This post was guest-blogged by Vittorio Pazzini. Follow him on Twitter (@vittoriopazzini)
Wow. Now that was a match!
Destroying the reigning European champions? Check? Getting their coach fired? Check. Answering several critics in no uncertain terms? Certo.
I could address the important match with Milan on Sunday (match preview coming soon), and how it would feel only slightly less gratifying to dominate them like we did Chelsea, even considering their lackluster form this year.
But for the moment, let’s just savor the Chelsea victory, from every angle. Besides, Conte’s already worrying for us.
With that in mind, here’s the news.
Conte Enjoys the Moment
You know a win is huge when Antonio Conte, rarely speaking to the press during his legal dark night of the soul, is moved to comment.
Speaking yesterday to reporters at the unveiling of the Corso Gaetano Scirea (see below), Antonio was all smiles:
We hope our best game is yet to come. I’m happy for the lads, because sometimes they’ve been on the receiving end of too much criticism. Yesterday’s win was a deserved success, which came alongside a fine performance.
For those of us who miss even his press conferences (Palermo’s just around the corner!), it’s good to hear any analysis from Conte:
We applied our philosophy of play which we have been developing for over a year: respect everyone, fear no-one and the awareness that our strengths enable us to give it a go against anyone. Having said that, we still haven’t qualified for the next round, even if we took a significant step last night. Now we have to continue down this route.
Amidst the general good feeling, Conte spared a thought for Chelsea’s fallen coach, Roberto Di Matteo, even if his team so ruthlessly prompted his sacking:
I’m sorry for Roberto, who is a friend of mine. But last season he had the great satisfaction of winning the Champions League. Unfortunately football is like that, it doesn’t wait.
As for Juve’s future, Conte takes the long view, both in terms of results and their ramifications on Italy’s position in world football:
First we’ll think about getting through to the knockout stages, an important step to consolidate ourselves on the European stage, from an economic point of view and also for Italy. We hope both us and Milan go through, in order to improve the ranking. We need to improve and continue to grow, because there’s too much of a divide between the Italian game and football in other countries. With teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich or Chelsea, there’s no contest on an economic level, but we have ideas, organization, heart and legs–and these were all out in force yesterday.
Bianconeri Curtain Call
And Conte’s not the only one in a garrulous mood. In the wake of Tuesday’s triumph, many more Juventini than usual spoke to the media. I guess when you play this well, you want everyone to know.
Let’s go from the top down. Here’s Angelo Alessio, who gloriously managed to inspire his side to sustain intensity for a full 90 minutes:
I would like to thank the fans for the support they gave us, as well as congratulating the lads on their performance. We wanted to win and we managed to do so by playing a great game, at a high tempo, with continual pressing. We’ve got to keep going, we know nothing’s changed and we still need to secure qualification in Donetsk.
Next, Il Capitano, San Gigi Buffon, who quietly put in a major performance:
It was a great victory, a true test of strength for how we achieved it, convincing in our play and spirit. We’ve sent out a message to Europe but also to Italy. If anyone had any doubts we’ve well and truly responded to those.
If Buffon had a relatively drama-free match, it was due to the IMMENSE back line, who demoralized Chelsea’s strikers. And if Andrea Barzagli is always the calmest one, on Tuesday, Keyser Giorgio Chiellini lived up to his nickname (“Keyser,” not “The Nose”; he always lives up to the latter):
It wasn’t easy. They have extremely dangerous attackers who can pounce when given space, and we did afford them the odd opportunity. However, it was a great Juventus performance. We’ve got back to playing a great brand of football following the Inter defeat.
To his immediate right, emerging leader and vigilante extraordinaire, Leo Bonucci, who provides a more technical analysis (always appreciated here):
Pirlo is our most dangerous player and opponents often man mark him, so I look to set the play from the back. This evening, however, I was a little imprecise, but the important thing is to keep on trying. They capitalised on two or three false moves we made. But every one of us is aware that we’ve given more than 100%. We can hold our own in the Champions League: we showed that against Nordsjaelland and underlined it against the reigning champions of Europe.
