undeniably did, but for stretches, this lightweight, underage team of clever passers gave as good as they got.
They battled their way to PKs and, thanks to Frey, the post, and their own belief, they're into the last eight. [In their two UEFA Cup matches that have ended in penalties, La Viola have converted eight of the nine spotkicks. (She said, knocking frantically on wood and throwing salt over both shoulders.)]
There's no coach in Europe who deserves silverware more than Cesare Prandelli, the man who's taught them how to play (sometimes, you can actually see his training sessions in the way they move the ball) and convinced them to believe, even as his personal life is putting him through hell.
And Mutu could be back for Napoli, on Wednesday.
I don't want to go around jinxing people or anything, but this could happen. It'd take some luck, and some ugliness, and a whole lot of cooperation from the universe, but it really could happen.
I think I need to go lie down.