Throughout the hectic 15-minute automobile ride from the Italian Embassy to DAR Constitution Hall yesterday, Diego Miramare, Raffaele Donofrio and Bruno Vivoda analyzed Italy's chances against defending World Cup champion West Germany shortly before the teams were to meet in a second-round match.
"Watch out!" Miramare yelled at Vivoda, who was failing miserably in his imitation of A.J. Foyt amidst the downtown traffic. "Get in this lane and make a left. Oh, you can't make it here. Well, go around this car. Watch this car!
"I predict Italy will win, 1-0, or it will be a scoreless tie," said Miramare, who, with Donofrio, is employed in the archives section of the embassy. "I haven't been wrong on any of my predictions yet."
The crowd in front of the hall was scrambling from doubleparked cars to get in line for tickets.One man ignored a policeman writing tickets, parked in a no-parking zone and raced up the steps, yelling, "Italia, Italia."
The line grew to such length that Metro Communications, the local promoter, opened a second window of sorts to get everyone inside for the beginning of the 12:45 game, the first of three televised here yesterday. Ushers began selling $12.50 general admission tickets (reserved seats cost $15) through a hole in a barrier and the people began to get more boisterous and spirited as the minutes went by.
"I'm missing work to see this," said Tom Keller, who refused to name his employer. "I told the man who was playing and asked for a lousy two hours off. He looked at me like I was crazy.When he went in his office, I split. But I can't watch but one game. I've got to get back. I'll make up a good lie."
The game began to a loud cheer and a few late-comers, perhaps thinking their team had scored or been scored upon, began a mad dash to the seats, yelling "what happened?"
"We have a large Italian following, that's why we're showing Italy every game," said Wendy Becker, of Metro has been great and the crowds have been around 2,000."
Five minutes into the game, Italian goalie Dino Zoff made a diving save of a West German shot, bringing a huge roar and applause from the partisan crowd.
Miramare was one of the more vocal fans. Each time an Italian player pulled off a fine play, Miramare led the cheers. On the other hand, when an Italian player was whistled for a foul or a picture of West German Coach Helmut Schoen was flash on the huge screen, Miramare led the boos and catcalls.
"He never touched him," said Donofrio, after an instant replay.
Italy had no complaints. In addition to dominating the West Germans, the bustling Italians seemed to get the benefit of most of the close calls.
Italian winger Roberto Bettega missed two shots that should have been goals and drew the only heat directed at the Italian team.
Zoff, a crowd favorite, made miraculous saves on Bernd Hoelzenbein and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
Late in the second half of the scoreless game, the fans tried to inspire their national heroes with clapping and cheering.
"They can't hear us but we yell anyway. We'll be hoarse when we get back," said Miramare.
The game ended 0-0 but no one seemed to mind. Most seemed happy that Italy was able to hold West Germany without a goal.
"One of those teams will win the Cup" said Antonio Borrasio, a cook. "That's real soccer. Except for the New York Cosmos, not one of the other American (NASL) temas could come on that field without getting embarrassed."
The ride back to the embassy was full of praise for the Italian team.
"Beautiful game," said Vivoda, doing another version of the Indianapolis 500 over the winding roads of Rock Creek Park. "We'll be back Sunday for the Austria game."
Donofrio had the afternoon's only problem. "No spaghetti at the game," he said with a laugh.
"So, you watch the other games on an empty stomach," said Miramare.
After a few cheers at the embassy for Italy, Donofrio and Vivoda were coming back to join another enthusiastic bunch for the 3:45 game between Brazil and Peru.