Thursday April 12 2018
Prevention better than cure

Italian teams give their best with backs against the wall, but Roma and Juventus proved being proactive rather than reactive does work, writes Emmet Gates

Enthralling. Heartbreaking. Emotional. Absorbing. And, nearly, oh so very nearly. Juventus were 30 seconds away from pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in the history of not just the Champions League, for it surely would’ve been the best, but in the history of the game. To comeback from a three-goal deficit to the reigning champions, to this Real Madrid side, in the thunderous Santiago Bernabeu, was deemed nearly impossible. Yet it almost happened. Almost.

And somehow, it epitomises The Old Lady in Europe, that feeling of almost, that feeling of so near, yet so far. Seven final losses, the most by any side in history, tells the story of a club time and again failing to make it over that last hurdle.

Last night’s result however, wasn’t a case of Juve coming up short in a crunch tie. They dominated the 12-time Champions throughout the 90 minutes, producing one of their greatest ever displays on the European stage. They unsettled Real from the opening minute and never relented for the next 80, but it spoke to the sheer absurdity of the scale of the challenge that awaited them that they had to chase a three-goal lead.

The penalty was just, in my view. Medhi Benatia did go through the back of Lucas Vazquez, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty was just, well, you’ll find it hard to come across a better penalty – given the circumstances and how long he waited to take it. But for all of their greatness, the vital damage was done in the first leg.

Whilst Juve couldn’t quite pull off Mission Impossible, 24 hours earlier Roma did. In a truly dumbfounding game, I Giallorossi exorcised all their European humiliations by dishing one out this time. Roma’s display was so dominating, so unRoma-like, that they reduced Barcelona to speculative shots from distance. Lionel Messi never looked so ordinary.

But Roma made it through and Juve didn’t. How had it come to this, that both sides needed miraculous comebacks to advance? Why do Italian teams seemingly only burst into life when their backs are against the wall and have nothing to lose? Where were these gung-ho performances when the ties were more evenly balanced?

The issue goes right to the very core of Italian football and its relationship to the game. The legendary journalist Gianni Brera once remarked that Italians defend first and foremost because as a race they are physically weak and therefore can’t impose their will on the opposition. We know this is a fallacy, as the great Milan side of the late 80s and early 90s showed that high pressing could be achieved with Italians (and three brilliant Dutchmen) and lead to success.

That reactive conditioning is so ingrained in the Italian game, that it ultimately leads to debacles such as last week, where Roma and Juve both lost by three-goal margins. In Roma’s case, they were extremely unfortunate, as the 4-1 result didn’t reflect their performance.

Juve, at home, conceded an early strike and then proceeded to cautiously huff and puff against opposition that was extremely composed and had the experience and wherewithal to keep them at arms length, like the very best boxers. Had they demonstrated the urgency and vibrancy of last night, the first leg might’ve have taken a very different course.

The Azzurri also has form in this siege-like mentality. In their last two World Cup wins, 1982 and 2006, scandals had been brewing at home that as a by-product formed close knit teams that would go on to win tournaments many didn’t consider them viable options for.

In 1982, Enzo Bearzot came under much criticism for including Paolo Rossi, banned for two years for his role in the Totonero match-fixing scandal, and therefore declared a war with the Italian media, refusing to talk to the Press throughout the tournament. The Calciopoli scandal in 2006 was on-going as Italy, against the odds, triumphed.

In 1994, there was serious friction between star player Roberto Baggio and Arrigo Sacchi, but they reached the final. When there isn’t controversy, Italy finish bottom of groups containing New Zealand, Slovakia and Paraguay.

The performances of Roma and Juventus this week has proved that Italian sides need to reject their natural urges and go for the jugular from the off, not to be reactive and wait until they have nothing to lose with three strikes down before imposing themselves. They’ve showed that they can take the initiative, press and suffocate the opposition just as brilliantly as most of the elite sides in Europe. Brera might vehemently disagree, but Italian sides can be proactive.

The fear of losing that so dominates the thinking in Italy needs to be consigned to history. You only come back from a three-goal margin once in a lifetime.

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Have your say...
Associating Juve and Roma with Italian way of play is a little bit of a false analogy. Not too many Italians on either team.If dollars could be secondary and more young Italians where given chance to play in top leauge, I believe you would see more determination.
on the 19th April, 2018 at 12:38am
Counting on you A.S. ROMA to carry the Italian torch to the Final IN CHAMPS LEAGUE... Make us Italians proud and FORZA GLADIATORI!!!!! HAIL CAESAR.
on the 15th April, 2018 at 7:05pm


Let's be fair and go back to truly enjoy football!
on the 15th April, 2018 at 12:43am
Emmett Gates tends to forget is that footy SOCCER is in my words a contact sport.
on the 14th April, 2018 at 5:17pm
Go troll somewhere else 50 shades of stupidity, you're clearly a Madrid fan, nice try.
on the 14th April, 2018 at 9:24am
I’m a Milan fan and I love Italian football I love the national team..u all against Juve shame on u all Juve has made Italian football proud in recent years....I just hope Milan clubs come back in champions league damn it use to be better when they wer in it’s so predictable Barça real every year at least Barça deserves it real man they give them so much help

Forza romaaaaa they will beat Liverpool....I hope they win the whole thing
on the 13th April, 2018 at 8:19pm
Clearly we need a near perfect VAR for CL games, as there is so much at stake!

