vendredi, avril 07, 2006
The much inflated bubble of the "uomo di pieris" burst last Wednesday night as an expensively assembled Juve capitulated to a gunner team that is bubbly, interesting and promising, but not the unbeatable squad that the Juve on-show made them out to be. Granted, I will continue to inveigh at the unpracticality of having a pitch the size of Highbury at European football level but that is no excuse for the non-spirit of the bianconeri over the two legs. Juventus' achilles heel is itself.
It is not just logic, or objective analysis that tells me this. You just have to see the facts. Like Brasil at national level, the only team to defeat Juventus is Juventus itself. The way a perfectly calibrated team, oiled to deliver boring perfection Sunday after Sunday suddenly sputters to a whimpering halt whenever the Champions League hymn is played in their ears is mind boggling. Let's face it, in the first leg Juventus would have lost to Rometta, let alone Arsenal. Any provincial team with guts and a whiff of glory would relish defeating La Vecchia Signora, the pride of club football at its polished best. And they do. On a regular basis. Even when Juve reaches the final with a mixture of luck and a good streak, the knees tend to crumble at the final hurdle.
Brasil will crash to an unexpected defeat out of overconfidence. Juventus for a total lack of it. The key to breaking such karmas is a psychological motivator who can instil confidence with his personality and choices. And unfortunately Don Fabio Capello does none of the two. His stakanovistic approach to the game serves league runs perfectly but when it comes to the cups his total lack of grasp of the turnover, misuse (or non-use of subs) and inability to push the players out of their receding selves have proven to be the last unachievable milestone for the all-conquering Don.
Had he not won a league with the provincials of Italy one would question whether he is only capable of victory with expensively assembled machines of football. Now he is being touted as the next England manager. Or the one after the next. Good luck to England. I think they should take him on to qualify for the European Cup but drop him at the knock out phase. For that you need someone like McClaren.
Yes, McClaren. Steve McClaren. He is the boss of Middlesborough. The team that knocked out the invincible Rometta from the UEFA Cup. The team that lost 7-0 to Arsenal in this moment of Gunner Grace. But the same team that overturned a 0-2 deficit against FC Basle to a 4-1 victory yesterday night. And to think that things started badly for Steve's XI. They were one goal down to Basle and virtually out. At that point a Juve team would have capitulated and blamed the weather while Capello would introduce Balzaretti and Birindelli as attacking subs while leaving Olivera to sit it out on the bench. McClaren instead chose to go for an all out attack. He must have whispered sweet words to the Boro team at half time over the usual cuppa. But it worked. Boro are through with dreams of glory (and also in the QF of the FA Cup).
Juve meanwhile will be winning their 29th scudetto unless all goes awry. Which puts things a bit in perspective. The whistles at the Delle Alpi where ungrateful. I do not agree with supporters who twist and turn with every fortune or mishap. That is the stuff of the provincials - who would actually be proud of such antics. Lessons must be learnt. Among them is the need to build a cup team and the moves for Steven Gerrard are definitely in the right direction. Players must be shown that fighting for the ball is what they are paid for and we must find the new pitbulls and soldatini in the likes of the new Davids or Di Livio.
And then we must either let Capello off with a clap and a handshake or get the old Don to change some of his hardy ways. We will draw the final accounts at the end of the season... it is easy for others to gloat over Juve's Champion's league misfortune but then they are trying to minimise their own team's underachievements by looking in other directions.
Finally, the World Cup is coming up and since these pages will soon be turning green and yellow it is good to note that the eight teams that got to the Quarter Finals of this year's Champion's League had one thing in common - they all fielded at least one Brasilian player. The Champion's League may be Europe's best trophy but it will always take that little bit of extra South American magic to go the full mile!