For the last “international” friendly match of their pre-season, Juventus traveled to Southern Italy Saturday in order to face Real Betis in Salerno (second largest city of Campania, after Napoli).
This match was quite particular to me because it took place in my hometown which, like most of Southern Italy, harbors a fair deal of Juventini. So like the many fans present at Stadio Arechi, I was expecting (and hoping) fireworks! Nevertheless despite the many good efforts & plays from both sides, spectators had to settle for a 0-0 draw, in a match which above all highlighted the advanced preparation of the Spaniards (La Liga begins next week-end) and put the first real hurdle in front of Antonio Conte’s boys this pre-season. It was a tough encounter, where the team struggled when faced with an opponent dominating the play.
One clear positive note remains though: the clean sheet for Buffon/Storari. Aided by a sometimes attentive and sometimes lucky defense (on certain plays Betis seemed to literally want to walk the ball into the net), conceding no goals in a match of international caliber is certainly a good thing to take home.
Below as usual, the play-by-play I wrote down while watching the game. Tune in later for a more in-depth analysis.
UPDATE: Post-Match Analysis:
Overall a difficult, energy-consuming performance for Juve today. We faced a technical, experienced opponent ahead of us in their pre-season, and it certainly showed on the field. Fitness can only explain so much however, and it seems the limitations of Conte’s tactics may have shown their face for the first time today.
Indeed, for as long as the Bianconeri are able to dominate and dictate the pace of the play (as we saw in their recent encounters vs. Club América, vs. Chivas Guadalajara, and above all during Cuneo’s 8-0 win), Conte’s 4-2-4 formation is devastating. Conversely against an opponent who makes ball possession not only an offensive, but also a defensive weapon (Real Betis being just one of the many Liga clubs operating under the same direction), our two central midfielders (Pirlo/Marchisio) had a bit of trouble winning the ball back. This naturally lead to our wingers dropping to help out in midfield, and that is something which Conte wasn’t happy about and may certainly want/need to correct (the counter-attack must be ready to strike!).
Other semi-sour notes: the lack of interplay between Matri and Vucinic. Be it because of stronger opponents today, be it for other reasons: Mirko seems to have a much more natural playing entente with Luca Toni or Alessandro Del Piero than Matri. Now if things remain as they are (that is Quagliarella’s knee condition still looking precarious), it looks like precisely Matri/Vucinic will form our starting forward pair as Serie A begins. In other words: we have two weeks to get the magic juices flowing!
Also: Milos Krasic? With the exception of the pass leading to ADP’s bicycle kick, he had a terrible game by “Serbian Arrow” standards. Out of focus, wasteful with his passes, unsuccesful with his dribbling attempts, today was a step back for Milos and let’s hope it is only temporary.
Among the positives notes, when Juve do have possession their passing game flirts with the downright spectacular, particularly thanks to often unexpected sources! Forget Pirlo, who could make a through ball hopping on one foot walking backwards with a blindfold on… It is actually players like Matri, Quagliarella, Marchisio who are stepping up, and illuminating us with perfect aerial services towards the wings. When these passes connect, there’s always potential for heavy damage. Such was the case in today’s opening 20 minutes.
Another positive: the backline! We’re actually looking good lads! And we didn’t even have Chiellini today!!! Yes, a few defensive brain freezes did occur (Gigi x1, Lichtsteiner x1, Krasic x1) and it lead to (squandered) goalscoring opportunities for Betis. Yet after months of hair-pulling moments from January to May, we have gone from DEFCON 1 (opponent’s goal imminent) to DEFCON 3 (occasional state of anxiety). AND on top of that, we only conceded 1 goal since July 23 in Toronto. The goalscorer? Actually one of our own Youth prospects!!
