‘Oh Yes!’: The reaction in Italy to Juventus’ Champions League draw with Chelsea
A draw. Not the best result but, playing at the home of the current holders after a three year absence from the Champions League, Juventus can not only be pleased with their 2-2 draw against Chelsea, they can take huge comfort in sending a message to those who doubt that this is a team to be taken seriously by all who face them this season.
Despite being on a 42 game unbeaten run and having suffered just one defeat in all competitions since Antonio Conte took charge of the team in May 2011, the current Juventus is still a team that divides the opinion of fans, pundits and reporters across Italy and beyond for numerous reasons. It seems a ridiculous notion, but there are a huge number of question marks hanging over this side and many of them still remain unanswered even after such an impressive debut at Stamford Bridge.
The ten month suspension handed to Conte – for his alleged failure to report the attempted fixing of a match whilst in charge of Siena – has opened old wounds and the shadow of Calciopoli is never too far away when discussing the Turin club. The two are unconnected and Juventus have changed the Board of Directors, coaches, almost the entire playing staff and even the stadium since their relegation to Serie B, but it is a stain which the club is finding almost impossible to remove.
By full-time last night however, thanks to imposing their impressive brand of powerful, aggressive and aesthetically pleasing style of play against such a prestigious opponent, Italian football’s grand Old Lady was once more drawing admiring glances from those who chose to overlook or ignore last season’s achievement.
It is indicative of the immense significance of this elite competition that the Champions League is now the ultimate proving ground for players, clubs and coaches but, despite a shaky start, Juventus put on a performance that gives everyone connected with the club a reason to walk a little taller from now on, having shown that they can compete on the biggest stage. Speaking before the game, Giancarlo Abete – head of the Italian FA – called upon them to impress as he told Sky Italia;
“There is a need to get results because otherwise our ranking will worsen, and that determines what happened this year – namely the loss of a team in the Champions League. It’s been a great job by management to reposition Juventus where they wanted to be, which is obviously at the top of Italian football and to be in the elite of European football.”
“Now there is this important task, Juve is equipped to do well. Good luck to them as they – along with Milan – represent the whole of Italy in the Champions League.”
It seems they have begun to do just that as Italy’s three sports dailies each lauded them on their Thursday morning covers, La Gazzetta dello Sport running “Oh Yes!” in English across the front page. The hyperbolic TuttoSport went with “What A Juve!” above a line declaring it an ‘amazing comeback’ and the more sober Corriere dello Sport declared them “stronger than the Champions.” Writing in La Repubblica, Fabrizio Bocca went even further, declaring Fabio Quagliarella’s equaliser “changes the future of Juventus,” going on to add that the result “showed character and stubbornness to recover a game that seemed gone.”
Watching Juventus remain faithful to their principles and push for a winner – a search that was almost rewarded when another Quagliarella chance skimmed the crossbar – was surprising to many and reading about an Italian side not only playing to win but “attacking with great brio” (Henry Winter) is heart-warming to a generation of Anglo-Italians tired of being subjected to the clichéd and inaccurate references to Catenaccio and dull, insipid football.
Serie A today is a very different place, with vibrant attacking football now the order of the day. Zdenek Zeman’s thrilling but kamikaze brand of football – so beloved by neutrals – may not be gracing Europe with Roma this term but in Inter, Udinese and Napoli, the league has three sides in Europa League action who can all reaffirm the marker laid down by Juventus last night while anyone looking at domestic matches would do well to pay attention to Catania, Fiorentina and Palermo for more enjoyable entertainment.
Indeed Lazio, who travel to Tottenham today, have promised they will not only look to take the game to their opponents, but will do so with a full strength team, eschewing the usual apathy the peninsula’s clubs have shown towards the competition. Those promises were made by newly appointed coach Vladimir Petkovic – who has led the club to three wins in their three opening league matches – as he told Sky Italia;
“In the last two or three years the mentality has changed in Italy with regards to the Europa League, so it is considered more important. Squad rotation? I don’t think it’s necessary in the first few games. For the moment we will continue with a squad that is doing well. I wouldn’t like to ruin anything by sending negative signals.”
“We will respect the opponents, but try to take the initiative so we’ll neutralise Tottenham’s style of football by imposing our own. I think not how we can stop Gareth Bale, but how we can make life difficult for him.”
It is a bold statement, but one which is wholly necessary if Italian football is to recover and restore its tarnished reputation. Juventus have shown the way and others seem determined to follow as they help Calcio move away from the perception of it as ‘boring.’ It’s about time!Tagged in: Champions League, chelsea, football, Juventus
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