In Italy, 17 is considered an unlucky number. One anagram of the Roman numeral XVII is VIXI, which in Latin translates as "I have lived", with the implication "My life is over" or "I'm dead". Some Alitalia planes have no row 17, some Italian hotels have no room 17. The 17th curve at the Cesana bobsled run at last year's Winter Olympics in Turin was "Senza Nome", or "Without a name".
"It's true, we Italians don't consider 17 a good omen," said one Italian writer yesterday ahead of Italy's crucial Euro 2008 qualifier with Scotland this Saturday, 17 November.
A quick perusal of the record books shows that Italy have played 11 matches on the 17th of a month in the past 30 years. They have won just four. Painful reversals included the agonising World Cup final penalty defeat against Brazil, on 17 July 1994.
Will Scotland be grasping at this straw? Will they heck. "I'm not superstitious and that kind of thing doesn't come into it," said Andy Watson, managerial assistant to Scotland's Alex McLeish yesterday.
Nor does he believe Italy will arrive unsettled by the latest trauma in their domestic game that left one fan dead – shot by police – and many others rioting last weekend.
"My view is they will not be affected at all," Watson said. "I think they will be professional and disciplined. If you look at the last World Cup, there was a big furore [over match-fixing] which they turned to their advantage, and it didn't impinge on them. So I don't think the current troubles] will impact on them at all."
McLeish confirmed he has a fully fit squad, his only dilemma whether to play 4-4-2 or 4-5-1, and how to accommodate all his best players. "There'll be times we have to be patient," he said. "The Italians are very good at keeping the ball. If we go hell for leather and play just from our hearts, then the Italians are very capable of opening us up."
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