The International Champions Cup, as much as television networks try to build it up as some sort of glorified preseason tournament, is still just a regular old group of friendlies at the end of July and early August.
This was clearly evident in the way Juventus — and Benfica — started this match, specifically in the first half. Neither side was able to generate much of an attack, and Juve once again struggled in possession during the first 45 minutes. But, thanks to Luca Clemenza’s fantastic 84th-minute goal, Juve leveled the score and then won 4-2 on penalty kicks to remain undefeated in their United States tour this summer.
Max Allegri switched up the side that faced Bayern Munich a few days prior, but kept the same 4-3-3 that I’m sure we’ll see plenty of this season in the formation rotation. Wojciech Szczesny got his first start of the preseason in goal, replacing Mattia Perin. Young defender Pietro Beruatto got the start at left back, joined by Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli, and Joao Cancelo, starting at right back instead of further up the wing as was the case against Bayern. The three-man midfield consisted of Claudio Marchisio, Sami Khedira, and Miralem Pjanic, and the attacking trident was formed with Matheus Pereira, Federico Bernardeschi, and newly-minted goal-scoring superstar Andrea Favilli.
Benfica controlled the ball to start at a much higher clip than the bianconeri at Red Bull Arena, but couldn’t really get anything on goal. The first real chance came when Alejandro Grimaldo used a burst of pace on the left flank, but Cancelo was able to show off his strength and cut out the move. After showing his attacking prowess in the first match, Cancelo was able to display his defensive chops. Quickly after that, Cancelo found himself on the opposing half, where he whipped a ball back across goal to find Marchisio in the middle. Il Principino mishit the shot however, and it sailed just over the crossbar.
The defense for Juventus held tight for much of the first half thereafter, not allowing Benfica any space going forward in what was a pretty lackluster first 45 minutes. One miscue came when Mattia Caldara gave away the ball to Gedson Fernandes, who ran one on one at Szczesny, but pulled it wide right. Caldara quickly redeemed himself with perfect positioning on a Benfica corner though, and cleared the ball, making it look easy.
The only other solid chance in this phase of the match came off of, you guessed it, Cancelo’s boot. Curling the ball elegantly from the left, he just missed placing a goal in the far right of the net, hitting it over the crossbar.
After the first half ended scoreless, Juventus came out at least looking like they wanted to attack. On the left flank, Cancelo had a brilliant first touch, bringing the ball down with his head, before dribbling along the byline and shooting from a tight angle that was saved by Odisseas Vlachodimos. Two minutes later, Khedira found himself alone against Vlachodimos after the ball spilled through the Benfica backline, but for some reason attempted to chip the 24-year-old shot stopper, who made a great reaction save. Just a minute later, with the pace of play having picked up, Benfica earned a free kick. Franco Cervi bent a shot on net, but Perin, having replaced Szczesny, made the save.
The Portuguese side didn’t waste a free kick the next time, as Grimaldo curled a stunning free kick to the top-right corner that had Perin rooted to his spot, giving Benfica a 1-0 lead.
After being introduced into the match in the 72nd minute, Clemenza — the young Primavera product — had an instant impact. Four minutes after coming on, he took over free kick duties, and put in a glorious free kick to find the head of Medhi Benatia, who missed just a bit too high off the crossbar. Then, in the 84th minute, Clemenza showed off the skill that has made him so highly thought of, as he dazzlingly dribbled past TWO Benfica defenders with great aplomb. After opening up space, he lifted the ball perfectly with his left foot and placed it in the back of the net, bar down, tying up the match.
Clemenza stayed as the main threat, as in the 91st minute he just barely missed another chance, flying the ball too high over the goal. A flair would find its way onto the pitch, which would prove to be the last memorable moment of regulation.
In the ICC, draws after regular time go straight to a penalty shootout.
Keaton Parks and Nicolo Fagioli would both convert their chances, before Jonas would snuff his chance off the post. Emre Can wouldn’t make the same mistake, as he put away his kick. Andreas Samaris and Stefano Beltrame both scored their penalties, but in the next round, Perin would make a diving leg save on Joao Felix. From there, all Alex Sandro had to do was score his chance, and he did so cooly.
- Luca Clemenza: The young Italian did just about everything he possibly could to show his promise. Immediately after being subbed on, Clemenza caused havoc, and flashed his set piece artistry. Technical ability was also of a high standard, as he danced his way past two defenders, leading to his exquisite goal. It’ll probably be some time before we see Clemenza as a regular in the lineup, but if he continues to develop his skills, we have a real talent on our hands.
- Joao Cancelo: I really cannot stress enough how excited I am about this signing. Not only was Juventus able make sure he didn’t return to Inter, but he continues to excel in his first couple of performances. He has shown his attacking intelligence already, constantly creating chances for himself and others, and has blistering pace. If he can prove to be a competent defender coming back, watch out.
Juventus will take on the MLS All-Star team at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday. Old friend Sebastian Giovinco will meet up with his former team, while Juventus works to take down the best of Major League Soccer.