What a day for the Bianconeri in Chiusa Pesio today! In front of 6,000 fans Juventus beat AC Cuneo, newly-promoted side of the Lega Pro Seconda Divisione (the old Serie C2). Goals galore against admittedly a modest team, but the constant progress exhibited by the players, particularly in absorbing Antonio Conte’s tactical plans, is an excellent sign things are proceeding as scheduled for our boys in Italy.
Star of the day was without a doubt Mirko Vucinic, at his first appearance wearing Bianconero (well, actually he was wearing pink today… but I digress). The ex-Roma forward came on in the second half, proceeding to entertain his new fans (along with Antonio Conte) with a variety of plays straight from a master technician’s handbook: great ball control, lovely backheel flicks, good passes (one assist for Luca Toni) and even his first goal for Juve!
Below you will find the play-by-play I wrote down while watching the game (I apologize for any spelling mistakes, I was typing while keeping another eye on the game). Tune in later today for a more in-depth analysis!
UPDATE: Post-Match Analysis:
What to say? Was Cuneo a very low-key opponent? Yes. Was Juve’s defense ever really tested? No. Did Buffon or Storari hardly ever touch the ball? No.
And yet, one can’t help to look at today’s match and smile! Not just as the result, because as pre-season friendlies go they often end up in the realm of double digits. More importantly, we should smile with how this Bianconeri team is shaping up. How the players are applying what they learn mid-week during practice, the drills and drills and drills of fast-paced action that Antonio Conte seems so keen to instill in his troops.
“Speed of execution” is Conte’s mantra, a tactical mindset tailored to his preferred 4-2-4 formation and which keeps popping up game after game after game during this pre-season. We saw it in its rawest form vs. Sporting Lisbon. It has progressively been emerging as Juve’s main characteristic in the matches vs. Club América and vs. Chivas. Today vs. Cuneo, Juve took one step further towards their intended finalized product.
Indeed, the relentless pressure in midfield (courtesy of Claudio “Energizer Bunny” Marchisio and even Andrea Pirlo, who played the full 90 minutes), along with systematic touch-and-go moves and instantaneous deep passing towards either wing, all bore their full fruits today. The Bianconeri were devastating, especially on the right wing, capitalizing on the lightning-speed and penetration ability of Milos Krasic. The ex-CSKA Moscow player looks to have retrieved both the confidence and physical condition he displayed shortly after his Turin arrival, and whoever Marotta finds as “Mr.X” on the opposite wing will have quite a task not being outshone by the “Serbian Bullet”.
And to those naysayers who cast doubt on the feasibility of Andrea Pirlo as an interdictor, the ex-Milan playmaker seems to take on the double duty of “provider” and “ball-retriever” rather well, certainly excelling more at the former than the latter but does it really matter when you have someone like Marchisio-the-Rambo-version alongside you? Probably not, at least we have yet to see evidence of the contrary.
As for the forwards and Juve’s goal-production, the team really went to town today (2nd half especially). Other than Luca Toni’s hat-trick (simple yet very effective finishes by the ex-Bayern tower man), standing out was the performance of Mirko Vucinic, eager to put his recent unhappy months at Roma behind him, and to conquer the hearts of his new fans. He certainly set off on the right foot today, providing both quality in the playmaking as well as the finishing department. One assist and one goal (albeit in a friendly match) for 45 minutes of work isn’t a bad way to start off your Juve adventure. At all!
