Pelle's doll brings luck
Italy striker's girlfriend lugs along blow-up doll of him to games, which has brought luck
If you had seen Graziano Pelle on the pitch and also in the stands during Italy's matches, don't worry, there's probably nothing wrong with your eyes.
You had more likely seen a blow-up doll in an image of the Southampton striker, which his supermodel girlfriend Viktoria Varga had lugged along to the stadiums.
That must rank as one of the most bizarre forms of support from a football WAG (wife and girlfriend) at this European Championship.
Not that Pelle would mind, of course. He can even regard the dummy as a good-luck charm.
Both times that Varga posted photos of herself with the doll at the stadiums, Pelle scored shortly after.
In the process, Italy secured 2-0 wins over Belgium and Spain at the Stade de Lyon and Stade de France, respectively.
Both times, he faced goalkeepers who had stopped him in the English Premier League - Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois and Manchester United's David de Gea - so he must have appreciated all the luck he could get.
Pelle told footballitalia.net after getting the better of de Gea: "Scoring at the end feels great, but I had also tried in the first half and (David) de Gea performed a miracle.
"He's done that to me before in the Premier League too, so I reminded him and we had a laugh."
One of Varga's Instagram followers, Italy fan jek_barbieri, certainly had reason to smile too. After Pelle scored against Belgium, he posted: "Thanks to you, Graziano gets a goal."
SWISS MISS: Erjona Dzemaili, wife of Switzerland’s Blerim Dzemaili, turning heads in the stands. BABES: Anna Lewandowska (left), wife of Poland’s Robert Lewandowski and Noemie Happart (right), girlfriend of Belgium’s Yannick Carrasco, showing their support at the stadiums. PHOTOS: InSTAGRAM.COM/nOEMIEHAPPART, InSTAGRAM.COM/AnnAlEwAndOwSkAHPbA
Pelle would probably not need to remind Varga to take the doll to the Stade de Bordeaux on Sunday morning (Singapore time), when Italy face world champions and favourites Germany in the quarter-finals.
Varga might be a Hungarian but there is no mistaking which team she supports, judging from her "Forza Azzurri" posts on her Instagram account, which has more than 88,000 followers.
She is not the only one, though.
Besides showing up at games, WAGs have also been expressing their support for their partners on social media such as Instagram.
Since most of them are models or celebrities, it is not uncommon for them to have hundreds of thousands of followers on the photo-sharing app.
For instance, Mario Goetze's wife Ann-Kathrin Broemmel, a supermodel, has more than 573,000 followers, while tennis star Ana Ivanovic, who is reportedly tying the knot with Bastian Schweinsteiger after the European Championship final, has 935,000.
Coming close is Anna Lewandowska, wife of Poland striker Robert Lewandowski, a fitness trainer who also represents Poland in karate.
Besides her social photos, she also regularly posts nutrition and fitness tips for her following of 780,000.
Topping the list, though, is Sami Khedira's wife Lena Gercke, a model and TV host.
She has 1.2 million followers, nearly four times the population of Iceland. - Wire Services.GEM: Germany star Mario Goetze’s model partner Ann-Kathrin Broemmel showing where her allegiance lies. PHOTO: InSTAGRAM.COM/AnnkATHRIn_VIdA
De Rossi set to miss Germany clash
Italy look set to be without midfielder Daniele de Rossi for their quarter-final clash with Germany on Sunday morning (Singapore time).
The 32-year-old went off in the 54th minute of their 2-0 win over Spain on Monday, after suffering a knock on his hip.
He was replaced by Thiago Motta, who picked up a second yellow card and is suspended for the Germany game.
De Rossi and winger Antonio Candreva, who did not join training over the last two days, look set to miss the quarter-final.
Reports in Italy suggest that de Rossi could only be back for the semi-finals earliest, if Italy overcome Germany.
His place is likely to go to Juventus' Stefano Sturaro. - Wire Services.