Skip to content

Bayern Munich’s cruise through Juventus, and the modest state of Italian soccer

Apr 10, 2013, 6:13 PM EDT

Pirlo of Juventus reacts after Bayern Munich scored during their Champions League quarter-final second leg soccer match at the Juventus stadium in Turin Reuters

After being given a week to come to grips with the Juventus’s inevitable Champions League demise, today’s outcome was no surprise. Duplicating their result from last Tuesday, Bayern Munich defeated Juve 2-0 in Turin, easily advancing to the competition’s semifinals with a 4-0 aggregate win in what was supposed to be the tie of the round.

Ultimately, it was the competition’s most lopsided quarterfinal. Bayern and Juventus’s was the only tie decided by more than two goals, the final margin in each FCB romp. And while it’s cliché to say a final score does or does not do a match justice, 180 minutes of Juve futility leaves us with the feeling München could have put a much more embarrassing number on the Italian champs.

(MORE: Stars live Barça past stalwart Parisians.)

Kicking off with a two-goal lead, Bayern brought little of the intensity that defined the onset of last week’s match. Instead, Mario Mandzukic played off the defense, Bayern often appearing to form a line of four just on top of Juventus’s midfield. When Bayern forced their eventual turnovers, they’d sprint into counters that would eventually fade when Juve collected themselves behind the ball. The chances were rare, but the possession constantly deflated any progress Juventus tried to make.

By the half-hour mark the Old Lady was finally making some headway, but that meant going from no chances to half-chances, still a long way from truly threatening Bayern. Any momentum the Italians were trying to build was stymied in the 64th minute, when a restart led to Bayern’s tie-killing goal. After Mandzukic cleaned up a Javi Martínez chance, Juventus needed four goals in 26 minutes to reach the semifinals.

A late Claudio Pizarro goal barely drew celebration or disappointment. By that time, the teams had accepted their divergent fates, destinies last week’s lopsided game had made perfectly clear. For whatever reason – Juventus’s history, shift of venue, nebulous Bayern fragility – we convinced ourselves there’d be something into today’s match. Oh, were we ever wrong.

The only take away from Wednesday’s result is not a verdict on which team’s better (we knew that eight days ago). Bayern’s title credentials were neither hurt nor helped, while we knew Juve’s tactical peculiarities and talent deficiencies (compared to Bayern) would be debilitating if their more mystical qualities didn’t shine through.

But there was no mysticism to be had. As much as we wanted to believe an Italian champion could carry a romantic past into today’s Champions League, chairman Angrea Angelli was right when, last December, he said the club is still be chasing European titans who have more to put into their squads. They may be untouchable in Italy, but if Juventus want to transcend this new version of flat track bullying, they’ll need two-to-three more summers of smart buying to improve a limited squad.

source: APIt’s not just the strikers, though that’s the most glaring deficiency. Their midfield is fine, but it’s too dependent on one aging star. A backline that’s solid but unspectacular would have trouble dropping any of its starters into other top European defenses. And the team needs more depth to provide an alternative to the 3-5-2 that exasperated their problems against Bayern. In terms of talent, this team is nowhere close to the squads that are still alive in this competition.

For those of us who grew up in a world where Italy’s teams were among the world’s best (so, all of us), today was another reminder of our increasing age, the passing years, and our stagnant memories. The days when a top Italian team can be counted on to be one of Europe’s best are long gones, even if a Serie A side lifted the trophy only three years ago. Juventus is leaps and bounds better than Napoli or Milan, yet they’re years behind a Bayern, and while you don’t want to read too much into one team’s singular results, Italy’s collective results aren’t much better (see: UEFA coefficient). FCB may prove to be by far the best team in Europe this year, but the distance they put between them and Juventus shows how far Italy’s fallen.

For many of you less stubborn sorts, that’s an obvious statement, and I’m not exactly enlightened by the conclusion, either. I guess I’m still not used to a soccer landscape where Italy’s champion is cast in the same light as an FC Porto, or Shakhtar Donetsk, or Zenit St. Petersburg or Anderlecht. Yes, these teams dominate their leagues, and they look good doing do, but what does that really tell us?

It told us nothing about Juventus. They were so far behind the pace against Bayern, they could have been Anderlecht or Zenit. The win did tell us anything about FCB, and as much as it pains me to admit it, I was completely wrong in saying this matchup came two rounds too soon.

It’s not painful because I’m wrong. That happens all the time. It’s painful because a bedrock of my soccer past is not returning any time soon. We just can’t take anything for granted with Italian soccer, anymore.

Latest Posts
  1. Premier League Deadline Day podcast

    Sep 2, 2015, 9:57 PM EDT

    DeGea Getty Images

    The NBC Deadline Day show is here in podcast form.

  2. Martial transfer fee from Manchester United trickles down to French lower tier team

    Sep 2, 2015, 9:32 PM EDT

    Martial Getty Images

    A fraction of the transfer fee has made its way to the lower division team in France that helped mold Anthony Martial into the $55 million player he is today.

  3. Men In Blazers Podcast: Deadline Day recap and Chelsea loses again

    Sep 2, 2015, 8:18 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog and Davo break down Chelsea’s loss to Crystal Palace and Swansea’s stylish win over Manchester United. Plus, a recap of transfer deadline day.

  4. Klinsmann confirms Brad Guzan will start Confederations Cup playoff in goal

    Sep 2, 2015, 6:56 PM EDT

    Guzan Getty Images

    Tim Howard looked good for Everton last weekend, but the U.S. coach says it’s too close to the Mexico game to make a change.

  5. Ashley Cole is quickly being phased out at Roma

    Sep 2, 2015, 5:42 PM EDT

    Cole Getty Images

    The former Chelsea defender is no longer listed on the team’s website and was left out of both the club’s domestic and European squads.