One final word on the youngsters: Cristian Pasquato is looking less and less like a Primavera player, and more and more like a Sorensen-type solution for Juve’s left-wing. And I mean that in a very positive way. Coming from a good season with Modena, it is no coincidence Conte is choosing him over Marchisio (or the other youngsters) as left-wing stop-gap until we get our Vargas, Elia, Bastos (or whichever other “Top Player” Marotta has his eyes on) target. And if we don’t, we can rest assured this kid will fight tooth & nail to earn a permanent spot on the team! Because by the looks of his moves, passes, and goals (two in three matches… not too shabby) he’s certainly got the right attributes.
|16:55||6000 people in the stands at Chiusa di Pesio (town in the Province of Cuneo in the Italian region Piedmont), a sold-out stadium!|
|16:56||Juventus taking the field in their pink Balocco shirts (laugh if you want, I’m actually starting to like that kit)|
|16:58||Beppe Marotta sitting on Juve’s bench for this one.|
|17:00||So Cuneo is a newly-promoted team in the Lega Pro Seconda Divisione (Serie C2). A good sparring partner therefore, but not much more.|
|17:04||Teams posing for pictures, the Italian national anthem (Inno di Mameli) resounds. Don’t quite understand the need for it for a game like this, but some of our players are singing it. Krasic gives his best Camoranesi impression and stays mute.|
|17:05||And we’re off!!|
|1′||Bonucci almost taking a big risk right away, dangerous back-pass to Buffon. Gigi has to scramble.|
|3′||Pasquato with the first shot of the game: from the left wing moving towards the center, unleashing a mid-range effort well-saved by the keeper. Previously, a fast-paced play to set up Pasquato, just like Conte’s training drills have highlighted this week.|
|4′||Lovely opening for Krasic on the right wing, delightful control to beat the defender, enters the box, back-pass for ADP at the PK spot, scuffles his shot. Saved.|
|7′||Great aerial through ball by Lichtsteiner to find Krasic inside the area. A last-ditch tackle by a defender clears the ball into corner. Nothing comes of it.|
|8′||ADP not exactly finding his touches yet. It’s his 3rd pass he gifted away to the opposition. Meanwhile Chiellini clears potential danger with a hefty tackle on the other end.|
|9′||Sort-of a shot by Cuneo, low and not very dangerous for Gigi.|
|10′||GOAL JUVE! 1-0. Alessandro Matri! Another lovely pass to the right for Krasic, once again very good touch to settle the ball, and a burst of pace to the get to the byline. Cross to the far post, powerful header by Matri into the net!|
|11′||Krasic seemingly on fire this first portion. His pace is burning many a Cuneo defenders.|
|12′||Cuneo with a dangerous 2-on-2 play on Juve’s left flank. Broken down by De Ceglie.|
|14′||Sideline-report: commentators saying Conte being very vocal on Juve’s bench (trying to control his players as if he had an Xbox gamepad into his hands). First yelling at Lichtsteiner for not taking a shot on a previous play, now giving indications to Krasic (“you must fake moving towards the center, then sprint to receive the ball wide on the wings” he says).|
|15′||Both of Juve’s wingers indeed playing very far wide to the sides.|
|17′||Central midfielders constantly looking to serve Krasic on the right wing, much more so than Pasquato.|
|18′||Lovely play by Juve! Starting with multiple step-overs by… Marchisio(!), finding space towards Krasic on the right, long cross towards Pasquato, lovely touch to beat the defender and set himself up for a shot 8 yards out at an angle. Cannonball punched away by the keeper.|
|20′||Cuneo on the attack. Ball lands to De Ceglie who more or less gets it out of danger. Not looking tremendously confident here and during this pre-season Paolo.|
|21′||Fantastic one-time pass by Matri towardes Krasic… just short to connect. We’re gonna see a lot of these one-touch plays this year! According to reports they’ve been a big focus of Juve’s pre-season so far.|
|23′||Long-range effort by a Cuneo player. Very far wide of Buffon’s goal.|
|23′||On the opposite end, ADP tries to find Krasic once again with acres of space. Offside.|
