Juventus 3-0 Roma: The Scudetto Slips Away?

January 11, 2014 — by Suman


Editor’s note: It’s been a while since we’ve done any match reports on CultFootball–not like the good old days, when trunchfiddle might watch a Bundesliga match over the weekend and write up a quick post and title it “Borussia Dortmund beweisen ihren Wert

Of coures, it’s not as if trunchfiddle and the rest of us have stopped watching matches–we’ve just stopped writing about them. But even that’s not entirely true–in what’s become a bit of a double-edged sword, most of our typed match-related output has migrated to our email listserv. It better fits the transient nature of match commentary

So here is a compilation of some of our thoughts, pre- during, and post-game of last weekend–the match in question being Sunday’s late Serie A matchup in Turin, which ended in a decisive 3-0 win for league-leading and two-time defending domestic champion Juventus over unexpected challengers Roma.

This match, at the halfway point of the season, was going to essentially decide whether there would be a Scudetto race the rest of the way. Going in, Juve was 5pts ahead of Roma in the Serie A table–even though Roma remarkably entered undefeated (Juve’s line: 15W 1D 1L -> 46pts; Roma: 12W 5D 0L -> 41pts).

But Roma had lost the momentum going into the winter holiday break. After starting the season with a record 10 wins in their first 10 fixtures, they slumped to 5 draws in the last 7 fixtures of 2013 (cf the Guardian’s handy Stats Centre, which includes team-by-team league form and league position time series.).  For accounts of that magica-l early season form, see Paolo Bandini in the Guardian (“Roma’s resurrection embodied by Francesco Totti but made by Rudi Garcia“) and Gabriele Marcotti in the WSJ (“Manager Rudi Garcia’s Tactics Spark Turnaround at Roma Soccer“), both writing in early October.

Meanwhile, Juve had dropped points early in the season with a draw at Inter and a shocking 4-2 loss at Fiorentina–but they won the rest of their league matches, finally pulling past Roma into the top spot in late November.

The 5-point gap at the New Year meant a Juve win Sunday would result in I bianconeri basically sewing up their 3rd straight Scudetto, while a Roma upset would mean the race would be back on.
One match preview worth reading, even now post-match, is by tactical guru Michael Cox, focusing on who he claims are Serie A’s two best midfielders,  La Vecchia Signora’s Chilean attacking Arturo Vidal & Roma’s Dutch deeper-lying Kevin Strootman:
(One of the themes of our match previews and reports over the next 5 months will be pointing you towards players to watch ahead of this summer’s World Cup–keep an eye out for Vidal and Strootman this summer, as well as Juve’s other midfielders: young Frenchman Paul Pogba, and Italians Claudio Marchisio and of course elder statesman Andrea Pirlo.  Roma’s Daniele de Rossi may also feature for the Azurri in midfield.)
In response to this link, our Roman amico Simeone wrote:
Definitely, the game will be decided in the middle…Pirlo-Vidal-Marchisio vs Pjanic-Strootman-De Rossi. WOW !!
I think Juve is still better in the middle, but if Pjanic and Totti (with Gervinho) have a good day, the match will be really fast-paced and exciting to watch.
And I wouldn’t discard the role of Maicon, he is a crazy player who excels in big games….and there on the right Juve is not strong….
Roma must be fast, very fast in counter attacks because Juve’s defense can be beaten by speed only.
I hope Roma wins, it would be good for Serie A and for all the Magica fans….
I wish we could watch it together !!
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to watch it together, and even more unfortunately for all the Magica fans, the game went against Roma from very nearly the beginning. Trunchfiddle’s halftime report:
I’ve got a nice clean English language sopcast feed running on the desktop.
Saw the Juventus goal. Made by Tevez, scored by Vidal.  Tevez has still got it.
Pogba is very good. He’s a blur in the open field and has a shot like a rocket. His and Vidal’s hairstyles are some next level shit.
Juve look very dangerous in the attacking third (and on the counter). Nice intricate passing and movement, very pleasing on the eye.
Roma apparently held more possession before the first 20 mins, but I didn’t see it. Their play is also nice to watch, very attacking but not nearly as sharp or intricate as Juve’s.
Totti flopping all over the place. Gervinho wearing some kind of headband.
And now James Richardson running the halftime show for BT Sport
Coach Larry weighed in with a few words at halftime–or rather just after halftime:
Roma just seem a couple steps too slow. Have done little threatening from their extra possession. Pjanic been suffering with some sort if knee issue.
Now Roma don’t react at all to a free kick to the far post, late runner Bonucci slides it home. This match is over.
That 2nd Juve goal came in the 48′, and did effectively end the match. Well, if it didn’t end prematurely then, it certainly did just after I tuned in, at the 75′, when Roma’s captain Daniele de Rossi, clearly a step slow even chasing Juve’s defender Giorgio Chiellini down the flank, went in two-footed after Chiellini had crossed the ball, and earned himself a straight red. Off the ensuing free kick, some more poor set-piece defending resulted in a Suarezian goal line clearance by Roma defender Leandro Castan and a Juve PK for a gravy 3rd goal.
It was Castan’s 2nd ignominious moment of the match–it was Castan that lost his mark on the earlier free kick for Juve’s 2nd goal.  Indeed, here were Simeone’s words Monday morning:
I owe you few words after yesterday….
First, yes, Serie A was available on dish in 2001. [in response to an unrelated Serie A question]
Regarding the game, although I liked the way we started it, and overall the whole first half, I was worried because Juventus was playing the game that we were supposed to play: stay calm, wait for their attacks and punish with lethal counter attacks. I was thinking “Look at that smartass of Conte, he is waiting for us to show off how good we are and he will punish us on the first real chance…..son of a b….!!”. And that is what happened….The match was decided by few episodes and it seems like everything is going in Juve’s advantage these days.
Unfortunately De Rossi and Totti didn’t play well and Castan made a huge mistake on the 2nd goal (unusual for him), which kind of ended the game for me. Strootman is a giant. I love that player. The rest is history. Now, unless Juve thinks that they already won, there is no way they will lose this scudetto….;-(