And I'm thinking more about the fans, who are the life and soul of football, even more than the Club themselves.

It was a "real" FURTO against Juventus!

on the 13th April, 2018 at 12:17pm
From the Tittle of this article, I knew it'll be the best as regard to the 2 UCL games. What this guy said is purely true about italian football. However the penalty call is NOT just as you said. Apart from it, everything is correct and hope the italian teams can forget about that mentality that "safety first" because you only come back from 3 goals down once in a life time.
on the 13th April, 2018 at 12:05pm
You are mostly a bunch of hypocritical, loser whining trolls anyway lol.
on the 13th April, 2018 at 2:28am
@50 SHADES OF JUVE. Sorry man i hate to bash another juve fan but dont contribute to this by bashing roma. Agnelli was one of the first ppl to congratulate palotta. You see ppl this is what is wrong with most of you on here. Instead of getting behind all the italian teams most of you just bash juve any chance you get. You idiots are the type of ppl ruining serie a and FI with all your needless rants. There were doubtful calls all around serie a and the cl this season but NO lets bash juve
on the 13th April, 2018 at 2:26am
Message to 50 Shades et al attacking Italian fans:

Italian fans-pls use this as defense when attacked from this 1 country

But of course you will humiliate Roma, how can you possibly not what with your secret weapon

You are so knowledgeable about everything that I have been looking for years for such a wise man and have a request oh lofty wise man

"Can you pls publish every name, and there are 300 names on b***d bags that were in court evidence and ordered destroyed by that gov"
on the 13th April, 2018 at 2:19am
@ 50 shades of lame. Wowwwwww you wrote all of that and think ppl are going to read it hahahaha you really that sad man hahahahahaha look how sad he is wow this man wrote a story haaaaaa!!!!! What a trolling little loser . Seriously who does that though? Lolol U overly bitter and weird man and im sorry i shouldnt laugh at a person that is so unhappy. Sorry man, carry on doing whatever not makes you sad. Hahahahahaaaaa!!!!
on the 13th April, 2018 at 2:11am
@50 SHADES OF DUMB. well at least you admit your team in serie A is trash lololol finally !!!!!
on the 13th April, 2018 at 2:03am
Every match has its story, just like FOOTBALL ISN'T AN EXACT SCIENCE.

Juventus, not Real, should be in the semis!
on the 13th April, 2018 at 1:49am
@ micholo

I agree. Well said.

@ Richard

Nah, he's just a clown with weird fantasies and dumb assumptions.

Roma did well and deserve all the praise.
on the 13th April, 2018 at 1:00am
50 shades is just another salty Juve fan that can't handle the fact that Roma who's budget is a little less than half of theirs, out shined them.

You most likely didn't even see the 2 legs. Roma dominated Barcelona throughout most of the tie and you want to call it a fluke. They gave Barcelona a lesson in football. That is why the majority of Serie A laughs at you. The arrogance from the biggest pretenders in Europe is rich.

Luckily most Juve fans I know are classy.
on the 12th April, 2018 at 11:39pm
@50 shades of nonsense, everyone is a moron except you. I don't think you watched the games. In the first game Juve were unlucky, everything that could go wrong went wrong. Yesterday they were the better team in the Bernabeu dominating their midfield. Yes Juve are far from perfect and meed reinforcements in the summer. Another issue with the Italian teams is mentality. They were too cautious, than when they had their backs against the wall they played with the right mentality.
on the 12th April, 2018 at 10:06pm
ciao amici!
dear friend!
thank you for calling us all stupid!!!
I am not sure if you are a juve fan???
you criticize every body including why we are happy AS ROMA made it!!!
you know what we are ITALIANS' so it would be an honor for us if AS ROMA won the CL!
on the 12th April, 2018 at 9:28pm
As for Buffon the buffoon, the way he acted at the end was uncharacteristic. My own stupid theory (seeing as we are all now bandying about stupid theories about referees helping non Italian teams and it having nothing to do with Italian teams being trash) is that Buffon has, unlike the rest of Juve, become sick of being dominated by men and in particular ronaldo so got himself sent off on purpose so he wouldn’t have his last memory in Europe being of ronaldo dominating him again with a goal.
on the 12th April, 2018 at 9:06pm
If Juve really want to win the CL they need to do what Inter did. Inter were more pathetic than Juve before 2010. Mourinho (a great motivational coach) came along, got strategic players in. Gave them the right mentality and suddenly inter overcome one of the best ever Barca sides. Mourinho leaves and inter fall off a cliff and never return. So the answer for Juve is to bring in mourinho if they want the CL. if they are happy to just keep winning the Mickey Mouse league then stick with Allegri
on the 12th April, 2018 at 8:56pm
Even if Madrid hadn’t got that penalty, how many of you would seriously have betted against Madrid not being able to score in extra time. We know Juve couldn’t as their only hope was a cross to mandzukic. Higuain couldn’t do jack. Madrid had figured the crossing out and even gave Juve a chance by fielding a 21 year old lol. The fact is Italian football is dead. No talent, national team dead. Club teams are dead.
on the 12th April, 2018 at 8:52pm
It’s all about levels. Madrid have about 20 gears. Juve have about 2. I watch Madrid and Juve and I get the impression that Madrid could have won it whenever they wanted.