  6. Dortmund’s Kevin Grosskreutz will move to Galatasaray immediately despite transfer mishap

    Sep 2, 2015, 4:29 PM EDT

    Grosskreutz Getty Images

    The paperwork was late, and FIFA rejected the deal, but the two sides still wish for it to be completed.

  7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms he turned down AC Milan this summer

    Sep 2, 2015, 3:40 PM EDT

    Zlatan Getty Images

    The San Siro wanted Zlatan back, but he is happy in France.

  8. Ex-Manchester United striker Berbatov spurned Aston Villa for Greek club

    Sep 2, 2015, 2:46 PM EDT

    Berbatov Getty Images

    Villa had a very quiet Deadline Day, but they tried to make a splash.

  9. Mark Noble wins red card appeal; West Ham still charged for reaction

    Sep 2, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: Mark Noble of West Ham United at Chadwell Heath on June 29, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by James Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images) Getty Images

    After the match, Noble said it was a tackle that happens “10 times a game” and that he felt it didn’t even deserve a yellow card.

  10. U.S. U-23 versus England U-21 preview: Young Yanks face Premier League cast at Deepdale

    Sep 2, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 14:  Cameron Carter-Vickers of Tottenham Hotspur U21 holds off Manu Garcia of Manchester City U21 during the Barclays U21 Premier League match between Manchester City U21 and Tottenham Hotspur U21 at The Academy Stadium on August 14, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) Getty Images

    After finishing second in its group thanks to a 3-1 win over the Netherlands, Herzog’s Yanks toppled England’s U-20 team this summer. Now: the U-21s.

  11. Spain’s Del Bosque says De Gea’s Euro spot in trouble without playing time; Speaks on Chelsea’s Costa

    Sep 2, 2015, 12:31 PM EDT

    Manchester United's goalkeeper David De Gea of Spain arrives at Soccer City training facility for a Spanish soccer team concentration meeting in Las Rozas, near Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. The day after De Gea's multi-million euro move to the Spanish capital was called off, Madrid pointed the finger at United, issuing a lengthy 10-point statement claiming officials at Old Trafford held the deal up with their delays, but United hit back at their old rivals by publishing a counter-statement on Tuesday evening. (AP Photo) AP

    “He needs to be professional and move on from this episode,” Del Bosque said of the Manchester United keeper.

  12. Arsenal’s Ozil says he’d play in Olympics; Joachim Low doubts it very much

    Sep 2, 2015, 11:29 AM EDT

    FBL-WC-2014-MATCH45-USA-GER Getty Images

    Unified Germany hasn’t medaled since 1964 in Tokyo (Bronze). East Germany won gold in 1976.

  13. No Arsenal big Deadline buy? Wenger says price for Martial “sums it up all the way”

    Sep 2, 2015, 11:12 AM EDT

    LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09:  Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal reacts on the touchline during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on August 9, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) Getty Images

    “The Financial Fair Play today is too complicated to be efficient,” said the Premier League’s longest-tenured manager. “There’s a need to simplify the process.”

  14. European qualifiers preview: Netherlands, Spain, Germany in unusual positions (full schedule)

    Sep 2, 2015, 10:38 AM EDT

    (L-R) Arjen Robben of Holland, Birkir Bjarnason of Iceland during the EURO 2016 qualifying match between Iceland and Netherlands on October 13, 2014 at the Laugardalsvollur National Stadium at Reykjavik, Iceland.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Some of Europe’s biggest sides find themselves in tricky positions ahead of the final four group stage matches of qualification.

  15. $10 million Gradel set for six-month Bournemouth absence after ligament tear

    Sep 2, 2015, 9:24 AM EDT

    Bournemouth's Max Gradel battles for the ball with Aston Villa's Micah Richards, right,  during their English Premier League match at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, England  Saturday Aug. 8, 2015. (John Walton/PA via AP)  UNITED KINGDOM OUT  NO SALES NO ARCHIVE AP

    Bournemouth took a big hit on transfer deadine day, but it had nothing to do with sales or purchases.

  16. Transfer window by the numbers: The Premier League breaks its records

    Sep 2, 2015, 8:47 AM EDT

    watfordfc.com watfordfc.com

    Let’s dig into the figures, at least in terms of the 20 Premier League clubs, including the controversial amount of players on loan from Chelsea.

  17. U.S., Swiss attorney generals to give joint press conference on FIFA investigation

    Sep 2, 2015, 8:16 AM EDT

    U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch listens to East Haven Police Chief Brent Larrabee, left, speak during a community policing tour, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in East Haven, Conn. Lynch is in Connecticut to highlight improvements in relations between police and Latinos since four officers were arrested in 2012 on abuse charges. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) AP

    We’re just a few weeks away from further information on the strength of the cases against Sepp Blatter’s FIFA.

  18. VIDEO: Could Manchester United and Real Madrid benefit from the De Gea deal collapsing?

    Sep 1, 2015, 10:08 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-ARSENAL Getty Images

    If both sides really wanted to make this transfer happen, they could have. Is it possible neither team wanted the deal to get done?

  19. VIDEO: Manchester City has spent more than $500 million under Manuel Pellegrini

    Sep 1, 2015, 9:37 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptnjmtjlmtrmyznjyjzkyziwmwm1owmzndhiogfmnmiz AP

    Based on the Citizens’ form to start the season, it looks like money well spent.

  20. Arsenal Supporters’ Trust issues statement calling for review of club’s transfer policies

    Sep 1, 2015, 9:08 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    After spending just $20 million this summer on a goalkeeper and a teenager, Arsenal fans want to know what’s going on in the boardroom.