In the most recent Youth Sector round up we promised you a close look at the Primavera Coppa Italia Final and, true to our word, Adam Digby brings you exactly that. In addition, Massimiliano returns with his view of the Bianconeri’s recent win over Rosenborg in the NextGen Series so read on to discover how the youngsters are getting on in these two important competitions.
On Wednesday night, while the rest of the world was reacting to the news of the arrival of Pope Francis I, the club opened the doors to Juventus Stadium free of charge to anyone willing to skip events in St Peter’s Square and watch the first leg of this key final.
Marco Baroni went into the game without midfielders Vykintas Slivka and Simone Emmanuello who joined captain Andrea Schiavone on the injury list in recent days. With Andrea Agnelli, Giuseppe Marotta, Antonio Conte, Giorgio Chiellini, Paul Pogba and Simone Pepe among the 16,000 spectators looking on, the coach clearly had one eye on Sunday’s NextGen Quarter Final against Chelsea.
Despite those absences, Baroni opted to leave Pol Garcia, Federico Mattiello and Elvis Kabashi on the bench. The Bianconeri began the game in superb fashion, pressing and harrying in a confident manner reminiscent of the first team. The first real shot of the game came after twelve minutes when Stefano Beltrame wriggled free of his marker just outside the box and lashed a furious shot goalwards, unfortunately seeing it hit the post with the keeper stranded.
The striker and Matteo Gerbaudo both came close to opening the scoring in a first half which Napoli never really gained any kind of foothold, so dominant were the Bianconeri. Laurențiu Brănescu did not have a save to make and things looked good for Juventus as the visitors looked completely lost.
Almost immediately after the break, Juve earned a free kick in a dangerous area and, having wasted no fewer than seven first half corners, they would finally make a set-piece pay dividends. Giuseppe Ruggiero played in a superb cross which was met by a perfectly timed run from Gerbaudo who headed home confidently. The local born 17 year old – only playing due to the number of absences in midfield – was overcome with emotion as you might expect from the son of a former Juventus academy coach who has lived his entire life as a regular visitor to Vinovo.
It was an amazing feeling to score in this stadium, in front of all these fans. We rue the fact we let Napoli equalise but there’s still 90 minutes to play and we’ll do everything we can to bring home the cup.
- Matteo Gerbaudo
Sadly that strike would be almost the last positive moment for the Bianconeri, crippled by Baroni’s cautious approach in such big matches. He immediately instructed his team to defend deeper and in greater numbers than in the first half with Napoli becoming increasingly threatening as a result. Gennaro Tutino scored shortly after and by the final whistle Juventus were the ones hanging on ahead of the second leg on March 22.
Special Bonus Match Report
NextGen Series: JUVENTUS 1-0 ROSENBORG, Thursday March 7th
by Massimiliano F.
Two weeks ago I was in Chile, heading south on a bus load of students commuting within the Chiloé Island. The driver was listening to some local radio: at one point the speaker announced, in a grave voice, that Arturo Vidal had signed a six-million contract with Bayern Munich, in a transfer valued cuarenta y seis millones de euros (forty-six million euros).
A murmur ran across the bus. In his own country “el Guerrero” is not regarded as highly as in Europe, because his performances with the national team are pretty poor (I couldn’t find his number-8 Roja shirt in any shop). Anyway, I thought three things: «Nice job, Marotta!», «All good things come to an end», and «Give me an Internet connection NOW!».
Needless to say that the rumor was false. This is to explain how much I know about what happened in football last February.
Let’s try to recap: last year Juventus Primavera was invited to take part in the second edition of the NextGen Series, a non-UEFA European tournament for U-19 squads. In the first round Juventus was grouped with Fenerbahçe, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. In the home leg Juve drew 3-3 with the Istanbul side, beat PSG 2-0, and drew 1-1 in the pouring rain with the Citizens. The away leg was even more impressive, with a 3-2 win in England, a 2-1 win in Turkey, and a 2-2 comeback draw in France.
These results made the youth squad progress as the best second-placed team of the group stage and the only unbeaten team in the tournament. As a consequence, Juventus was seeded and had home advantage in the following draw for the one-legged round of 16. There it was paired against Rosenborg BK from Trondheim, Norway.
A break in the rain left the pitch of Alessandria’s Stadio Moccagatta heavy but in good condition. Marco Baroni fielded the household’s 3-5-2 with Brănescu between the posts; Untersee, Magnússon, Rugani in the back line; Ruggiero and Laursen on the wings; Kabashi, Cavion, Gerbaudo in the midfield; and the two Stefanos, Beltrame and Padovan in attack. Beltrame was captain in place of Andrea Schiavone, out for an ankle injury. Coach Stale Stensaas fielded Rosenborg in a 4-3-3 scheme, with the forwards mirroring and pressing each of Juve’s defenders.
Nothing happened in the first fifteen minutes, both sides playing tightly at midfield, looking for a breakthrough. At the 17th the Troll Kids had the first chance: Juventus misplayed a corner-kick, leaving way for a counter-attack that Daniele Rugani stopped with elegance. Then the spotlight fell on Padovan. Two lovely passes from midfield put him in front of goal: he wasted both, shooting one wide and one against the goalkeeper. In-between he took time to foul an opponent, escaping a well-deserved booking.
