Archive for August 15th, 2007

Pre-season friendlies: Trofeo TIM

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Trofeo TIMFollowing the same 45-min. game model as the Trofeo Birra Moretti, the Trofeo TIM is another customary appointment for all Serie A fans waiting for the season to start. Created in 2001, it features the Italian clubs who have won the most domestic titles, namely Juventus, Inter, and AC Milan. Perhaps less “prestigious” as its counterpart the Trofeo Moretti (assuming we can talk about prestige for friendly tournaments), the Trofeo TIM nonetheless provides an interesting showcase to gauge at what stage of preparation the big names of Serie A currently are. Points are attributed as follows: 3 pts. for a win, 2 pts. for a P.K. win, 1 pt. for a P.K. loss, 0 pts. for a loss.

Let’s see what came out of it. Remember that all game boxes contain links for YouTube video highlights.

Trofeo TIM scores

The tournament began with Juventus and Inter, the two teams that contended the final of the Trofeo Moretti only a week earlier. Mancini decided to leave out 10 of players of his regular starting line-up, namely Julio Cesar, Materazzi, Chivu, Maxwell, Vieira, Dacourt, Stankovic, Figo, Ibrahimovic e Suazo. When people mention that even Inter’s bench could compete with the biggest names of European football, they aren’t mistaken. On the other side, Ranieri fielded a team close to the best Juve has to offer, with the exception of Tiago (out for gastric problems) being replaced by C.Zanetti in midfield. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, since Inter’s ex player was one of the brightest spots in Juve’s performance tonight.

Juve took possession of midfield very early in the game, and most of the chances of the initial 22 minute half came from the Bianconeri’s side. Iaquinta had a few opportunities in the first 10, but alas for Juve fans, his accuracy is still leaving a lot to be desired. A C.Zanetti mid-range effort and a Del Piero free kick were the other most notable highlights of the first period, after which Inter decided to awaken from their slumber, and produce a few chances of their own. First, Córdoba had his goal (rightfully) disallowed for offside, then Samuel put Buffon to work with a header from close range. Iaquinta had one final chance to open the score, but again missed the target, so the game would have to be decided on penalties.

From the spot, Toldo‘s save on Criscito‘s shot proved decisive and Inter took the first 2 points of the tournament, forcing Juve to play game nº2 with AC Milan.

 F.C. Internazionale
INTER-JUVENTUS 0-0
(5-4 p.s.o.)
[Match Highlights]
 Juventus F.C.
GOALSCORERS: /
PENALTY SHOOTOUT: Criscito (J) saved, Jimenez (I) goal – Iaquinta (J) goal, Cruz (I) goal – Andrade (J) goal, Samuel (I) goal – Salihamidzic (J) goal, Cesar (I) goal – Del Piero (J) goal, Burdisso (I) goal.
INTER (4-3-1-2): Toldo – Burdisso, Cordoba, Samuel, Cesar – Solari, Cambiasso, J.Zanetti – Jimenez – Adriano, Cruz. (bench: Orlandoni, Fatic, Maicon, Rivas, Pedrelli, Filippini, Bolzoni, Filkor, Balotelli, Crespo, Recoba). Coach: Mancini.
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Zebina, Andrade, Criscito, Chiellini – Salihamidzic, Almiron, C.Zanetti, Nedved – Iaquinta, Del Piero. (bench: Belardi, Boumsong, Grygera, Molinaro, Legrottaglie, Novembre, Nocerino, Olivera, Palladino, Trezeguet, Zalayeta). Coach: Ranieri.

With the first pairing of Juve and Milan since Juve’s demotion to Serie B (waiting for the much anticipated Trofeo Berlusconi Friday night), it was a good opportunity to see how much the Bianconeri had progressed over the month, in the first test of the (pre) season againt the European champions. Ancelotti fielded his classic 4-3-2-1 formation “à la Christmas tree” (Albero di Natale), with most of the starters on the field. Juve on the other hand (as expected) rotated their squad a little bit, inserting Grygera, Molinaro, Nocerino, Palladino and Trezeguet.

Once again, Juve proved to be the most undertaking team in the initial minutes, and immediately presented themselves at AC Milan’s doorstep. A good delivery by C.Zanetti found the head of Nedved close to the penalty spot, but the Czech international’s effort was too central to give Dida any worries. Palladino was being very mobile on his left wing, his agility combining well with that of Molinaro, and Juve was often dangerous from that zone of the field for much of the first period. From a Grygera cross from the right wing, the young Juve striker did manage to send the ball past Dida’s arms into the net, but the referee disallowed it for an (alleged) push on Oddo who was marking him. As often is the case in soccer, one goal missed=one goal conceded: on the other end, Gattuso invented a great through ball for Gilardino, Molinaro kept the Milan striker onside, who then had little trouble in beating Buffon with an accurate low shot to the bottom corner. 1-0 for AC Milan.