And lastly: Cristian fu**ing Pasquato!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can we stop the search for overpriced, overpaid left wingers already, and give this kid a chance??!!! Scoring left & right since pre-season start, he capped a non-scoring day with a man-of-the-match performance!! Easily the best of the Bianconeri today!
|20:43||Hellooo Stadio Arechi, home of Salernitana in the Southern City of Salerno, in the region of Campania. All the family on my mother’s side lives here. I’ve been to this stadium a few times myself.|
|20:44||Juve playing in pink. Betis in Green/White vertical stripes|
|20:46||And we’re off!!|
|6′||Great ball by Pirlo for Pasquato on the left, he gets near the box, then cuts to the byline and gets a hard low cross in! No one to tap it in at the far post!!!! Good opportunity Juve.|
|7′||Now Pirlo with some great fakes & trickery on the opposite wing to find space for the cross, Betis defense clears it|
|9′||Pirlo again, with another fantastic one-time long pass towards Krasic on the right. Forces the keeper to come rushing out before Milos can get there.|
|11′||Now Betis’s left winger with a good penetration. Lichtsteiner tackles the ball into corner before he can get the cross in.|
|11′||On the CK, Betis swing the ball in and force Buffon to save the ball on the ground.|
|12′||Now Betis trying their luck from long-range. Decent effort. Slightly over the bar.|
|13′||Long ball towards Juve’s left flank. De Ceglie heads it back well for Gigi.|
|14′||And another ONE-TIMER Matri to Krasic. Inch-perfect!! Milos’s first touch is heavy, under pressure by the defender, and keeper can retrieve the ball. But man oh man is our current passing fantastic.|
|15′||Buffon with a horrendous clearance straight to Ruben Castro!! He passes it Jorge Molina in front who shoots and scores. Offside though! Man… Scary stuff by Gigi.|
|16′||Now Juve hit the counter button. But Krasic can’t find the right measure for the cross.|
|17′||Now Barzagli on tackling duties to clear into CK. Shortly followed by Lichtsteiner on the ensuing play. Our defense very attentive, despite being tested by the flair of the Betis players.|
|19′||Of course, the minute I say that, Jefferson Montero dizzies Krasic and Lichsteiner and finds space for a cannonball on our right side!!! Buffon punches it away.|
|20′||Now Castro exploits ball possession after a hazardous Barzagli dribble, and tries to find his teammate inside the box. Too long. Betis are playing well.|
|22′||Juve being pushed back to their trenches. Our ball possession is virtually 30% these last 5 minutes|
|25′||Now Juve getting some momentum back. A great run of play Vucinic-Pasquato gets a cross in, cleared away, Pirlo retrieves it and forces a defender to a foul with a fake. Very good position for a free-kick.|
|26′||Pirlo-Pasquato standing over the ball. Pirlo… straight into the wall.|
|27′||Now Betis on the counter 3-on-2!! Jorge Molina on the right, tries to find Castro edge of the box. He scuffs his shot and the Juve defense can clear.|
|28′||Fantastic ball by Matri towards Pasquato. Gets inside the box and towards the center, angled shot towards the right-bottom corner!! Deflected wide by the keeper!! Excellent play and shot by Cristian Pasquato!|
|30′||Great exchange Krasic-Licht-Krasic, sends the Serbian winger towards the byline. Finds the space for a low cross, intercepted.|
|32′||Long ball towards the right wing for Ruben Castro. Excellent tackle by Barzagli to clear into touchline. Now De Ceglie with a great shielding maneuver to obtain a goal kick.|
|34′||Bonucci with some great technical skills to fake out a player and launch it long. It eventually gets back to Betis who finds space on the right. Castro tries to fake Bonucci but the Juve defender is vigilant. Corner.|
|36′||Great combo Matri-Lichtsteiner-Krasic. More space for the Serbian. His crossing leaving to be desired so far though. Intercepted again.|
|38′||Now Montero with a curling effort from the left wing. Not too wide.|
|39′||Lovely trickery by Vucinic to find space. Once again to Krasic. Cross. Deflected. Back to Krasic. Tries to get to the byline again, but Milos is being too one-dimensional and it’s hurting him. Goal kick Betis.|
|40′||Sideline report: Conte asking Krasic/Pasquato to stay further up the field when Betis have the ball. Wants his counterattacking options available.|
|41′||Vucinic with great trickery on the left wing, gets rid of two defenders!! Low pass for Pasquato, whose control escapes him. Goal kick! Good play though!|
|43′||Ball possession statistics: 11 minutes Juventus, 17 Betis.|
|44′||Jefferson Montero wreaking havoc again! One-two to get rid of Krasic/Lichtsteiner and gets free on the left wing. His shot clears Buffon but is saved in extremis by Barzagli!|
|45′||Krasic falls asleep and allows Salva Sevilla to slide iinto an even better position than a minute ago, completely unmarked!!!! Puts the ball on his right foot and has a terrible effort wide!! But soooo dangerous for Juve. Getting a bit lax with their defending here.|
|45′||Half-time. 0-0 after 45 minutes of play.|
- Great first 20 minutes by Juve: excellent passing, particularly one the one-touch, to find space on either wing and create many problems for the Betis players.