Now let’s move out to the wing. Kwadwo Asamoah, you’re up (great assist for Vidal!):
We knew that if we managed to put our preparations into practice then we could cause Chelsea plenty of problems—and that’s precisely how it went. We all played a great game and gained a deserved victory. Vidal’s goal? I saw everyone moving towards goal and spotted Arturo unmarked in the centre.
Stephan Lichtsteiner, he of the iron lungs and warrior aesthetic (but honestly, who isn’t a warrior this year?) blows his own horn a bit, and even rues his missed chance at getting on the score sheet:
I played well this evening, just as all the team did, and I’m happy. Chelsea were a bit tired after 60, 70 minutes of high intensity action and we did well to control the play. I hoped to be able to score, given that I didn’t manage to at the start, but all’s well that ends well.
Arturo Vidal is not only a potential Man of the Match EVERY match, but most of the time he’s masquerading as a prima punta:
I didn’t think I’d score so many goals. It’s important to keep going on this path, but above all by helping the team to win. I’m happy to play for this team, in this stadium in front of these magnificent fans. We put our head, heart and legs into this encounter, playing in an intelligent fashion. It’s a message to everyone, showing that we’re strong in Italy but also in Europe.
And let’s hear from the 28th Juventus player to win the Castagna d’Oro award (and this year’s Ballon d’Or winner if sanity prevails), Andrea Pirlo:
It was a magnificent evening, we needed that kind of victory to take a step towards qualification, even though we know we still haven’t achieved anything yet and the last game against Shakhtar will be decisive. Beating the reigning European champions has given us increased awareness of our strength, we’ve always been convinced but we’re even more so now.
Embattled but defiant (and bare-chested), third goalscorer Sebastian Giovinco was succinct with his comments:
It was important for us to try and win. Thankfully we did that, and against the champions of Europe as well – it was a beautiful night.
And finally, Fabio Quagliarella, whose neat deflection of Pirlo’s daisy-cutter finally beat Petr Čech to open the scoring:
I’m happy, just as every striker is when they score. This was my third consecutive game in the starting line-up and it’s almost two years since that last happened. Tonight’s encounter was one that will go down in history and won’t be easily forgotten.
Sebastian Stands Alone
As evidenced by his shirtless celebration, Sebastian Giovinco felt a unique sense of joy and release at his extra-time goal, his second-ever in the Champions League.
Poor Sebastian has taken several lumps this year from fans and press. Concerning the latter, Gio has been subjected to some wildly praise/pan fluctuations. If he doesn’t score for two matches in a row, he’s a provincial who should go back to Parma, an ant who’s easily crushed. If he scores and generally carves up the opposing defense, he’s Atomic once more, and it’s suddenly “Giovinco’s Juventus.”
And it doesn’t just come from the media. Here’s Fabio Capello on Seba, before the Chelsea match:
Sebastian Giovinco? He was part of the Primavera when I was at Juventus. He’s a very interesting player, a youngster who needs time. He has great qualities, as well as the physical characteristics of Gianfranco Zola.
There needs to be a complete moratorium on this constant press speculation on Giovinco’s ultimate destiny as either a legend or a bust, at least until the end of the season. Stop judging him for posterity on a match-to-match, possession-by-possession basis. And stop comparing him to people, even if you can find other 5’5” soccer players with similar attributes (good luck).
And please stop comparing him to Alessandro Del Piero. Del Piero is a phenomenon. But I bet for the majority of his career, before he was contracted to be a living legend, his job was simply to be effective.
Let Giovinco be effective.
And seriously: Why do players remove their shirts when they know it’s an automatic yellow card? Do they feel so primal to the point where they just unconsciously strip down?
Am I the only one who thinks it’s kind of lame? I’d rather do some kind of cool hand gesture and not tell anyone what it means until years later when my autobiography comes out.
Read ‘Em and Weep (For Joy)
We’ve become accustomed to seeing post-match stats that are heavily skewed in favor of the Bianconeri, and all too often we’ve seen that statistical dominance come to nothing. Not tonight.
You might have expected a struggle in possession against Chelsea, and indeed, the Blues won the battle, seeing 53% of the ball. If it felt like Juve had the bulk of possession, it was only because they did much more with the ball.
