Posts Tagged ‘ Azzurri ’

Juventus: A History in Black and White

juve book

Juventus: A History in Black and White

Juventus is one of the most storied clubs in Italy and author Adam Digby does a wonderful job tracing the history of the club.

Starting with the early days of Italian football as it moved from regional leagues to a unified national league to the first period of success for Juvenuts during the 30’s, Digby recounts how the club rose again due to the emergence of the devastating strike force of Charles, Sivori and Boniperti and soared still further under the management of Trapattoni in the 70’s and 80’s. The 90’s saw another golden period which came to a crushing end due to Calciopoli before the Old Lady returned to the top with a new generation of players and the intensity of Conte.

Digby highlights the key protagonists in the club’s history, illustrating how their arrival, performance and demeanor helped shape the club. Things didn’t always go well for the club on the field or in the boardroom and Digby addresses these times. Whenever La Madama struggled a new hero would arise to help lead the team to success and maintain the Juventus spirit.

Digby is a lifelong Juventino and his passion comes through int he book, so it is not an absolutely objective account, but I consider it a strength and the book is a great introduction to the club and I recommend it if you want to learn about one of greats of world football and some critical moments in Italian football history.

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For a full list of my book reviews, please visit the Recommended Reading page. And reach out to me with your suggestions as well.

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Euro 2012 Final

For the Euro 2012 Final I headed out to the George and Dragon, a soccer bar I had heard about when I listened to World Soccer/Football Daily. We showed up at 10:15, 90 minutes before game and the place was already buzzing. By kickoff, the bar, patio and outdoor area were completely full. The crowd was pro-Spain so I was hoping for a favorable result.

The movement and passing of the Spanish team was fantastic and their great start was rewarded with Fabregas squeezing past Chiellini and then squaring the ball for Silva to head home. Italy came back into the match and were very patient in attack, actually earning more possession in the first half. Eventually the Spaniards regained control, and Xavi released Alba who produced a clinical finish. Balzaretti came in for the injured Chiellini got involved and created width for the Azzurri, which helped the Italians to stay in the match. The problem in the first half was that Balotelli was receiving the ball in the channels and not in the middle where he could do more damage.

The opening of the second half was the most intense five minutes I’ve ever seen. End to end, tons of chances and wonderful play. The Italians had to score early to give them a lifeline, which Di Natale almost did, but the goal didn’t come, Thiago Motta came on for Montolivo and promptly pulled his hamstring. Down 2-0, down to 10 men, the game was up. The Spanish finally stepped on their throat as Torres took advantage of a turnover and then Mata came on and scored to seal the victory.

After the game Bob Ley had to ask Alexi Lalas and Michael Fantastic Ballack if La Furia Roja were the greatest team ever. Who knows? Let’s just enjoy this team. Yes they struggled during this tournament, but from the extra time of the Portugal game through the final against Italy, this team was truly special and history will let us know where they fit in the pantheon of teams. What a game and what a tournament. Too bad UEFA is going to 24 teams in 2014 and a possible pan-European option in 2020. Can’t just leave well enough alone.

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Articles

Zonal Marking examined the midfield battle which shaped the contest. In the end, the speed and quickness of the Spanish plus the involvement of the outside backs undid the Italians. This was his conclusion:

Spain narrowed their wide midfielders to win the numbers game in the centre, then advanced the full-backs to stretch the play. That’s what they usually do, of course, but here it was combined with rapid passing and constant runs in behind the defence. It was almost unstoppable, and the beauty of their first two goals (when the game was proper contest, at 11 v 11) was the difference in style. Silva’s goal came after 14 passes, Alba’s after only 4. Silva’s goal arrived after 36 seconds of possession, Alba’s after just 13. Spain finally found the right balance, mixing possession with penetration.

Sid Lowe recapped a final in which Spain went from “boring” to exceptional, with several players fulfilling key roles in the destruction of old enemy Italy.

Finally Roger Bennett wrote a short post in the aftermath for Soccernet, rattling off the ridiculous stats that Spain has complied over the last four years, especially defensively. Both coaches pointed to the fitness of the squads as a key component of the game, with Motta’s injury proving too much to overcome for the Italians. As for the greatest ever argument:

Debates will now rage as to whether this Spanish team is the best national side to ever take the field. The vast difference in footbaling eras should make the arguments about their relationship to Brazil’s magnificent 1970 as empty as debating if Viking warriors could battle U.S. Marines.