- Following that, Betis retrieved the domination of play, applying the Spanish stereotype to the letter: ball possession as a defensive technique, and dangerous incursions more or less contained by the Juve defense. Until the last 5 minutes that is.
- Best players for Juve so far: Pirlo/Pasquato. Krasic looking a bit lost out there. Matri/Vucinic doing well independently, but not combining with each other so much as Mirko/ADP or Mirko/Toni did.
|•||Only one change at half-time: Storari on for Buffon. Betis with no substitutions.|
|47′||Betis resuming play right where they left off: ball possession ad nauseam.|
|49′||Beniat with the long-range effort. Central and no trouble for Storari. Pretty powerful shot that was though.|
|50′||Sideline report: COnte unhappy with Juve’s 2nd half display so far. Wants the ball to circulate before his players look for a striker up top. Too many wasted balls for Conte’s taste.|
|51′||Ruben Castro tries to chip Storari from 20 yards!!! Just narrowly over! Cheeky.|
|54′||Juve just can’t get the ball under control. Betis isn’t Barcelona, but they’re being asphyxiating with their ball possession all the same.|
|55′||Many Juve players warming up on the sideline, including ADP / Iaquinta.|
|56′||Salva Sevilla with ACRES of space in front of the box. Instead of shooting it he tries to slide it towards Ruben Castro. Bonucci/Barzagli show their muscles and somehow neutralize it.|
|57′||For Betis, Amaya coming in for Mario.|
|58′||Jorge Molina finds a corridor of space and through on goal! Storari well on his feet, great save into corner!!|
|59′||Getting alarming now. Not only are we conceding too much defensively, our passing is mediocre at best.|
|60′||Good ball now by Pirlo for Krasic, cleared into corner. On the ensuing play, Vucinic provokes Salva Sevilla one-on-one, other corner.|
|62′||Excellent chip by Vucinic towards Krasic in the middle, clears space. Krasic tries to find Pasquato on the left and screws it up. Sigh.|
|64′||Time for ADP & Iaquinta to make an appearance. On for Matri / Vucinic.|
|65′||Standing ovation for Del Piero. A banner recites: “Si scrive calcio. Si legge Del Piero” (It’s spelled Calcio. It’s pronounced Del Piero). Nice.|
|66′||DEL PIERO SHOW!! Opens up play for Krasic on the right. Milos clears the defender, chip towards the penalty mark back to ADP. Chested control and bicycle kick!!! Saved into corner. Delirium in the stands!|
|69′||Pasquato long ball for Iaquinta through on goal. Flag goes up. Good move by Vincenzo to try and beat the offside trap though.|
|70′||Same play now for ADP… onside! Del Piero can’t get it under control.|
|71′||Now Pasquato exchanging with ADP, through on the left, back towards the center. Good effort parried into corner. “Altra Juve” as the commentators say… they’re back in the game!|
|72′||Del Piero showing grinta (and his teeth)!! With the ball away, gets outmuscled a bit too heavily by the Betis goalkeeper and lands into the net. Gets in his face and shoves him right back! Uncustomary for ADP, but representative of Juve’s state of mind right now: they wanna win this!|
|73′||On the previous incident, Del Piero had apparently wanted to congratulate the Betis keeper for his save on Pasquato, and he was shoved away. Hence the angry reaction. Bit uncalled for Mr.Keeper!|
|75′||Betis dangerous again now. Juve fumble the clearance a bit. Lands to Jefferson Montero, who… shoots it right into his own teammate.|
|76′||Good aerial ball to Iaquinta who can’t get it under control. He gets mad at Krasic for not calling it in a better position. Just before that, a blind bicycle kick by Pirlo to find Pasquato on the left.|
|77′||Now Pirlo coming off for Pazienza.|
|80′||Krasic very tired and out of it. Misses a simple control. Should be substituted IMHO. Put Ziegler in, shift De Ceglie up, move Pasquato on the right.|
|83′||Betis with a long spell of possession again.|
|84′||Fantastic ball (half-volleyed left foot) by Marchisio to find Krasic on the right. The Serbian makes a mess of it again: tries to move towards the center, pushes it too far, then flops to the ground.|