Juventus had 26 shots on goal, 15 of them forcing Cech to make a save (and he made several great ones). Meanwhile, Gigi Buffon had to make only 6 saves, thanks to his unbelievable backline. There are Serie A minnows who’ve given him a much more difficult time.
The passing accuracy was relatively equal (Juve 73%, Chelsea 71%), but while Chelsea were largely forced to panhandle on the perimeter, Juve’s passes were incisive, and collectively devastating.
Box Office Bonanza
On Tuesday night, the Bianconeri tifosi went above and beyond the call of duty. After seeing the stunning choreography and lung-busting singing and chanting, it was easy to forget that at Juve’s last home CL match, fans stayed away in droves, in protest of high ticket prices.
Their presence is never to be taken for granted. Otherwise, it would be meaningless.
The record-setting 2.4 million Euros collected in gate receipts are beside the point. A crowd of 39,670 showed up (only a few poor souls supporting Chelsea), making for a truly intimidating atmosphere for even the reigning European champions.
Matches like this give a little justification to the Ultras’ otherwise hubristic claims to ownership of this club. Now all they need to do is stop visiting fans from wrecking the bathrooms.
That brings up an interesting question: Would some fans do absolutely anything to work for Juve? Would they clean up the visitors’ bathroom?
Primavera Sail On
As above, so below: Marco Baroni’s Primavera squad are riding a five-match winning streak.
They made swift work of Parma, winning 2-0 “courtesy of first-half goals from Bonatini and Beltrame,” and are now second to Fiorentina in the table.
At this point, I’d like to revise my usual criticism of Juve’s official website for not posting the first names of players, especially in the youth squads. I’m warming up to it now; it feels like a hopeful (if frequently fanciful and sometimes completely delusional) prediction that someday these kids will be known by only one name, like a Zidane, a Raul, a Del Piero.
So keep dreaming, Leonardo Bonatini Lohner Maia and Stefano Beltrame. And I’m not being sarcastic.
San Gaetano Ritorna a Casa
On Tuesday, I mentioned that Gaetano Scirea, the late, beloved Juventus captain and ambassador to anyone who is interested in playing the beautiful game beautifully, would be immortalized and canonized with the renaming of the road next to Juventus Stadium in his memory.
Yesterday afternoon, the Corso Gaetano Scirea was officially unveiled in the presence of Gaetano’s widow, Mariella, his son Riccardo and several Juventus luminaries and figureheads:
Joining Andrea Agnelli in paying homage to Scirea’s magnificent contribution to the club and Italian football in general were directors Giuseppe Marotta and Aldo Mazzia, along with Juventus Museum chairman Paolo Garimberti. Antonio Conte and Gigi Buffon represented the Juventus of today, while Giampiero Boniperti, Franz Grande Stevens, Roberto Bettega, Giuseppe Furino and Francesco Morini provided a welcome nod to the club’s illustrious past.
Perhaps the most heartening revelation of Juve’s coverage of the afternoon’s events (at least it’s news to me) is that Riccardo Scirea is a member of Antonio Conte’s backroom staff. That can only be a good thing, and probably a great thing.
Here are three close-to-definitive statements testifying to the absolute greatness of Gaetano Scirea—the man, player and bandiera. Andrea Agnelli:
Gaetano was an absolute champion, our captain, who moved from the pitch to the dugout with his beloved Juventus as a common denominator. A common denominator which to this day continues in the form of Riccardo and Mariella, both for their human values and commitment to Juventus. Gaetano won everything, he was a great champion and reached the summit with Juventus and Italy.
Everyone remembers Gaetano for his gentle nature and attachment to Juventus, for whom he wasn’t just a player. Above all he was a fan. When I come down this road to watch the matches I will feel strong emotions, as everyone else will. And by walking down this road we’ll have the opportunity to feel closer to our team, our home and our Gaetano.
And Antonio Conte:
Unfortunately I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing him personally, but I’m lucky enough to work closely with his son Riccardo and meet Mariella on a regular basis. And seeing the people they are, with their politeness, I truly believe I missed out on something.
If Tuesday’s masterful performance against Chelsea felt familiar, it’s because it was played with the same class and spirit of Scirea’s Juventus.
That’s all for now. Milan is on Sunday: Let’s give Berlusconi some of that Chelsea feeling!
Ciao for now!
[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)