Games like this are what makes soccer great. It doesn’t really matter how you play, just that you score.
For the vast majority of this game, Juventus were the better side. In the opening two minutes, Federico Bernardeschi — in one of his rare starts — slipped a beautiful ball to a streaking Gonzalo Higuain, who wasn’t able to bury the chance, although it was exponentially juicier than the ones he deposited at San Siro a few weeks ago.
There were other chances. Lots of them, in fact. At one point, Juan Cuadrado was staring Emiliano Viviano in the whites of his eyes, and decided to blast the ball. In the second half, when the Bianconeri were down just 1-0 and Sampdoria were — impressively, it must be said — pressing wildly, knowing that one (or two, as it turns out) wouldn’t be enough to bury the six-time defending champions, a corner kick for the hosts sprung a Juve counter attack in which, once again, Juve’s No. 9 and Colombian right winger connected for what turned out to be a two-on-one situation. They did not convert.
Judging by the first 60 minutes, Sampdoria didn’t really “deserve” the game, but “deserve” doesn’t matter. Like life, soccer is a game in which luck, pure fortune, is not just a factor, but rather the crux of the matter. Unlike basketball, or American football, in which scoring opportunities are many times more frequent, soccer hinges on just a few plays the entire game.
Juve then grew reckless, marking became a wistful pastime, and Sampdoria capitalized. These days, Allegri’s side doesn’t have the defense — or discipline — to withstand missed opportunities.
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- Duvan Zapata is strong. Stephan Lichtsteiner is less strong.
- It has to be said: Juve’s black and white jerseys are still so good-looking. Like, every time we wear them, I just am so stoked at how good they look. That big black block on the back is, for me, what makes ’em, and goodness gracious they look just as good in long sleeve.
- The Kwadwo Asamoah/Alex Sandro left back situation is pretty great, certainly better than the Swiss Menace/Mattia De Sciglio/WTF at right back, and the Ghanaian played exceptionally well on Sunday (fight me!) save for a botched clearance. That botched clearance, of course, led the way to another botched clearance: this time from F3D3, who surely decided to momentarily don the cape of Juve defensive superantics, and someone placed the ball perfectly for the big Sampdoria striker. Yay!
- One time I went to Genova and I packed like seven peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and spent the whole day there. I took the early train from Porta Nuova in Turin and I went to the aquarium, ate some pasta with clams in it, wandered around the city and the various piers, on into sunset, and then went back to Turin. It was a very lovely day and the aquarium was very nice; Juventus typically does not enjoy the city as much as I did.
- But I’ve got some good news (or terrible news, depending on how you see things): Juve’s next five games are not easy. Barcelona, Crotone, Napoli, Olympiacos, and Inter. Fun!
Onto the awards (“awards”):
Nietzsche's Horse Award
For the player whose play demonstrated an insanity indicative of serious decline in form.
Sami Khedira is worst Juventus midfielder, right? I mean, not counting Stefano Sturaro, and assuming a healthy Claudio Marchisio, I would literally rather have everyone on the pitch before the venerable German. Miralem Pjanic? Of course. Blaise Matuidi? Yep. Rodrigo Bentancur? Most definitely. Healthy Claudio? He’s a golden god of beauty. Like Danny said, Sami is probably a super duper nice guy. Remember when he bought all those kids tickets in Stuttgart tickets for the German national team game? So nice!
But he is no longer nice in the midfield, his hat trick against Udinese notwithstanding. He made one very compelling offensive movement on Sunday on the left wing (?), but everything else was extremely not good. On the bright side, if he keeps it up, we’ll be able to call this the “Sami Khedira” award.
Brief transfer digression: If Juventus can get one of Emre Can, Leon Goretzka, or Sergej Milinković-Savić, I think Max Allegri would be a pretty happy man with a side imposing enough to be counted as a Champions League contender (assuming the defense gets fixed).
Do I think Juve will get one of those guys? Probably not. But, hey, a guy’s gotta hope.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
It’s funny: Paulo Dybala’s searing start to the season, coupled with Higuain’s early struggles — I mean, he had a two-game bad streak, I think — made us forget about Pipita. (There were legitimate cries for Mario Mandzukic permanently taking the big Argentine’s job!) But during this recent stretch of games, Higuain has been magnificent.
Again impeccable against Sampdoria, he did everything but score. The hold-up play was consistent and effective, he did a pretty darn good job of both pushing forward in the center, and he also sent some pretty dazzling passes. He just didn’t score. And, you know what, the center backs in blue did a pretty good job marking him.
As a wise man once said: “Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.”