A few years ago, back when I used to play football, our coach usually said that you didn’t have to feel ashamed of a poor result if you knew that you played to the maximum of your abilities. Sometimes you just face a better team, it happens, as long as we don’t beat ourselves and give it our all we can hold our head high, no matter the result.
Generally, this was good advice, but it also bears mentioning that our team was terrible, absolutely ghastly, so we lost a heck of a lot more than we won. It probably had a lot to do with the fact we lacked athleticism, technique and general footballing ability. We once lost 11-0 and it legitimately should have been more.
So, after the game, when we had our usual post-game meeting on Mondays. The question was often, “Did we beat ourselves? Or is the other team so much better than us, that they made us play badly?”
It had no bearing in the result, of course, but mentally it sure made a difference. It’s the difference between the optimism that comes from just having a bad day and knowing that if you had woken up on the right side of the bed, the game was there for the taking. And the despair of knowing that, barren a miracle in which I crash into Cristiano Ronaldo and for unexplained reasons I switch bodies and abilities with the guy, there is nothing on God’s green earth that is going to make our team beat those guys.
In the match against Tottenham, one that ended in a 2-2 draw, Juventus was somehow on both sides of the scale.
If you were so inclined, it is quite easy to make the case that Juventus could have secured a better result, that this was just the result of bad luck and a couple of bad plays by good players.
If Gonzalo Higuain scored that second penalty, it’s 3-1 going to the locker room. If Giorgio Chiellini doesn’t get cheaply dispossessed on the first goal. If Gianluigi Buffon plays Christian Eriksen’s free kick the way he usually does, that’s an easy save.
Paulo Dybala and Blaise Matuidi were out, Tottenham’s defense is fairly mediocre, on a better day Higuain and Miralem Pjanic nail that counter, Douglas Costa was coming off a knock, so he probably wasn’t at his top form.
Tuesday’s result was very clearly just an unlucky day for our boys, no biggie, 180-minute tie.
You could also see that game and conclude that Tottenham is simply a faster, better, younger and hungrier team than Juventus.
Outside of the first 10 minutes of the match, in which Juve lucked out with a tight offsides call for the first goal, Spurs absolutely dominated the match. They completely dictated the pace of the game and nullified Juventus’s midfield. Spurs had chances early on, seemingly at will, with only last gasp tackles by the Juventus defense saving them from the score. The trusty 4-2-3-1 formation that the Bianconeri rode into the Champions League final last year sounded nice in theory, but Sami Khedira and Pjanic do not have the muscle or pace to hold the midfield against a team like Tottenham. Harry Kane’s opener felt more like a formality, an eventuality rather than an aberration originating from a mistake.
Chiellini was trying to make 50-yard passes from the back since there was no other opportunity for any sort of build up against the brutally effective Tottenham press, the team is so thin on depth that in a crucial Champions League match at home the only answers from the bench were Kwadwo Asamoah, Rodrigo Bentancur and Stefano Sturaro, the Lifetime Achievement Award winner of “Why is he still on the squad? How is he in the game right now? I guess he did boss Real Madrid that one time in 2015, maybe he plays like that again?” and then never does.
The mentality was not there, the formation was not there, and the ambition was not there. Is Juve supposed to just waltz into a sure to be packed Wembley next March and somehow get the result — playing like this? This reeks of the Bayern Munich tie of a couple years back, and we all remember how that one ended up.
We finished my last season in the football team 0-10-1, turns out we were not beating ourselves, we just sucked. As far as I’m concerned, this Juventus team does not suck, they have shown time and time again that they can play a better game than what we saw on Tuesday.
Hopefully for the return leg Juventus start with the 4-3-3, which has given them better results this season. Maybe Matuidi is back, maybe Allegri gets his incriminating pictures back from Khedira because for the life of me I can’t find a reason why he is still an indisputable starter on this team and hey, a certain Argentinean dynamo with the No. 10 on his shirt should be fit by March.
Allegri and the squad have a couple weeks to figure out if today was just a bad day at the office or if this is the beginning of the end of another unsuccessful European campaign.