Torino, February 10th, 2021 – Off to our second consecutive Coppa Italia final! Although last night’s second semi-final match against Inter may not have been the easiest on the eye, man – did it ever feel good. While there weren’t any goals to celebrate, there were many crunching tackles that were celebrated as such, and many performances to applaud. To invite pressure from one of Italy’s deadliest attacks for a full match (nonetheless, a semi-final) not only speaks volumes to Pirlo’s confidence in his tactics but also speaks volumes as to how strong this Juventus defense truly is. Let’s break it down:
What may have seemed to be a match in which Inter had full control, I am thinking quite on the contrary – it seemed as though this was the game plan Andrea Pirlo had in mind all along. Throughout the match, Inter Milan had long periods of possession, all of which Juventus successfully absorbed. In any instance that they could, the Bianconeri did their best to take the sting out of the game by (somewhat nervously) playing out of their own third, thus putting a stint in any fluidity Inter was trying to gain.
As the game progressed, it was evident through Juventus’ game plan that there was a deal of confidence within the team’s ability, and the quality of each player. Going into the match with home pitch advantage and also 2-1 on aggregate, I believe Juve’s game plan was to simply frustrate Inter. Through the combination of remaining composed and attention to detail, Juventus allowed for the pressure to mount on Inter as the match went on. If I do say so myself, this game plan was executed flawlessly (with some minor heart attacks).
A defensive clinic
Last night was nothing short of a colossal match from the Bianconeri’s backline. The ‘triple d’ defensive trio of Danilo, De Ligt, and Demiral proved to be impenetrable. It must be noted that the Serie A’s most ‘deadly’ strike force, consisting of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, could only manage one measly shot on target over the course of a full ninety minutes. Imagine being frustrated for the good part of eighty minutes by a stubborn Juve defense, only to then see the gargantuan Giorgio Chiellini be substituted into the game for the crucial final minutes.
While every Juventus defender on the pitch deserves high praise, De Ligt’s display deserves to be separately acknowledged. Matthijs De Ligt was, yet again, Lukaku’s shadow. Every time Juventus meets Inter on the pitch, it seems as though wherever the big Belgian striker is, our boy Mat is right on his heels. Lukuaku’s bread and butter is to have the ball played right to his feet, to then either lay it off for incoming teammates or perhaps turn to attack the open space. De Ligt did not allow for any of that – personally, I could only remember an instance or two in which Romelu was actually facing the goal of Juventus. At just twenty-one years old, Matthijs is putting on performances as though he’s been playing for years. Grande Mat.
Team spirit and mentality
Something that seemed to have disappeared within this Juventus squad for quite some time most definitely seems to have made a return. If we’re being honest, Juventus often looked lethargic and unmotivated under former coach Maurizio Sarri (and some could argue in Allegri’s final year). Yet under the direction of our maestro Andrea Pirlo; the drive, hunger, and ‘grinta’ that makes Juventus so great seem to be (slowly) making a comeback. I truly believe that in order to regain this spirit and sense of unity, Pirlo was the best possible option. Not only does he know exactly what it takes to be successful at this level, but he also knows how to be successful within this beautiful club. Following the match last night, I saw a photograph of the Juventus bench – all the players were on their feet, watching intently, and letting their voices of encouragement be heard. While in many cases, players on the bench are typically seated and watching on passively, I found that this photograph truly encapsulated the family dynamic that this club exudes.
This Juventus side is still competing on all fronts – remaining in each tournament, and also beginning to put more pressure on the current league leaders. This all being said, a clear change in mentality couldn’t have come at a better time. Fino alla fine!