Coppa Italia: Quarter-Finals / Team rating: 6 / Top scorer: Lasagna (5)
Carpi's fairy-tale first season in Serie A may have ended in heartbreak, but Fabrizio Castori and his men can be proud of themselves, writes Samuel Bridges.
When Carpi famously earned promotion to Serie A for the first time in their history last summer, the story of a group of underdogs winning the second division dominated the press. While fans were also pleased to see a shock Serie B winner during another period of Juventus dominance in the top flight, there were equal concerns another side as out of their depth as 2012-13 Pescara would somewhat spoil the tournament.
The fears had almost been confirmed with only two wins in their first 15, in fact only Hellas Verona had a worse record, which was a huge shock after two impressive Serie A seasons, but as the Biancorossi picked up, Verona did not. A battling 3-2 loss to Juventus in December perfectly showed how they had gotten used to almost every game being a David vs Goliath situation, but it had also proved a sad reality. Carpi's severe lack of talent and depth meant it did not matter how hard they worked or how perfect their tactical setup may have been, they could not compete with Serie A's best.
Late February was when Carpi's season peaked. A five-game unbeaten run raised morale and all of a sudden survival became a target for the relegation favorites. Fabrizio Castori had seemingly found his best system as avoiding defeat against fellow strugglers had become their new normal. The likes of Kevin Lasagna, Simone Verdi and Rafael Martinho had become consistent performers and genuine dangers for opponents to look out for.
In the final stretch of the season the relegation battle intensified. Serie A mainstays Udinese and Sampdoria failed to secure safety early as Carpi and Palermo held firm. With Verona and Frosinone long fallen there was only one space to avoid. It ended up going until the final day where a 2-1 win over Udinese was not enough.
Despite going straight back down, Carpi were expected to finish the season bottom and to be the first side relegated. Their valiant efforts may have ended in vain, but they defied the odds and missed survival by one point. They may be no Leicester City, but with a nominal operating income, gaining promotion was a miracle in itself.
Despite being ridiculously sacked in late September after a 5-1 mauling to Roma, he graciously accepted his reinstatement after results worsened under Giuseppe Sannino. His rigid, counter attacking style took a few months to bear fruit, but in the end it is what kept Carpi in the top flight until matchday 38. With several managerial changes coming this summer, expect him to find a new home in Serie A.
The Lombardy native may have changed the type of player he is in his two seasons at Carpi, which has resulted in him scoring less, but his overall play has greatly improved and he did not look out of place in Serie A, even in the bigger games. He may have finished as the club's top scorer in the league with a measly five goals, but it was his passing and dead ball specialties which helped him stand out. Still only 23 years old, his future could be bright.
- Lorenzo Pasciuti is the first man ever to score for a single club in Serie D, C1, C2, B and A.
- Carpi were the only team in the bottom half of Serie A to make the Coppa Italia quarter finals
- Despite having a modest squad assembled with players bought from lower league teams, their captain Cristian Zaccardo is a World Cup winner, having won the tournament with Italy in 2006
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