Granada CF & Udinese Calcio: A Symbiotic Relationship

March 20, 2012 — by Suman1


There’s a full slate of mid-week La Liga fixtures this week–two matches today and the rest of La Liga playing tomorrow.  One of today’s matches has Barcelona hosting Granada.  It shouldn’t really be much of a contest–Barcelona hasn’t lost at home all season.  Perhaps the only reason to watch is that there’s a good chance Lionel Messi will pull even with or even surpass César as Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer.

But it’s also a chance to take a look at Granada’s unique arrangement with Italian club Udinese.  Granada essentially serves as a development squad for Udinese, with a large number of Granada’s squad over the past few years arriving on loan from Udinese.  From  AFootballReport piece on how this came about:

In 2009, Granada CF was a club in crisis, both competitively and financially. The club was on the brink of disappearing, despite a rich 80 year history. Gino Pozzo saw a money-making opportunity that would double as a way to develop Udinese talent, and in July 2009, the two clubs signed a partnership agreement so the majority of Granada’s squad would become Udinese-owned, while the Italian club could also send over its reserves and youngsters.

So what are the benefits for Gino Pozzo and Udinese Calcio? Well, the strategy is to use the exposure Granada gets in the Spanish league to showcase Udinese-owned talent that will, in turn, gain value in the transfer market. With Pozzo’s commitment to investing, Granada only seems likely to improve in the future. And Pozzo’s “buy cheap, gain exposure, sell high” philosophy is already working. Just imagine the possibilities for profit if Granada gets into the top flight in Spain.

The agreement came about via a Spanish football wheeler and dealer named Quique Pina, who took over as Granada’s president in 2009, in that time of crisis.  Although he had operated in Spain, he happened to be working for an Italian club at the time.  From a Sid Lowe SI column about Granada from last fall:

Pina was a former player (with Mérida), agent, and the owner of the short-lived Ciudad de Murcia — a club that was founded in 1999 and disappeared in 2007 when Pina effectively sold its Second Division place to the owner of Granada 74, which in turn, disappeared in 2009. At the time, Pena was working for Udinese in Italy. When Pina was asked to take over at Granada, the Pozzo family who own Udinese, allowed him to combine both jobs with their blessing. In fact, they supported Pina — and they supported his “other” new club. Really supported.