Ranieri immediately took counter-measures and inserted Iaquinta in, to re-form the 3-striker 4-3-3 formation he tested a few times already, but it did little to re-invigorate Juve’s offensive verve, who steadily declined after they conceded the goal. Instead, AC Milan had the last word with a great diagonal effort by Kakà, who would have been in off the post if Buffon’s great save hadn’t deflected it wide. Final score 1-0 for AC Milan, who would be contending the trophy with their Nerazzurri cousins.

A.C. Milan
MILAN-JUVENTUS
1-0
[Match Highlights]
 Juventus F.C.
GOALSCORERS: 26’ Gilardino (M)
MILAN (4-3-2-1): Dida – Oddo, Bonera, Kaladze, Serginho – Gattuso, Brocchi, Ambrosini – Seedorf, Kakà – Gilardino. (bench: Fiori, Cafu, Nesta, Simic, Favalli, Gourcuff, Pirlo, Aubameyang, Inzaghi). Coach: Ancelotti.
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Grygera, Andrade, Criscito, Molinaro – Nocerino, Almiron, C. Zanetti (30’ Iaquinta), Nedved (30’ Olivera) – Trezeguet, Palladino. (bench: Belardi, Legrottaglie, Boumsong, Chiellini, Zebina, Salihamidzic, Novembre, Zalayeta, Del Piero). Coach: Ranieri.

The final match of the tournament would therefore see Milano arch-rivals Inter and AC Milan compete for the cup. Both teams decided to field a big number of their reserve and youth squad trainees, but despite the absence of many “big stars”, the match was quite enjoyable to watch.

Milan was the first to create danger through a good diagonal shot by Gourcuff, nicely saved by Inter’s 3rd reserve keeper Orlandoni. The young French talent was one of the most positive notes of the match, delighting the San Siro fans with many displays of great technique and passing combinations. On Inter’s side, Crespo responded to AC Milan’s opening shots with a low howitzer of his own, but Dida was vigilant, on the ball’s trajectory. Back to the other side of the field to Pippo Inzaghi, receiving a cross from the right wing from Cafu, and throwing himself in a very difficult diving header effort, headed straight for the top corner. Inter’s keeper really had to reach for this one to deflect it wide. Young Orlandoni was decisively in great form, as he deflected yet another excellent shot a few minutes later, this time from Gourcuff (25-yard long effort) onto the post!

At half time out Orlandoni, in Toldo (everyone gets their chance in these pre-season matches), as well as Alvaro “El Chino” Recoba. The Uruguyan playmaker probably played one of his last games with the Nerazzurri (he’s on his way to be transfered out), but he left quite an impressive mark tonight, just to prove a point. Receiving the ball from 20 yards out, he took a little step to the left from the center and armed a great inswinging shot that AC Milan’s keeper Kalac could only watch land into the net! A great goal from a player whose inconsistency has undoubtedly been the greatest handicap of his career.

AC Milan attempted to respond to Inter’s opener with a great free kick effort by specialist Andrea Pirlo, adequately deflected wide by Toldo. Final score 1-0, and Inter takes the Trofeo TIM.

A.C. Milan
MILAN-INTER
0-1
[Match Highlights]
 F.C. Internazionale
GOALSCORERS: 28’ Recoba (I)
MILAN (4-3-2-1): Kalac – Cafu, Nesta, Simic, Favalli – Gattuso (28’ Ambrosini), Pirlo, Gourcuff – Aubameyang, Seedorf (35’ Gilardino) – Inzaghi. (bench: Fiori, Kaladze, Bonera, Oddo, Serginho, Brocchi, Brocchi, Kakà).Coach: Ancelotti.
INTER (4-3-1-2): Orlandoni (21’ Toldo) – Maicon, Rivas, Cordoba, Cesar (31’ Fatic); J.Zanetti (31’ Filkor), Burdisso (25’ Bolzoni), Cambiasso (31’ Jimenez) – Solari (17’ Recoba) – Crespo, Cruz (15’ Balotelli). (bench: Samuel, Pedrelli, Filippini). Coach: Mancini.

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General impressions

It’s hard to make any substantial conclusions from these 45-min. matchups. In general the games tend to end with a fairly low scoreline (see the trophy’s history), and since the coaches generally field two very different teams from one match to the other, few of the teams’ players play a full 90 minutes.

Capitan Zanetti hoists the trophy. Photo courtesy of italy.offside.comHowever, from what I’ve seen tonight, there was no clear winner in terms of gameplay. Juve attacked more dominantly in both games they played, but couldn’t finalize and ended up without scoring a goal. On the other hand AC Milan scored on the only real chance they had against the Bianconeri, and played considerably better than Inter in the final match (especially Gourcouff and Pirlo). That wasn’t enough however to take the trophy home, as once again fate rewarded the cynical team: one chance from Recoba = goal + final victory for Inter.

The first real “interesting” test of the season will come from the Trofeo Berlusconi later this Friday, which will feature Juventus and Milan in a full 90-min. match. Since both teams tend to take this trophy a little more seriously (even though it’s still a friendly), I’m hoping to see some sparks fly. :)