I knew Pirlo would miss that penalty.
Our midfield maestro just can’t seem to convert from the spot while wearing a Juventus jersey (he once scored off his own miss, but that’s about it, as far as I can remember). And given the chance to seal a victory over Everton on penalties in the opener of the Guinness International Cup, our otherwise impeccable hero sent it just wide-left, crashing into the advertising boards with a TV-audible thud.
The question now is whether we’re dealing with:
A. a chain of unrelated, albeit unfortunate events
B. some psychological hang-up
C. a full-blown curse (that’s a very Italian option, I know)
For now, we can be thankful it was a meaningless preseason game — notwithstanding Fox Soccer’s promos promising an “epic” tournament.
Elsewhere, the Everton match generated the usual grab bag of positives and negatives, all of which we’ll get into in today’s STTBS, along with more Marchisio/Man U rumors, Pogba live chats and someone named Jungle Bird.
If it’s any consolation, Jungle Bird missed his penalty, too.
Here’s the news.
Bianconeri Lose to Everton on Penalties
Wednesday night’s match was a classic preseason slow-burner: a sloppy first half gave way to a late-breaking, high-spirited affair, ending in a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes. The Bianconeri appeared to be on their way to winning the penalty shootout, until poor Andrea’s bad-luck streak continued.
Antonio Conte went with his most physically fit squad, which meant that the Italian internationals were relegated to the bench. Marco Storari started in goal, and in front of him was a mildly terrifying back three of Stefan Lichtsteiner, Angelo Ogbonna and Federico Peluso. Mauricio Isla, Arturo Vidal, Luca Marrone, Kwadwo Asamoah and Paolo De Ceglie formed the midfield, supporting new arrivals Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente in attack.
The first half was relatively excruciating, consisting of a series of missed midfield connections, faulty forward linkups and through-balls zooming past even the fastest sprinters on the artificial turf. Everton hit the post once, and Juve had a few isolated chances, including an impressive volley from Vidal and a wide-open miss from Luca Marrone, who was reportedly being scouted by his opponents (according to UK paper The Express Juve have recently rejected Everton’s offer to take young Marrone on loan, preferring to sell him outright for around £9 million).
It took a second-half opener from Everton to finally wake Juve up. Kevin Mirallas positively roasted Peluso on the right flank, faking toward the touchline then cutting inside (otherwise known as the Oldest Trick in the Book). Peluso and Ogbonna were both terribly shaky throughout the match. In the case of the latter, it will take a whole lotta Conte for Angelo to threaten the positions of our usual back three.
Juve responded with a surge forward, including a curling effort from Tevez in tight space that forced a save from US national keeper Tim Howard. Among the sharpest on the pitch Wednesday night was Mauricio Isla, who seemed to be in great shape, pressing high and flashing one particularly incisive grounder across the face of goal, only for Fernando Llorente to arrive a fraction too late.
Nevertheless, Juve had woken up, and by the time Pirlo and Mirko Vucinic were sent on, the equalizer was imminent (for the record, I dreamt I saw Marco Motta come on, too). A deflection off an errant Vucinic ground cross went to Asamoah, who fired a left-footed laser from just outside the penalty area into the bottom-right corner.
Storari led off the penalty shootout with a save, and Matri, Asamoah, Vucinic and Vidal all converted to put the win in reach. Asamoah even kept his composure after a “videobomber” known as Jungle Bird ran to the spot and fired off a very weak effort straight at Howard. Jungle Bird usually appears on golf courses, but according to the Golf Channel he was at the Juve-Everton match protesting illegal deforestation in the Congo. I imagine his cause deserved a much better kick than that. But I digress.
It was at this point in the proceedings that the Possible Pirlo Penalty Curse reared its ugly head. Peluso capped off a nightmare evening by seeing his penalty saved by Howard, who hadn’t touched anything thus far.
Now, according to the Guinness Cup setup, in which all eight teams will place in the end, Juve fall to the under-bracket and will travel to Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium to play the LA Galaxy, who lost to Real Madrid in their first-round matchup.