How did the Pozzo family and Udinese support Pina’s new venture in the south of Spain?  By essentially providing him with the fruits of their extensive and much-admired scouting system.  From a column in The Independent last summer, when Alexis Sanchez was the biggest transfer target in Europe, headlined “Super Sanchez is the latest big success story of little Udinese’s scouting system“:

Udine is a city of 100,000 in the misty terrain between Venice and the Alps. With crowds at the Stadio Friuli typically no more than 17,000, annual gate receipts are equivalent to those trousered by Manchester United after a single match at Old Trafford. According to the erudite football blog, Swiss Ramble, Udinese’s 2009-10 wage bill of €31m compared with €230m and €172m at Internazionale and Milan respectively. Only the club’s ageless talisman, Di Natale, has an annual salary exceeding €1m; Sanchez himself has apparently been taking home around €700,000. Internazionale, Milan and Juventus, meanwhile, all enjoyed annual revenues of over €200m. At €41m, Udinese did not match a single Premier League club. Income from television accounted for €26m; Internazionale’s was €138m.


When Giampaolo Pozzo bought Udinese, 25 years ago, the club was still prey to the maddening, odious debilities that have so retarded the Italian game. A betting scandal earned a points deduction, and relegation. But Pozzo devised a solution that has now secured 16 consecutive seasons in Serie A, and regular European competition.

Udinese built up a network of 50 scouts around the world, concentrated primarily in South America and Africa. They focused especially on youngsters from second-tier nations, and duly found Sanchez as a 16-year-old in Chile. He cost just €2m, but his sale this summer will merely consummate a policy that has already yielded a transfer surplus of €112m over the past decade.

Stars to have used Udinese as a stepping stone include David Pizarro, Asamoah Gyan, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Sulley Muntari, Andrea Dossena, Fabio Quagliarella and Gaetano D’Agostino. Unlike so many clubs with a reputation for grooming young talent, however, Udinese have consolidated their status to the extent that they can now provide Champions League football themselves.

Indeed, although Udinese fell to Arsenal in the qualifying stage and failed to make it to the Champions League group stage, they’ve remarkably repeated their domestic success of last season and are poised to get another shot at European competition.  They current sit 4th in Serie A, tied with Napoli (and that only thanks to two late goals last Sunday by Edinson Cavani that salvaged a draw for Napoli in Udine)–despite selling off not only Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona, but Swiss-Turkish midfielder Gökhan Inler to Napoli and Colombian defender Cristian Zapata to Villareal.

Swiss Ramble’s long piece on “Udinese Selling Their Way to the Top“, also from last summer following their impressive performance in Serie A, mentions the Granada component of their business plan:

Udinese have bolstered their strategy by forming a partnership with Granada, a club playing in the Spanish second division, where they loan youngsters that need playing time, such as the Ghanaian Jonathan Mensah. Given the Friuli club’s connections with the South American market, it is no coincidence that they opted for a club in a Spanish speaking country to park their players. In total, Granada currently have an amazing 14 players on loan from Udinese.

In fact, one of the logical results of Udinese’s approach is that they end up having an extremely large squad, so they absolutely need to loan out a vast number of players every season (earning them €3.6 million in 2010). Including the players at Granada, I make the current total 63, though I may well have lost count. This is the sort of “wheeler dealing” that makes Harry Redknapp look like a rank amateur.

That was last season, as Granada fought their way to promotion out of Segunda Division (a fuller account of that promotion, and in fact the story of their promotion from even lower tiers of Spanish football, can be found on yet another treatment of the Pozzo-Pina/Udinese-Granada story, titled “Granada’s Italian job“, on In Bed With Maradona.  Another account from the Spanish press, in Madrid-based sports daily AS is headlined “Pina y Pozzo: un tándem para reflotar equipos en crisis“)

This season, the number of players on Granada’s current squad (included below) on loan from Udinese is apparently down to five.  But there are six additional players on loan from other clubs, including three from Benfica, another club that Pina has strong ties with.  Again from Sid Lowe:

In total, 12 of Granada’s first team squad [last season] were Udinese players. It was good for the Italians because their squad members got playing time, the chance to develop and gain first team experience, while keeping them in the shop window for potential buyers; it was good for Granada because it helped them clinch a top division place at last — and on the cheap.

The relationship has continued. Of those in this year’s squad, Allan Nyom, Odion Ighalo, Jaime Romero, Benítez, Geijo and Diego Mainz are all on loan from Udinese in one capacity or another. Guilherme Siqueira has been signed from them. Meanwhile Pena’s relationship with Benfica has facilitated them bringing in four others from Portugal, three on loan and one on a free transfer. And at the other end of the scale, nine players have been loaned out to Cádiz. Where Pena is employed as the sporting director.

