Shipped from abroad: Reflections on an Italian Serie A Saturday

Leave a comment

It’s difficult for an undefeated team to sneak up on anybody, but without mid-week European soccer to keep them in on out radars, it’s been easy to lose track of Juventus. With all the draws and the lack of a prominent goalscoring threat, the Old Lady’s kept a low profile; yet, here we are, with just over a month left in the season, and not only is there still that stale bagel in their loss column, but thanks to one of their castaway attackers, they’re back in first place.

It’s unlikely Amauri was trying to do his old team any favors, yet with this 89th minute goal at the San Siro against Milan, he gave Fiorentina a desperately needed win (2-1), Milan their fifth loss of the year, and Juventus first place thanks to the Bianconeri’s 2-0 win at Palermo. Now 17-14-0, Juventus have a one point lead at the top of the Serie A and, thanks to another clean sheet, have dismissed another significant obstacle in their quest for an undefeated season.

Most wouldn’t describe Palermo as a major hurdle, but with the likes of Fabrizio Miccoli and Josip Ilicic leading one of the most dangerous attacks in the league (their 44 goals sitting seventh overall), there was always a chance the Aguile could run out on Juve the same way they did against Lazio (5-1, Feb. 19), Genoa (5-3, Jan. 22), and Inter (4-3, Sep. 11).

But since their trouncing of Lazio in February, the Renzo Barbera has not been as kind to Palermo. They’ve scored only once in their last four home games, losing to Milan, Roma and Juve while drawing against Udinese. To be sure, those are four difficult opponents (the worst sitting sixth in league), but it still seems Juventus caught the Sicilians at the right time.

Those are the kind of breaks you need if you’re going to go undefeated, and with their 17th clean sheet of the season, Juventus is one step closer to being invincible. They’ve now gone 373 minutes in league without allowing a goal ahead of Wednesday’s meeting with third-place Lazio, now the biggest obstacle between the Bianconeri and a loss-less season.

Their next biggest challenge after that: a home match with a Roma team that gave up four goals to Lecce on Saturday. No other team in their run-in sits higher than 12th.

Elsewhere in Italy

All results: Cesena 0-0 Bologna; Chievo 3-2 Catania; Milan 1-2 Fiorentina; Novara 1-1 Genoa; Cagliari 2-2 Internazionale; Udinese 3-1 Parma; Lecce 4-2 Roma; Atalanta 1-2 Siena; Palermo 0-2 Juventus; Lazio 3-1 Napoli

Stuff that stuck out:

  • Napoli was without Christian Maggio (injured) and Juan Zuniga (suspended), while Andrea Dossena wasn’t fit for 90. That meant that Walter Mazzari had to abandon his 3-4-3 for lack of defenders who could play on the wings. But on a night when Lazio honored Giorgio Chingalia, it’s uncertain Napoli’s full team could have gotten a result. The win leaves Lazio three clear of Udinese for third while Napoli, six back of the league’s last Champions League spot, looks to Europa.
  • Despite their loss, Roma is only one point behind Napoli, though Saturday’s result was beguiling. At a Lecce side seemingly set to book its place in Serie B, the Giallorossi were down four goals within an hour. It’s also the third time this calendar year Roma have given up four road goals to what you would think to be inferior competition (4-2 at Calgiari on Feb. 1; 4-1 at Atalanta on Feb. 26).
  • Michael Bradley’s sixth minute goal for Chievo against visiting Catania made him the first U.S. player to score in Serie A since Alexi Lalas during the 1994-95 season.

Up next: Mid-week action starts on Tuesday as Milan visits Bradley’s Chievo. Juventus hosts a Lazio team that has not beaten the Old Lady in league since 2003.

Gerard Pique continues to be booed by Spain supporters

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 21:  Gerard Pique of FC Barcelona looks down dejected after missing a chance to score during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Malaga CF at Camp Nou on February 21, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Spain secured qualification to EURO 2016 today with a 4-0 win over Luxembourg, but once again a good performance was overshadowed by the rift between fans and Gerard Pique.

The center-back continues to be booed and whistled by his own fans, despite ongoing calls from the manager, players, and Pique himself to stop the jeers.

[ MORE: EURO 2016 roundup ]

The boos started when Pique, who plays for Barcelona, made some joking comments about Real Madrid while celebrating Barca’s treble winning season last year. Ever since then, Pique has been the subject of boos from Real Madrid fans while playing for the national team.

Before the match against Luxembourg, Spanish legend Xavi called for a stop to the antics, saying supporters should put their club allegiances aside when rooting for the national team. However, they paid no attention to one of Spain’s greatest players, as Pique was whistled at throughout the match.

Following the win, Pique was pleased with the result that booked Spain a place in the final tournament, but was still upset over his treatment by his own fans.

I’d like to resolve this situation with the whistling, of course I do but that depends on the fans. I am going to give all I’ve got to do my job. We’ve reached our objective which was to qualify. I think we’re changing the dynamic; the whistling is louder than the applause but we will improve.

I seem to have explained myself a thousand times on this… no one should be in any doubt about me and my commitment; I’ve been with the national side since I was 16. People can take a look through the archives and see everything I have said in the press since I was a kid. You won’t find anything bad, or comments I’ve made against the national team or this country for people to get upset about.

While the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid is one of the biggest in the world, it shouldn’t carry over into the national side. Pique has made more than 70 appearances for the Spanish team, and started every match at center-back in Spain’s 2010 World Cup run, which was the country’s first major trophy in nearly 50 years. He also played every minute of Spain’s EURO 2012 campaign, which resulted in another title.

[ RELATED: Sergio Aguero suffers torn hamstring playing for Argentina ]

With Spain now into EURO 2016, it’s time for fans to move on and start showing Pique the respect he deserves as one of their most consistent and important players over the past five years.

FIFA presidential election could be postponed

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - MAY 30:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter talks to the press during the FIFA Post Congress Week Press Conference at the Home of FIFA on May 30, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland.  (Photo by Alessandro Della Bella/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

For months now, the footballing world has been waiting for February 26, the date on which the FIFA presidential election is scheduled to take place, which will finally put Sepp Blatter out of power.

However, that election may not take place as scheduled, as FIFA has called an emergency meeting amidst the suspensions of some top officials.

[ RELATED: Klopp introduced as Liverpool boss ]

The emergency meeting will be held on October 15, just a few days before the October 26 deadline for candidates to officially declare their intent to run for the presidency.

On Thursday, FIFA announced bans on multiple executives, including Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini and Chung Mong-joon. Platini has been the odds-on favorite to succeed Blatter as FIFA’s leader, while Mong-joon has also announced he will run for president.

Because of the current investigation and suspension revolving around Platini, he would not be allowed to run for the presidency if the election were to take place as scheduled in February. If the election was pushed back, it would give time for the investigation to come to a conclusion, which could possibly absolve Platini of any wrongdoing and allow him to re-enter the race.

Issa Hayatou, who has been the president of the Confederation of African Football since 1988, is currently serving as the acting FIFA president following Blatter’s suspension, and will preside over the meeting next week.