As for the penalty, Juve keep saying “the referee shouldn’t have given it because we played so well and tried hard”. Lol well ok then in that case let’s just change the penalty rules for Juve.

Juve are so thick, they play to 3-0 and then as soon as it’s equal they play defensive lol. When will dumb Italian teams learn.
on the 12th April, 2018 at 8:50pm
Juve fans also need to understand that Juve love being dominated by men. Tottenham absolutely battered them from pillar to post and Juve got damn near lucky to go through. Madrid annihilated them in their own home. If anything, Madrid played poor. Whenever they need a goal it’s like they flick a switch and absolutely overrun Juve at will. Juve only got 3 because Madrid took their foot off juves throat. The minute they went down they absolutely blitzed Juve because they flick that switch.
on the 12th April, 2018 at 8:47pm
Madrid hardly turned up in this tie. Yet they were still far more dangerous than Juve and that speaks volumes about the two teams. It’s exactly what happened in the final last year. Madrid are so good that they can play on autopilot. Whilst complaining about decisions Juve fans better bear in mind that Iscos goal in the first half was onside. Had they been 1-0 up Juve were done. As for the penalty, it was a penalty. Benatia the idiot pushed him in the back and then tried to kick the ball.
on the 12th April, 2018 at 8:43pm
What about benatia the absolute moron along with some other Juve players that kept getting yellow cards for the most stupid reasons. Manzukic on cavajal. Benatia at the end for fouling Madrid defenders (in their own half). That other moron that fouled ronaldo from behind when he was running at Juve with zero support and about 5 Juve players around him. It’s just plane stupidity. The reckless decision making and panic is fear. Madrid don’t do that.
on the 12th April, 2018 at 8:39pm
What about matuidi the incompetent moron that runs like a dog after a ball regardless of where the ball is. The moron broke his shape and constantly started chasing down madrid defenders who were passing the ball amongst eat other, running past Higuain (who should have been chasing the defenders) and leaving his position completely open.

What about the fact Juve being unable to do anything at all straight down the middle and only relying on crosses to have any chance. It’s a joke.
on the 12th April, 2018 at 8:36pm
Now onto Juve. I’m a Juve supporter but wth are other Juve supporters on? The fact you are all actually so stupid as to jump on the bandwagon and blame the referee because he awarded a penalty? What about Higuain not only being unable to shoot but also doing absolutely nothing in tracking back to help defend. If he can’t do anything up front he should at least run back to help defend. But he’s too slow.
on the 12th April, 2018 at 8:33pm
So many deluded fans on this website. Roma completely fluked that win and Italians are giving it the big one acting as though they are now so great. Roma are an absolute joke of a team and they will be punished accordingly in the semis. Yet Italians are creaming themselves over Roma reaching a semi final. It shows you the mentality Italians have when they get so excited over a semi final and celebrate like they’ve won. The English and Spanish celebrate when they win, not over a semi.
on the 12th April, 2018 at 8:30pm
ciao amici!
it's really unbelievable!!
what do we have to do to convince we are a great team???
they say it was a penalty to make it look like as if referee has nothing against JUVE! but watch the replay he blown his whistle right after penalty!
he should have added at least 3min just for Buffon sent off& every thing!!!
probably UEFA will pair AS ROMA with REAL (the draw!!!!!) then take them to 10 men or penalty!
I fear for LAZIO today!
I hope they will make it!
on the 12th April, 2018 at 8:08pm
Emmet Gates has hit the nail on the head. After their first leg matches in the quarter final ties, Roma and Juve had no option but to go 'pro-active' in the second leg and we all saw the result!
However, the circumstances,rather than choice, dictated the tactics of both Italian teams, and this is where the problem lies.
The coaching emphasis in Italy needs to move from tactical to technical starting at youth level.
on the 12th April, 2018 at 7:11pm

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