|24′||Sideline-report: Conte’s been talking about Milos… “Ha bisogno dei tempi giusti” (he needs to find the right timing). Conte repeats his previous directions: “You must move horizontally at first, and THEN go deep vertically to receive the pass’”|
|25′||Yet another Krasic cross finds Matri near the 6-yard box. Half-volleyed effort, right at the keeper who punches it away.|
|27′||De Ceglie with a couple of crosses a few minutes apart. Fails to find a teammate.|
|29′||Chiellini towering above his opponent to clear the ball into corner. Play develops into a cross. Buffon with the aerial grab, immediately tries to find Krasic on the far end! Poor accuracy.|
|30′||Sideline-report: seemingly, it was at Conte’s request that Buffon cleared the ball so quickly. Conte wants his players to find the Serbian winger on the right side as often as possible, because “he’s the one with the most pace”.|
|34′||GOAL JUVE!! 2-0! Ripper shot by Claudio Marchisio, receiving a pass back from Pasquato on the left. One touch to set himself on his left-foot, great effort the keeper can only touch.|
|36′||Good ball control by Juve. A long spell of passes goes through Krasic back to Lichtsteiner towards the opposite wing to Pasquato. Tries the one-time effort. Over the bar.|
|37′||Yet another great penetrating ball to find Krasic. Forces the Cuneo keeper to a scrambling exit. Corner-kick Juve.|
|38′||ADP finds Chiellini on the far post. Undisturbed & powerful header! Saved just on the line by a defender.|
|39′||On the ensuing play, Juve hit the woodwork twice! First Krasic (howitzer off the post), ball lands to Pasquato who lays it back for Del Piero, off the crossbar! Cheers from the crowd!|
|40′||Pasquato obtains a foul 20 yards out, towards the left. Pirlo with the curling effort! Good shot over the wall and parried away by the keeper!!|
|42′||FK Cuneo at exactly the opposite end where Pirlo was. The Cuneo player taking it doesn’t exactly produce the same results as Andrea.|
|44′||A good 4-on-3 opportunity is squandered by Juve, with Krasic in the center trying to find ADP on the left who leaves it for Pasquato. Cross intercepted.|
|45′||Now Cuneo on the other end trying to find space. Neutralized by the Juve defense, right before referee calls for half-time.|
- This isn’t a game where our defense is gonna be tested. Like at all. But plenty on display as far as our attacking options go.
- Krasic is like a Serbian leprechaun (or whatever they have hiding pots of gold down in Serbia) on the right wing. Going through the Cuneo defense like knife through butter.
- Marchisio, just to confirm his excellent moment of form, is everywhere on the pitch. Ruthlessly dominating that central midfield. Gonna be seriously hard to bench.
|•||Time to see Mirko Vucinic’s first match in Juve colors. He dons #14.|
|•||Motta, Barzagli, Ziegler, Marrone, Ruggiero, Vucinic, Toni all on for Lichsteiner, Bonucci, De Ceglie, Marchisio, Krasic, ADP, Matri. Cuneo with many changes as well.|
|46′||Ruggiero very young product (18 years old) from the Primavera. Immediately finds space on the right and tries to cross it for Vucinic. Too deep. Lands to Pasquato, another cross, Vucinic header! Over the bar.|
|48′||Vucinic touching many balls in these first few minutes (TWSS). Looking lively.|
|50′||GREAT ball by Motta(!) deep towards Vucinic! He hooks it and unleashes a half-volley just narrowly wide of the post!! A very good effort!|
|51′||Sideline-report: Conte applauding Marco Motta for doing exactly what the coach wants him to. And not just the great pass towards Vuci.|
|52′||Now a very good ball by Ziegler (he wants to shine too!) finds Toni through on goal, but he’s offside.|
|53′||Now Motta with a clumsy foul on a Cuneo forward. Now THAT’s more like the Motta we know. FK miles over the bar.|
|54′||Pirlo tries to find Vucinic very far wide on the left. Too long. Seems like Mirko is going towards the wing a lot. Is this what Conte wants?|
|54′||And no match would truly be complete without a Toni flop-to-the-ground. The ex-Fiorentina striker promptly obliges and makes my day.|