|84′||Krasic / Pasquato coming off for Ruggiero / Sorensen. Lichtsteiner shifting up the right wing, Sorensen occupying right-back.|
|84′||If the score stays like this, Pasquato without a doubt the man-of-the-match today.|
|87′||More Betis ball possession. All the while Lichtsteiner generously presses and chases a ball down the right wing, tackling it into touch from a Betis player. Good effort for the 88th minute of a friendly match.|
|90′||Full-time whistle, no injury time. Juventus-Betis ends on a score of 0-0.|
|90′||Some fans enter the field, ask for players’ shirts. Marchisio visibly quite annoyed is having none of it. Is he angry at the lack of security or his own/his team’s performance?|
- Scoreless match, but not necessarily a step back for Juventus. Betis begins La Liga next week, slightly ahead in terms of pre-season preparation (especially fitness-wise). It stood out on the field today.
- A bit worrying though (and not so much for Juve, but by extension for Italian clubs in general): despite the Azzurri’s 2-1 win vs. La Roja, we still have a very hard time against the Spanish ball possession!
- Speaking of steps back, today certainly was one for Milos Krasic. Found much tougher nuts to crack on his wing than previous games. And with the passing of time progressively disappeared from the match.
- WE ABSOLUTELY MUST FU**ING KEEP CRISTIAN PASQUATO!!!!
Later if I have time, a match review & further thoughts.
| JUVENTUS (4-2-4): Buffon (46′ Storari) – Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Barzagli, De Ceglie – Marchisio, Pirlo (77′ Pazienza) – Krasic (84′ Sorensen), Matri (65′ Del Piero), Vucinic (65′ Toni), Pasquato (84′ Ruggiero) COACH: Conte. (UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Manninger, Motta, Ziegler, Marrone)
(UNAVAILABLE: Chiellini, Pepe, Martinez, Quagliarella, Toni all due to injury)
(REMAINED IN TURIN: Grygera, Grosso, Ekdal, Almirón, Vidal, Amauri)
| REAL BETIS (4-3-3): Casto – Chica (77′ Isidoro), Dorado (87′ Calahorro), Mario (57′ Amaya), Nacho (77′ Alex Martinez) – Iriney (65′ Sergio Rodriguez), Benat (77′ Canas), Salva Sevilla (65′ Matilla) – Ruben Castro, Molina, Montero (77′ Juanma). Coach: José Mel. (UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Goitia).
What They Said After the Game:
“Real Betis are physically ahead of us in terms of preparation. In the last few years, Italian teams have had a tough time against Spanish opposition, teams that focus on ball possession.
This evening I’ve seen positive aspects and also a few things to improve. We have to continue to train and must do so with a serene mind; victories are achieved by working hard and rarely within a day’s work. We’re right in the middle of a learning process. Our team should hold the ball more, avoiding long passes forward; when we applied these principles we put Real Betis in trouble.
Where we are with preparation? Where I expected. We need to work, and then work some more. We mustn’t lose heart, we must have patience, something which the boys and I have plenty of. I understand people’s excitement but we don’t want to delude anyone. In order to be competitive again Juve needs time and work.”
The whole team in general showed a good performance tonight. Compared to the matches we played in North America we weren’t able to circulate the ball well, but we were facing an opponent very well organized on the field. We must continue to work and improve, but this is the right path. We’re following our manager’s suggestions so that we can be ready for the beginning of Serie A.
The key point for the whole defensive block was to continue our streak and not concede any goals (N.B. since their defeat vs. Sporting Lisbon, Juventus have kept a clean sheet in all their “official” friendlies so far). We succeeded, thanks to Buffon and Storari as well who gave the team much confidence. We’re improving, the whole team has shown an excellent collective performance. This makes us optimistic for our next fixtures.”