It’s been a tough couple of months for Italian football.
The Azzurri – four-time World Cup winner – will this summer watch football’s most important competition from the comfort of their home for the first time since 1958, after their 1-0 aggregate defeat to Sweden back in November 2017.
Slotted in a difficult qualifying group with Spain always seen as favourites to go through, Italy was forced to go the long road around to try and book its place for the showpiece event in Russia.
With Gian Piero Ventura and his questionable team selection choices – in addition to curious tactical ideas – behind the steering wheel, Italy suffered their biggest international blow since the World Cup-winning campaign in 2006.
The international disappointment only added to the woes of the Italian club football which was locked in decay for the great part of the new century and came as an expected conclusion of a troubled footballing story.
Rising Back From the Ashes
Still, the nation breathing football from its every pore rose back from the ashes – with a little help by Eastern financials – to sharpen the competitive edge in the Serie A with AC Milan, Inter Milan, Napoli and AS Roma making the greatest push forward to challenge the undisputed 33-title holders and winners of the last six Scudetto trophies Juventus.
The summer behind us brought the influx of high-quality players to Italy’s top-five sides which raised the quality of football to a noticeably higher level.
In the end, the resurgence of the Serie A was demonstrated this week when AS Roma and Juventus – despite the latter losing on a heartbreak to Real Madrid – restored the faith in the Italian football and inflated the nation’s lungs with pride once again.
Finding words to describe the events that took place on Tuesday and Wednesday night, respectively, would not be an easy task.
What an incredible advertisement for Serie A.
— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) April 11, 2018
Champions League Rhapsody
Within the space of two extraordinary fixtures of European football which brought contrasting fortunes to two of Italy’s greatest sides, the Italian football as a whole found its new hope.
Not for a second fancied to go past the Spanish league leaders Barcelona, AS Roma pulled off a historic surprise to climb back from a 4-1 defeat at Camp Nou and send the Catalans crashing out of the Champions League on the back of a 3-0 victory in Rome.
Interestingly, on only seven occasions in 126 attempts ahead of the midweek’s round of fixtures has a side turned around a three-goal deficit in the Champions League. Both AS Roma and Juventus were given a seemingly impossible task against the more illustrious La Liga rivals who were both expected to go far in the competition.
To illustrate it further, both Serie A sides only had 5.6% chance to get out of such a huge deficit.
AS Roma believed that, despite the numbers, the collective mindset and determination would be enough to get them past the overconfident Barcelona. Seeing their league rivals succeed, Juventus used the same level of tenacity and grit to claw back at Santiago Bernabeu.
Three goals against the reigning European champions are an admirable feat. No one can take that away from Bianconeri. Not even Michael Oliver. Not even the red card he showed to the footballing legend such as Gianluigi Buffon.
One of football’s most beloved heroes turned villain to ‘finish his European career Zinedine Zidan way’ in a moment of madness following a disputable call.
Despite the drama and subsequent heartbreak, Juventus should stand proud of their feat. They stood up to the great Los Blancos and the raging Ronaldo, punching above their weight to give the entire Italian nation something to be proud of.
It’s now been eight years since an Italian football club lifted the coveted Champions League trophy. The triple-winning Inter Milan side led by Jose Mourinho is a thing of past and it’s now up to AS Roma to do the impossible and hold the banner high for the Italian football in the semi-finals.
Giallorossi are given a price of 11/1 to win the European title and– after the inspired performance against Barcelona – not many people will have the audacity to claim they can’t do it.
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