|55′||Redux by Toni, except this time he precedes it with a good run inside the box getting rid of two (!) Cuneo defenders, almost sliding it to Vucinic for the winning tap-in.|
|56′||Vucinic gets rid of a Cuneo player in midfield through the center, who blatantly holds him by his shirt. Ref gives advantage but then Vuci can’t find a pass for Toni. Vuci is pissed at Cuneo’s display of unsportsmanship (or the lack of its punishment, by the referee).|
|57′||Now Storari has to handle an aerial backpass with a Messi-like touch he would literally be killed for by Conte, if only this were a competitive match. Nevertheless he succeeds in his attempt quite admirably!|
|58′||LOVELY wall-pass between Vuci to Toni, back to Vuci. The Montenegrin striker tries to delicately poke it towards the right post. Just narrowly wide! Applause from the crowd!|
|61′||GOAL JUVE!!! 3-0! And it’s MIRKOOOOO VUCINIC!!!! Pirlo aerial ball, Mirko with his back to the goal chests it down, then slams it inside the right-post with a great left-footed half-volley! In style!|
|64′||GOAL JUVE!!! 4-0!! Cristian Pasquato!! Receives a lovely backheel from Vucinic, about 20 yards out in the center. Slams a great effort that gets deflected by a defender and loops over the helpless keeper!|
|65′||Time for Grygera & Sorensen to report for duty. They replace Pasquato & Chiellini.|
|65′||Get this: Grygera will now play… right midfield(!), with Ruggiero switching to the left. Can we still call this a 4-2-4 with Zdenek on for Milos???|
|66′||Sorensen gets his first touch of the game, and… a boot to the face at the same time. Ouch! He seems fine though.|
|67′||Vucinic exchanging well with Toni up there. And also trying some fancy stuff to entertain his new fans! Can’t complain (though Conte might).|
|69′||Haha WOW! No-look pass by Ziegler (has he been playing FIFA 11 with Ronaldinho?) towards Vucinic, slides it to Toni, through on goal, powerful short-range effort deflected wide!|
|70′||Did Toni/Vucinic undergo some kind of mind-meld at Roma? Seems like they’ve been playing together forever!|
|73′||Whoohooo! GOAL JUVE!! 5-0! Luca Toni! Pirlo standing tackle(!) to recover the ball in midfield, slides it to Vucinic on the run. Mirko chips it deep towards Toni, and with plenty of space the big striker can’t miss: he keeps it low, keeper touches it but it rolls into the net.|
|77′||GOAL JUVE!! 6-0! Luca Toni with the double. One-time pass by Pirlo over the D-line for Luca, on the half-volley between the keeper’s legs!|
|80′||More changes for Cuneo, as well as a long-range effort again miles over the bar.|
|81′||GOAL JUVE! 7-0! Luca Toni hat-trick! Vucinic with space on the left wing. LOVELY chip towards the middle for Luca, slamming header which the keeper saves… into the side-netting.|
|82′||The stadium speakers pump up the volume with Matze Knop’s Luca Toni song! Can never get tired of it!|
|83′||Ziegler with another no-look pass. Quick! Someone check this isn’t Athirson in disguise!!!|
|84′||Ruggiero on the left wing gets rid of his marker, gets to the byline, good low cross. No one to tap it in.|
|86′||Vucinic wreaking havoc again on the left wing, back towards the center, finds Toni for the wall-pass and… gets fouled in the box! PENALTY!|
|86′||Giuseppe Ruggiero is taking it from 12 yards (he asked permission to Vucinic)! Powerful shot below the crossbar! GOAL JUVE and 8-0!|
|87′||And for some reason, even for Ruggiero, the Matze Knop song makes another appearance.|
|88′||Vucinic fouled yet again in midfield with a shirt pull. What is it with Cuneo’s obsession with Mirko’s clothes today?|
|89′||Good defending by Barzagli/Sorensen to neutralize a central “threat”. Yeah, let’s call it that.|
|90′||PIRLO TACKLE!! PIRLO TACKLE!! PIRLO TACKLE!! In the 90th minute of a friendly match, PIRLO TACKLE!! And what’s more he wins the ball!|
|91′||Sorensen almost with a suicidal headed backpass for Storari. Marco grabs it just in time.|
|92′||Lovely Marrone opening for Toni who heads it back to Vucinic. On the half-volley, right at a defender.|
|93′||And the match ends. Juventus beat Cuneo 8-0. No contest.|
- Great movement and ball control by Vucinic. Nice to see him so confident in a Juve shirt already..
