Postcards from the Italian Cup
Turin saw yet another installment of the looming challenge between Juventus and its past, this time in the shape of former coach Ranieri. Roma’s goals made the hopes of the bianconeri for the last piece of silverware to touch this season sink into a pit of abysmal desperation. The match has been cagey, scrappy and in truth dominated by an almost absolute lack of creativity. The baricenter of Juventus’s two banks of defenders in Delneri’s 4-4-2ish, dropped deeper and deeper with each passing minute until it resembled the rowers of a galley slaves during the Greek Peloponnesian War.
Roma presented its now familiar pattern, a sort of “mixed” 4-6-0, in which the shifting positions of Vucinic and Menez masked the absence of a traditional striker. When Borriello entered into the game, the Juventus rearguard continued to have no point of marking reference. A curious fact is that, at halftime, Juventus had a ball possession of 52%. It was the opposite when these two team met in the Serie A, with Juventus shaping itself as a zig-zag, five-men midfield, minimal risk at the back and letal counterattacks led by Krasic and finalized by Quagliarella.
Vucinic’s smart application of the “false nine” dragged Chiellini out of position in a couple of occasions, until he cracked a beautiful goal in a surreal atmosphere of impotence and defeat. While Juventus showed an usual vulnerability in the “Thierry Henry’s zone”, Melo and Sissoko confirmed to be an improbable combination: not box-to-box runners like Gerrard, Lampard or Song, not artisanal manufacturers of play like Xavi or even Aquilani (neglected here as a benchwarmer), and not even central sweepers like Busquets. The interaction between the Malian and Brazilian internationals is miles away from the functional teaming of a scrapper and a playmaker admired in South Africa with Germany, where Khedira won the ball and Schweinsteiger quickly distributed it.
If anyone thinks that Mazzarri merely rebooted Italy’s traditional catenaccio, this video should suggest otherwise.
The intense match against Inter confirmed, beyond the result, Napoli’s chances for the title. Tough pressing from the wingers against a rather fanciful Maicon exposed Leonardo’s team to tremendous reactive actions, which only a miracle (and a suspicious offside) prevented from sticking.