Monday, July 9, 2012

Italy at crossroad: this season was practically Torino fight. Rarely, if at all, there was only2-team race in Italy, leaving everybody else far, far behind. The unusual situation suggested that the crisis was deepening. On the other hand the national team showed signs of life and new stars were popping in here and there. Italian football appeared to be sharply divided, but optimism laid solely with Juventus. The rest was able to show only a handful of new breed players scattered among the league. Old habits were slow to die. The second division was tightly contested with 5 clubs furiously competing for three promotions – Cagliari were the losers: they finished 4th because of worse goal difference. Behind them ended Monza, only 3 points less than the champions. Atalanta finished 3rd and Pescara 2nd – with equal points, 49 each. First place went to L.R. Vicenza, finishing with 51 points. Not really great addition to 1st Division – the newcomers were familiar names, normally moving between first and second division, and hardly clubs to create sensations. But there was a player ready to burst and already getting attention: Paolo Rossi, the young striker of L.R. Vicenza.

The bottom of 1st Division was occupied by Cesena, Catanzaro, and Sampdoria. Sampdoria was a bit of a surprise – at least by name, hardly the club to be relegated, but they were, joining Cagliari in the lower division. Well, when clubs like Sampdoria were good only for going down, the crisis of Italian football was acute and may be permanent. The other two clubs were no surprise, especially Cesena, who won only 3 matches during the season and collected measly 14 points, seven less than the 15th placed Catanzaro.

Cesena – the lowest of the low. Dead last.

Just above relegation zone finished Foggia - lucky 13th place, 2 points better than Sampdoria and securing one more season of struggle in 1st Division. To a point, Foggia were the typical Italian team of the time: if there was anybody more or less famous player, he was likely to be aging. Bergamaschi, in the case of Foggia.

But Foggia deserves mentioning for another reason: they survived thanks to winning games, 10 in total. Only 5 other teams finished with 2-digit number of wins – the top five. Inter and Lazio won the same number as Foggia. Winning was survival, winning was the future. Yeah, right... try telling that to 11 of the 1st Division clubs, who professed the old Italian wisdom: not winning, but ties spell out survival. 11 clubs ended with more than 10 ties, the record belonged to Milan with 17 tied games out of 30 seasonal matches. Only the very top and the very bottom of the league had less than 10 ties – playing for more than a point was risky affair, something like Russian roulette: you may win big. Or die.