For the details, see Granada’s squad list below.  But to bring this back around to today’s match, we quote the opener to that IBWM piece for a nice bit of historical resonance:

October 28th 1973; quite the memorable date in Spanish football history. A young, straggly but immensely gifted Dutchman by the name of Johan Cruyff made his league debut for FC Barcelona, and the effect he’d have on football from that point on, not just in Spain, is one that still shapes the game today. This story, however, is not about the number 14 – it’s about the number 35. Barça’s opponents that day were Granada CF, a team who have spent 35 years away from the Spanish top flight…until now.

Granada’s squad list as of today (according to Wikipedia):

No. Position Player
1 Spain GK José Juan
2 Cameroon DF Allan Nyom (on loan from Udinese)
3 France DF Noé Pamarot
4 Spain MF Fran Rico
5 Spain DF Diego Mainz
6 Brazil DF Guilherme
7 Nigeria FW Odion Ighalo (on loan from Udinese)
8 Spain DF Iñigo López
9 Spain DF Borja Gómez (on loan from Karpaty Lviv)
10 Spain MF Jaime Romero (on loan from Udinese)
11 Spain MF Dani Benítez (on loan from Udinese)
12 Argentina FW Franco Jara (on loan from Benfica)
13 Spain GK Roberto
14 Spain MF Mikel Rico
15 Senegal DF Pape Diakhaté
16 Brazil FW Henrique (on loan from São Paulo)
17 Portugal MF Carlos Martins (on loan from Benfica)
18 Spain DF Manuel Lucena (captain)
19 Algeria MF Hassan Yebda
20 Nigeria FW Ikechukwu Uche (on loan from Villarreal)
21 Spain DF David Cortés
22 Switzerland FW Álex Geijo (on loan from Udinese)
23 Spain MF Abel
24 Spain MF Moisés Hurtado
25 Brazil GK Júlio César (on loan from Benfica)




AC Milan Needs to Beat the Top Teams, Stat

February 3, 2012 — by Rob Kirby


The Tevez-Pato “will he? won’t he” questions ricocheted every which way this January as the musical chairs transfers song played at AC Milan, but at the end everyone retook their own chairs. Boring. Perhaps they were dating Berlusconi’s daughter, or were on £200,000 a week slave wages that no one else could match, but whatever the reason, that anti-climax will be followed up by a busy February and early March. The Rossoneri take on first-place Juventus twice in the Coppa Italia and once in the league, Napoli and Udinese in the league, not to mention the two Champions League legs against Arsenal.

It all starts with the home match/grudge match against Napoli this Sunday at 2:30 ET (Fox Soccer).

To put the upcoming matches in perspective, Milan has not beaten any team in the top five in a league match this season, including the painful loss to Inter in the Derby della Madonnina in January. Furthermore, Napoli beat Milan 3-1 in their only other matchup this season. If Milan continues to find itself unable to beat the top teams, this upcoming run could prove very difficult and very damaging.

However, aside from the Tevez-Pato dud of inaction, Milan did bring in five reinforcements over the window to deal with the second half of the season, including striker Maxi Lopez from Catania and out-of-favor midfielder Sulley Muntari from Inter. Coming off a disappointing 2-0 loss to Lazio that could have seen them take pole position, they have everything to play for—and conversely, everything to lose.

Napoli has stuttered to a string of draws and a defeat to Genoa of late, but Cavani fired them to a 2-0 victory over Inter in the Coppa Italia last week and they could come roaring back this Sunday.

Feb 5, 9:00 ET  AC Milan  vs.  Napoli
Feb 8, 2:45 ET  AC Milan  vs.  Juventus
Feb 11, 12:00 ET  Udinese  vs.  AC Milan
Feb 15, 2:45 ET  AC Milan  vs.  Arsenal
Feb 19, 9:00 ET  Cesena  vs.  AC Milan
Feb 21, 2:45 ET  Juventus  vs.  AC Milan
Feb 25, 2:45 ET  AC Milan  vs.  Juventus
Mar 3, 12:00 ET  Palermo  vs.  AC Milan
Mar 6, 2:45 ET  Arsenal  vs.  AC Milan

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has 15 goals in the Serie A this season. But should he get injured or need a breather during the fast-and-furious fixtures ahead, Lopez may be called into action. Alexandre Pato suffered a thigh strain last month that may see him missing out on the next 4 matches, including the home leg against Arsenal. Lopez was not top-choice at Catania, so while there is cover, it’s not of the same quality. The decision between Lopez and Tevez was never one of equals, rather of finances.