- The Toni/Vucinic partnership worked wonders today. Great hat-trick by Luca, but even better was how he interacted with Mirko.
- More thoughts and analysis later. Make sure to tune in!
|GOALSCORERS: 9’ Matri, 34’ Marchisio, 61′ Vucinic, 63′ Pasquato, 73′, 78′, 82′ Toni, 86′ pen. Ruggiero (J).
| JUVENTUS (4-2-4): Buffon (46′ Storari) – Lichtsteiner (46′ Motta), Bonucci (46′ Barzagli), Chiellini (65’ Sorensen), De Ceglie (46′ Ziegler) – Marchisio (46′ Marrone), Pirlo, – Krasic (46′ Ruggiero), Del Piero (46′ Vucinic), Matri (46′ Toni), Pasquato (65’ Grygera) COACH: Conte. (UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Manninger)
(UNAVAILABLE: Pepe (muscular problem), Pazienza (muscular problem), Quagliarella (bruised knee), Iaquinta due to injury, Vidal (still on holiday))
(REMAINED IN TURIN: Grosso, Ekdal, Almirón, Amauri)
| CUNEO (4-4-2): Pascarella (46′ Negretti) – Passerò (62′ Garrone), Morabito (46′ Cintoi), Longhi (72′ Personé), Ferri (46′ Garcia Tena) – Sentinelli, Garavelli (36’ s.t. Valfré), Cristini (82′ De Rosa), Ingari (72′ Borrettaz) – Lodi (46′ Gentile), Fantini (62′ Di Quinzio) COACH: Ezio Rossi.
What They Said After the Game:
We’re still in a preparation phase, but this is another step forward. There is still plenty to work to do, but what I like most is the attitude and the willingness I see in these players. It was a friendly match, but that doesn’t change anything for us because we’re building a mentality and we must always give the maximum effort, here and always. (…)
[Vucinic] arrived at the right time, at the conditions we wanted and Marotta has been brilliant in leading the transaction. Now I have another weapon at my disposal, and I know his potential is huge. Mother nature has given him great athletic ability, he’s got resistance and explosiveness. He’s technically very gifted, and tactically he understands everything on the fly. He’s strong, fast and durable: the prototype of the modern football player. Now turning him from a good player into a champion will be up to me.
[Pasquato] has got the right features to play on the wing. He is doing well, like De Silvestro or Ruggiero, and this shows that elements with certain attributes can perform well in that role.
[Reporters] put so many tags on me but I’m a central midfielder, I’ve shown it and I’ll continue to prove it, although I can also play on the wing in an emergency situation. Today’s game? We could have scored more in the first half, but in the second period Toni and Vucinic took care off the goal production. Mirko? He integrated well with the group in recent days and showed a few tricks from his repertoire.
During this period we’re all working hard to absorb coach’s ideas. We’re improving day after day, we’re on the right track. But we know there’s still much to do before the championship begins.
It’s nice to play wearing this shirt. I immediately felt at ease with my new teammates. All of them were great at making me feel welcome and part of this group, so I thank them all for this. What really struck me is the simplicity of Conte’s work and his tactical schemes. I know the coach expects a lot from me, I’ll try to follow his directions and continue to do my best, as I always did. I am at his and the team’s disposal. Judging me is something I will leave to others. As a team, we have to work hard and go far.
What I missed most during the recent period is having a smile on my face. I found that again here, I feel happy. There’s a lot of enthusiasm here, I think I never saw so may people turn up for a friendly match. I repeat what I said at the press conference: this is the club the Italian people love most.