Strip Club–Euro 2012 Kit Tournament (Group C)

In an ambitious effort to get involved with the upcoming Euros, I followed the draw, game by game, to determine which kit would win Euro 2012 based on my tastes.  These posts are an extension of my Strip Club posts and the epic Kit Tournament done by Avoiding the Drop for the 2010 World Cup.

Special thanks to Mao Football, whose post got this all kicked off for me.  Also to TheScore.ie , who put together a slide show of each jersey.  Finally, 7football created a graphic representation of each strip complete with shirt, shorts and socks.  Truly phenomenal stuff.

Here we go.

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Spain

Italy

Croatia

Ireland

Spain v Italy

Tough opening game because after years in the kit design wilderness, Puma finally got an Italian one right.  The white away kit with the blue band across the chest is close to perfection, plus there is no weird collar or accent or anything that distracts from the strip as a whole. Spain’s home kit stays the course, red with yellow piping, navy blue shorts, and red socks.  My only concern for La Furia Roja is the tightness factor that Liverpool had to deal with this last season.  All three points to the Azzurri in a close encounter.

Ireland v Croatia

On the field, hard to see either of these teams progressing but both could be spoilers.  In a fashion sense however, one of these teams has a strong case to go far.  And it’s not Ireland.  Umbro got the home kit wrong, with alternating vertical strips of different greens and a very polo shirt-esque collar.  Not impressive.  The Croatians typically go with some sort of blue kit for away days, and this version is no different.  What changes is Nike’s design, sort of doing a reversible peek a boo, using a solid blue kit peeled back to revel the red and white checkered home kit.  No question, the Croatians take the points.

Italy v Croatia

Assuming the Italians wear the traditional blue, that means the Croatians will go with the checkered home strip.  As stated before, the Italian away kit is simple and stylish, but the home kit is a disaster with a very obtrusive design interwoven in the kit and a horrible collar that seems like a rolled over V neck.  Ugh. Croatia are all but in the knockout stage with an easy victory.

Spain v Ireland

Spain’s home kit should theoretically go far, but it’s in a tough group, and their tournament is over early.  Ireland’s away strip makes up for the hideous home version, with a white shirt accented by slimmer version of alternating strips of the home kit going from shoulder to the bottom of the shirt.  It’s not enough to get them three points but earns a share of the spoils.

Croatia v Spain

Spain are out.  Their away kit is one of the worst of the entire tournament, a shade of baby blue that makes you wonder if City’s Sheikh had some sort of influence.  Add to this a diagonal strip that looks just looks terrible. Croatia’s home kit is iconic and awesome.  Yes it looks like a much slimmer Big Boy mascot is running around, but I love it. Croatia go through as group winners with maximum points.

Italy v Ireland

The ugly blue home kit of the Azzurri against the tolerable white/green kit of the Irish.  Trapattoni knocks out his home country only due to fashion sense and not due to actions on the pitch.  He may not be able to return to Italy, but he lives to fight another day with his Irish team.

Standings

Croatia  3 0 0 9
Ireland 1 1 1 4
Italy 1 0 2 3
Spain 0 1 2 1

MatchDay Memory–Playing Hooky

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Italia ’90 was my first World Cup, and I didn’t even know what I was watching.  I had been playing soccer for years, but had no connection with any club or country.  The game was just something my family did during the week, with my parents driving me, my sister and my brother around town to a myriad of practices and games.  This World Cup came around, with games on a combination of Univision (in Spanish, punctuated by calls of GOOOALLLLLL!!) and TNT (with commercial breaks), and I was introduced to the strange phenomenon of Schillaci.  For a while I didn’t even know what a Schillaci was, but in the snippets I would see, a Schillaci would occur. By the end of the tournament, I had discovered that Schillaci was a person, who ended up winning the Golden Boot with six goals.  Even later, as I came to know more about the game, I would find out that Schillaci played for Juventus from 89-92, having a great debut season with 15 goals.  Based on research, he tailed off after that, due to injuries, moving on to Inter and the J League.

