A state of calm descended over club football and international duty kicked in to leave column inches free to be dedicated to conspiracy theories or player evaluations.
While Sebastian Giovinco hits out against his critics who continue to question his inclusion in the Azzurri on account of the forward's lack of goals, Andrea Pirlo continues to dazzle, attracting praise from the president of the Italian Football Federation. “We don't have any indispensable players, apart from Juventus' Andrea Pirlo,” he said. Fighting against those who believe he's too old to challenge on all fronts, this glowing praise comes at a good time to demonstrate just how vital the player is to both club and county.
Meanwhile over in Chile, Mauricio Isla and Arturo Vidal took their place on the field to take on Ecuador and faced their second consecutive loss, making qualification to the World Cup a complicated matter. For Isla, this was a necessary game in his quest for continuity and the player impressed in the beginning.
Chile dominated in the opening stage of the game as they aimed to keep the ball and control possession, which they were able to do with the help of Isla, who sought to push forward and create opportunities. However, his team began to cede space soon after permitting Ecuador to exploit the holes and they did so with ease even if they initially struggled to finish off their moves.
Eventually losing 3-1, Chile opened the scoring with a delicious pass from Isla on the right that forced Ecuador's Juan Carlos Paredes to score an own goal as he attempted to clear his lines. Against the run of play, the away side took the lead but failed to hold on, suffering as they have done in recent matches.
Vidal fared less well in his attacking role for the Chileans. Deployed as an advanced right-winger, he struggled to interpret his role effectively, allowing his opponents space while the country's tabloids blamed him for contributing to his side's tactical imbalance. Frustration eventually kicked in and Vidal saw red as he was the second man sent off for the team on the night, leaving Chile contemplating their behavioural issues. With a coach suspended from the sidelines and three cards in two game for the players, the team need to adjust their on-pitch behaviour if they hope to simplify what has now become a complicated qualifying problem.
For Juventus fans, Vidal's red card is perceived to be good news as he's on his way back to Turin and should be in better shape to face Napoli on Saturday. As part of the conspiracy dialogue that continues to dominate in Italy, some have gone so far as to suggest the Chilean had elbowed his marker on purpose in the match against Ecuador so that he would be sent off to allow for an early return to Italy.
In a peninsula obsessed with delighting in conspiracy theories, nothing is as exciting as theorising over who has the upper hand when it comes to this weekend's fixture between Juventus and Napoli. Every decision taken by Cesare Prandelli has been scrutinised in hopes that somehow they can blame him for favouring one side over another. Indeed they succeeded as the tabloids were awash with news that the Italian coach had allegedly created a separate training workout for the Juventus players suggesting he is slyly aiding them in hopes they would win the upcoming fixture.
Other theorists wondered why Gianluigi Buffon may not be fit enough to partake in the upcoming fixture against Denmark because of his thigh strain while Goran Pandev's yellow card received in the international clash between Macedonia and Croatia was met with skepticism. Suspended for the country's upcoming match against Serbia, some have asked whether this was done on purpose to have the Napoli player ready for the Serie A game.
Needless to say, the quicker Serie A resumes, the faster we can dispense with the theories and return to intelligent analysis that is bound to follow the tasty clash that will pit two giants on Saturday night.