New loan signing Muntari continues his international engagements with the Ghana national team in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon and may not be back in time for the Champions League fixture against Arsenal in the San Siro, either. Muntari was brought on to help bolster a depleted midfield that has lost Mathieu Flamini, Gennaro Gattuso, Alexander Merkel and Alberto Aquilani to injury. Kevin Prince-Boateng also has spent quality time on the injury table of late.

Obviously, with talented players such as Thiago Silva, Robinho, van Bommel, Seedorf, Ambrosini and Zambrotta all hale and hearty, the team is not in crisis, but performances this month could very well determine their fates in all remaining competitions: the league, the Coppa Italia and the Champions League.

It should be getting quite interesting quite soon.

CommentaryHistoryThey ReminisceVideo

La Magica Roma: 1982-1984

December 17, 2010 — by Simeone1


I am an hardcore fan of the “magica” Roma…I fell in love with the “giallorossi” (“red-yellow”) when I was a kid, 10 years old (1980), Roma-Udinese 0-0, at the old Olimpic Stadium with my mum and dad. We got there at the last minute and we could only find standing “seats”, at the bottom of the Curva Nord (the other curve, Curva Sud, is the home of Roma’s fans). Tw years later Italy won the World Cup, defeating Argentina with Passarella and an already famous Maradona.  (Gentile, the rough italian defender, still has a piece of his jersey!)  Then Italy-Brazil, 3-2, an amazing game, with three goals by Rossi (and a great counterattack goal by Antognoni disallowed)….I am talking about the great Brazil of Zico, Falcao (a Roma’s player by then), Socrates, Junior, Eder….I think one of the best games ever by the Azzurri, second only to the 1970 semifinal victory against Germany (4-3 in overtime). Poland of Lato in the semifinal was a joke and then the usual win against Germany…we rarely (never?) lost against Germany in the World Cup.

There was always a party in the streets during that summer of 1982 in Rome, Italian flags everywhere, people crazy rallying for hours after each game…and remember that we barely made it through the first round, with a tie against Cameroon.

Well, a few months later, in the ’82-83 Serie A season, Liedholm (Swedish coach), Falcao (5), Conti (7), Di Bartolomei (10), and Tancredi (goalie) lead the Roma squad to the second scudetto after 40 years!!  Nobody removed their flags from the windows and balconies, they just added the Roma flag!!!  I remember those days with a lot of joy. I was 12….still a kid.  Me and my dad going to the stadium by subway, then bus, sometimes walking for a couple of miles just for the heck of it (waiting for the bus was boring and we were usually early for the game, since the sooner we got there, the better seats we could get). Bringing paninis with us, spending hours in the stadium, cutting newspapers to use when the teams stepped into the field, singing the Roma anthem by Venditti (see below).  Many times my cousins came along, as well as some friends from school, but it was mainly me and my dad…always there.


Antonio Cassano – WTF?

November 2, 2010 — by Sean

When in Rome...

Reports from Italy have been coming for about a week now regarding Sampdoria and Italy striker Antonio Cassano and his fallout with the president of the Serie A Club Riccardo Garrone. Cassano hasn’t had a smooth and subtle career, not at Roma where he fell out with Totti, not at Real Madrid where he fought with Fabio Capello, not on the national team where he openly criticized Macello Lippi, and now not at Sampdoria, where he has apparently tweaked the president of the club the wrong way.

It’s not clear exactly what he did to raise such ire. Some say it all started when Cassano stood up Garrone at a public event, where he’d promised to make a showing in support of the president and his club. Other refer to verbal tirades and cursing fits directed at Garrone. What is known is that Cassano issued a public apology, or so he says, though he has refused to put it in writing:

“I am very disappointed at what happened and have already apologised to president Garrone, who I care for very much, in front of my team-mates. I read that this whole affair might have been linked to transfer speculation, but I confirm that – if given the opportunity – it is my firm intention to remain at Sampdoria.”

At first this alluded to apology seemed to smooth ruffled feathers, but turns out nothing was mended, and now Sampdoria look set to release their #1 striker without trying to sell him, just to be rid of him. It’s all gone to the league bigwigs for the final stamp and seal, but it looks like Cassano is moving on down the road.

And in one more bit of madness, Nicola Pozzi, Cassano’s replacement for i Blucerchiati has been banned by Serie A for blaspheming in the dressing room after a game. What could that even mean?