At the 26th minute centre-forward Alexander Sørloth caught the ball in our area, eluded Hörður Magnússon’s loose marking and shot above the bar. Then it was Michele Cavion who missed the goal with a long shot. But Beltrame didn’t: with the clock closing in to half an hour, he received a long pass from Elvis Kabashi past the defenders, let the ball slide on his left foot, and beat Jacob Storevik to give Juventus the lead!
Juventus took the lead in the sheet and on the pitch but wasted many an opportunity. At the 35th Kabashi put the two Stefanos again in front of Storevik, but they missed and gave way to another dangerous counter-attack. A couple minutes later Padovan was finally booked for his nervous conduct. He could redeem himself when Matteo Gerbaudo and Jacob Laursen worked around the lines and served him a sort of moving penalty-kick, but Storevik saved by instinct. The last chance came from a cross by Giuseppe Ruggiero that Beltrame deflected above the bar.
The second half began with a substitution and a scheme change for the Norwegians: Sørloth, the only effective striker, was left in the showers while midfielder Fredrik Midtsjø was moved closer to the new centre-forward, in a 4-2-3-1 that could outnumber our defence line. Coach Baroni responded keeping Laursen down as an additional left-back.
At the 54th minute Rosenborg had the best chance to equalise: an insidious free-kick by Ole Selnæs was deflected out; the subsequent corner-kick bounced above a disoriented Laurenţiu Brănescu, was saved by Kabashi and bounced back on the head of a Troll, who headed high! At the 59th Midtsjø entered our area and drove the stands into panic, but the ball went high again. Later it was Juve’s chance to score on a free-kick by Beltrame: Storevik went chasing butterflies, but Magnússon’s touch was saved by an opponent clearly on this side of the goal line.
At this point Juventus looked pushed back, static, with a wide gap between midfield and attack. Baroni gave his boys fresh strength by substituting Ruggiero with Christian Tavanti and Padovan with Leonardo Bonatini: both newcomers were immediately a threat to Storevik, providing crosses and physicality. At the 83rd minute Beltrame could close the game when he eluded two defenders but shot wide. But it was Rosenborg that came close again to equalising: Ben Feirud opened the action to the right, Midtsjø dribbled Laursen into the area and passed the ball low to Sindre Haarberg, who hit the post left to Brănescu!
Baroni wasted some more time by putting Pol García and Eric Lanini in for Beltrame and Gerbaudo. And right into stoppage time Rosenborg had their last opportunity: Robin Bjørnholm tackled Cavion greatly over the touchline and crossed; Magnússon messed up and served the ball to Haarberg, alone in the area, who shot high above the bar! Midtsjø stained his good performance with a second yellow card, and that was the end.
Comments from the Tribuna Centrale
The Trolls from Trondheim may have deserved thirty minutes of extra time, but it was the bianconeri’s fault to not be able to secure the match earlier. Yes, like the senior squad every other weekend! And just like the senior squad, the Primavera gets unbeaten into the quarter-finals of a European tournament. Props to Baroni for his work off and on the pitch, where he tirelessly directs players into actions.
Brănescu himself is growing into a defensive director, shouting orders and making fewer mistakes with his feet, but he looked strangely uncomfortable on set-pieces. It was nice to see Joel Untersee back to his duties after the injury, though not in his right-back role: he, Magnússon and Rugani make up a pretty solid defence line. Schiavone’s absence in midfield went unnoticed as Kabashi and Gerbaudo (who was recently called up in Italy’s U-18 along with Tavanti) provided filter and served many passes through the lines to the forwards.
I would really like to see Beltrame and Padovan in the senior squad for once: they both have skills of their own, and they complete each other as the classic second/first striker couple. Beltrame has debuted in Serie A against Genoa for mere twenty minutes, but sounds confident in his future. Padovan instead looked very nervous and missed easy chances: only could he channel his angst into goals! He surely could do better than Nicolas Anelka. (Actually, all these boys give everything they can: here’s the Troll Kids’ captain, Mikal Bjørnstad, after the match.)
So what now? The one-legged quarter-finals of the NextGen Series will take place between the 18th and the 21st of March and will be televised by Eurosport. The draw gave all four remaining English squads home advantage, meaning that Juventus will play Chelsea in London (or more likely Aldershot, Hampshire). These are tough days for our lads: there’s a Campionato derby coming on, and the two-legged Coppa Italia final against Napoli is scheduled on the 13th and the 23rd.
There are good news as well: the young Prescritti, defending champions of the tournament, were knocked out: some wonder if Gazzetta dello Sport will still call this “the Champions League of youth”. Also, the NGS board announced that the semi-finals and final will be played on Easter weekend at Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia in Como, Italy, instead of an empty far-away venue in the Persian Gulf.
Who’s up for a trip to the Lakes?
In bocca al lupo ragazzi!