During one week of the tournament I was at a church youth conference called Christ in Youth (CIY).  For a couple of hours in the afternoon, we would skip our afternoon session and go down to the basement of one of the dorms, with a bunch of other truants, and watch soccer, play pool and hang out.  (I figure the statute of limitations has run out on this and my youth minister, if he is reading this, is not going to yell at me).  Turns out I was trading one religion for another.

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I was vaguely aware that the United States had qualified and that this was a minor miracle.  I have no recollection of the thrashing they took at the hands of Czechoslovakia, and I barely remember them holding out for only a 1-0 defeat to the hosts.  My biggest takeaway of the tournament was Roberto Baggio.  I saw a highlight of his goal against Czechoslovakia and thought, who is this guy?  I kept his name in the back of my mind for four years and then, in his pomp at USA’94, I became very aware of all that he had done and would do.

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Really the tournament was experienced over eight years.  USA ’94 had a summary of 1990, which filled in a couple of blanks.  I read Among the Thugs, which saw the tournament through the very narrow prism of English hooliganism.  Continued research and reading supplied more and more info, but a job at a soccer store just after the 1998 World Cup, with access to highlights tapes (yes, VCR tapes), really gave me a full experience of the tournament—Higuita’s hair, Roger Milla’s dance, Gazza’s tears, and Germany’s victory.  Plus all of those goals by Schillaci.

2014_fifa_world_cup_brazil_wallpaper_Logo_Clean_White

2014 is less than three years away, but if life has taught me anything so far, it’s that three years might as well be tomorrow.  Germany 2006 seems like yesterday, with Zidane leading France to the Final before his moment of madness, and South Africa 2010 is fresh in the memory, seeing Iniesta firing La Furia Roja to glory. From an American perspective, twenty years on from hosting the Finals, the US will have one more chance with the old guard (Donovan, Boca, Howard) before turning the team over to the next generation.

Every four years I say, “This is the one I’m going to”, knowing in my heart that I am not.  The way things are heading, ie the club game taking over the international game, I may not have a World Cup to go to, but that’s a different discussion.  For now, I am counting down the days to Brazil 2014 and await the memories that will be created.

Old Futbol Buffet–October Interlull

I’m a terrible USMNT footy fan.  I didn’t watch a single minute of their games over the October break.  Why?  Well I’ve got a life and sometimes that gets in the way.  I didn’t bother with the US v Honduras friendly because I was back at Oktoberfest that night and it was a friendly.  I missed the Honduras friendly because I was helping a friend move and that was a little more important.  But on a side note, I found this website over the weekend that goes through the last 25 years of USMNT kit.  Fascinating, with some real winners and losers in terms of design.  Website can be followed on twitter @project2010usa.

As for Euro 2012 qualifiers, the matches on Friday and Tuesday were on while I was at work.  I was planning to watch the replay of Greece v Croatia, but that went sideways.  However, on the final day of Euro 2012 qualification, I was able to watch most of the Denmark v Portugal live.  A draw was all the Portuguese needed but an early goal from the Danes changed everything, and with Portugal looking quite average going forward (as they always are when I watch), qualification was looking good for the Danish Dynamite.  Portugal started better in the second period but a sucker punch from Nicky Pink Boots knocked them to the floor.  The Portuguese had very little response and only a stunning free kick by CR7 in stoppage time took the gloss of a solid Danish performance.

Looking ahead to next summer, Roberto Gotta wrote an interesting piece on Prandelli’s tactical and lineup changes with the Azzurri.

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Here are some great items I came across during the break . . .

  • World Football Phone In (10.1.11)

There was a lot of Tevez talk in the wake of his Champions League incident.  Andy Brassell (@andybrassell) talked about Bayern Munich’s dominance in the Bundesliga and why other clubs cannot consistently challenge, referring to Bayern’s Olympiastadion, which seats 80,000 (far more than other German clubs), and the fact that Die Roten earned more prize money from the Champions League in the first ten years than any other club.  Finally, there was discussion on Javi Martinez’s status in Spain and in Europe.  Already 23, he has failed to make an impact in La Furia Roja, which in turn has to a lack of momentum from Bilbao to a bigger club.

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