Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The bulk of the Italian league continued to follow tradition: try to win at home and may be get a point away. Roma, right at the middle of the table (8th place) got 23 points at home, better than the bronze medalist. However, they did not win a single away match, losing 10 and tying 5. That is, Roma got the same points away as the last placed Cesena. No wonder stagnation reigned, gradually leading to hopeless decline – Cagliari was already in 2nd Division, Sampdoria joined them, Milan finished at 10th place. Inter did not look better either – they finished 4th, but their total points made them closer to the midtable rabble than to the top clubs: 33 points. Foggia ended with 7 points less than Inter at the 13th place. However, Torino finished with 17 points more than Inter. Of course, one may say it was the competitive nature of Italian football, it was so tough to win. Well, it was tough to win indeed, if you only think how to tie a match and get a point.

Fiorentina finished with bronze medals. The top of the bulk – total of 33 points were good enough for third place. Two points more than Inter. 12 wins (2 more than Foggia), 11 ties (like Lazio, Peruggia, Napoli, Genoa, and Bologna). Fiorentina scored 38 goals in 30 games; received 31. Only three clubs scored more Fiorentina. Five clubs had stronger defense. But... a team scoring practically one goal on average finished at third place.

Yet, it was good season for Fiorentina – bronze medals are hard to get in Italy. The squad dies not look like revelation, but there was a new breed of star, already captaining the team – Antognioni. Seemingly alone in this squad, but already making big difference – the difference between 3rd and 4th place. A tiny ray of light.

Above Fiorentina finished Torino. They were concerned with competition from behind, their only concern was ahead: Torino finished 15 points above Fiorentina. They ended with the best attack, scoring 51 goals; best defense, allowing only 14 goals; and best goal difference. Alas, one point deprived them from repeating the success of 1975-76. This time – vice-champions.

Torino had pretty much the same squad as the year before. A well balanced squad in its prime, but not precisely superteam, going to conquer the world. Yet, Torino grasped better the changes in European football and the Italian stagnation: they built a team of relative unknowns, younger players, who made their names playing for Torino, and eventually winning. The club did not try to 'fortify' the squad with famous veterans – and their previously unknown boys paid back with strong performance. Unfortunately, it was not a team to last, even less building a dynasty: it was more of a transitional team, fit for the time of stagnation, carrying a bit of new ideas through troubled times, and generally making a road for others.

Juventus did not have to make path for others: they already went ahead for themselves. They were quicker to realize that adjustment to the new tendencies in European football was a must; did that, rebuilt the team, changed the coach with young guy, without old habits and suffering from traditional ways. Juventus was the only improving Italian team, and to a point they came to maturity in 1976-77. Their title was won after difficult race against Torino and was clinched by only a point, but in terms of squad and play, it was clear Juventus were the team of the future.

Familiar names surely. Well balanced squad. Nothing sentimental about the club's policy: a mixture of high profile stars, experienced players at their prime, and rapidly improving youngsters. By this season Scirea, Gentile, Cuccureddu were already firm starters, even more – they were stars. The future was really Cabrini, pushing for a place among the first eleven. It was not easy to get a spot among the first eleven in a squad bursting with talent: apart from Dino Zoff, nobody else was sure of his place. But, being an Italian team, Juventus depended on firm starting team, which was, with the number of games played during the season in brackets: Zoff (30); Cuccureddu (29), Gentile (29); Furino (26),

Morini F. (26), Scirea (30); Causio (30), Tardelli (28),Boninsegna (29), Benetti (30), Bettega (30). Five players did not miss a single game; another three missed only one match during the whole grueling season – talk about stability. Talk about sentimentality too – rather, the lack of it. Spinosi and Gori were starters only a year or two back. Anastasi and Capello were gone – replaced by people from the camps of archenemies: Boninsegna from Inter and Benetti from Milan. Damiani, the 'revelation' just a year back, was out unceremoniously. Juventus was building team to last on top, not paying any sentimental dues to stars no longer fitting into the concept, no matter how big and venerated the names. The new god was Bettega, reaching his prime. Causio and Furino were more or less the drivers, shakers and makers, of the team's game, and the bunch of youngsters was almost ready to take the reigns at any minute – it was obvious that Gentile, Scirea, and Tardelli are to lead the team in a year or two, the future was ensured. But he biggest guarantee of bright future was the new coach: Giovanni Trapattoni. It was his first title as a coach. He was 37 years old and Juventus was his first professional team coaching. Juventus obviously was looking for the future and risked with young and inexperienced, but because of that – a coach unburdened and free from stagnating tradition. The risk was more than worthy – Trapattoni won the title in his very first year. Just a taste, just a beginning. Oh, yeah... it was only the 17th title for Juventus. Business as usual... Inter had 11 and Milan – measly 9. Time to conquer Europe.