Antonio Conte didn’t seem to take the loss too hard; in fact, he appeared to enjoy Jungle Bird more than most. Afterwards, he was decidedly indifferent to the outcome:
I saw some positive things. Obviously there were negative aspects as well, but it is better that those things emerge in friendly games because we have the time to improve. I liked their application. Our legs are obviously heavy after 15 days of hard work at Chatillon and the first part of this retreat in America, but I think everyone played well at the end.
Kwadwo Asamoah agreed there was much, much more work to be done, even as he celebrated his goal:
The work we’ve been doing is paying off. I feel good, but neither I nor the team are still at 100 percent.
It was a nice goal. The ball arrived at my left foot and I didn’t think twice about shooting.
Angelo Ogbonna was less than impressive in his JU-SA debut, but promises better things in the future:
I’m still not fully at my best. Physically speaking, things will only improve as the days go by. The same also applies from a tactical point of view. I still need to fully get to grips with the systems, because they’re new concepts as far as I’m concerned. But I’m following both the advice of my Coach and teammates.
Let’s hope so, lest his undeniable potential remain unfulfilled. We do know that he’s in very good hands.
As are Juve in general. Soon the new signings will settle in, the internationals will find their legs and the Bianconeri will be back to their formidable selves.
On to Los Angeles, Miami and beyond!
Marchisio Answers Transfer Rumors (Again)
Manchester United are once again launching a bid for Claudio Marchisio. This is beginning to remind me of the film Indecent Proposal.
And once again, our Principino has taken to the media to make his intentions clear. Claudio explained his position on the transfer rumors in an interview with Tuttosport (via Football Italia), leaving no room for casual interpretation:
I’ve been playing for Juventus for 20 years and every summer for the last seven my name has been mentioned in the transfer market.
Obviously I’m not denying that it is nice to see my name linked with other clubs, some of the most important and renowned in the world. It means that I am working well, that I have admirers. It is something to be proud of, but I haven’t spoken to anyone and I’m not aware of any concrete offers.
I was a little disappointed in the summer that the club didn’t respond to the transfer rumours, but then that did arrive. I spoke with the directors. You never know what will happen and I wouldn’t be the first player to leave a club he grew up in, but my desire is to stay and keep winning with Juve.
Claudio also commented on new signings and increased competition for playing time, implicitly referencing the rise of Paul Pogba:
The new arrivals are more than welcome, as is the competition for places. I know that there are a lot of midfielders and nobody wants to sit on the bench. But I know that you have to earn your place on a daily basis, training session by training session. You have to show the Coach, and yourself, your qualities.
Conte knows what I can offer, even in another role, and he knows that I am at his disposal.
Marchisio ended with some thoughts on the new season:
We are a great squad. The older players and the new arrivals know what we have to do to win. This season, thanks to the new arrivals and the experience we acquired last season, we’ll approach the Champions League in a much more decisive manner. We are aware of our strengths.
Is it painful for Claudio to be questioned on transfers, or to himself question his future at Juventus, given his history? Almost certainly. But unlike fellow youth products such as Sebastian Giovinco and Paolo De Ceglie, Marchisio has definitely earned Conte’s trust and proven his worth to Juventus time and again.
He’s going to keep getting his chances, and a goal or two and some superlative match reviews referring to him as Juve’s “engine” will once again put these rumors to rest — until next time.
Forza Claudio, per sempre.
Pogba Live Chat (starring JuventiKnows!)
Paul Pogba has reunited with his Bianconeri teammates in the USA, fresh from a well-deserved vacation earned from captaining his French U-20 side to a World Cup.
While in the San Francisco area, Paul took part in a live video chat straight from Google’s Mountain View headquarters, taking questions from five lucky tifosi — including #STTBS superfriend Cheryl (@JuventusFCNYC) and JuventiKnows’ very own Aaron Giambattista (@agiamba), who quizzed Paul on the origins of his singular technique from the penalty spot, as well as the “pleasant surprises” of Turin and Serie A.
We’re dying of multilingual jealousy, guys.
That’s all for today. See you next week for post-Galaxy news, transfer updates and more. A presto!
[STTBS]: Juventus News is a daily feature where the JuventiKnows editorial team discusses the JuveNews stories you need to read, without the “Messi signs for Juve on loan thanks to Nike” kind of nonsense. What does [STTBS] mean? You’ll have to guess that for yourself. We wouldn’t tell you even under pain of torture… (though we do take bribes)