Not much has gone right for Juventus this season, on and off the pitch. However, the Bianconeri turned in a fighting performance full of vim and vigor in the Coppa Italia Final to outfox an attacking Atalanta side and pull out a 2-1 result, Pirlo’s second trophy of the season where they’ve capitulated in the Scudetto race and been dumped out of the Champions League by inferior opposition.
On the day he turned 42, he spoke after the game, crediting his side for putting in the kind of effort we haven’t seen often enough this season.
“It was a wonderful game with two great teams who fought from start to finish. It was worthy of the Final and also for these wonderful fans, so we are happy we were able to give them a great night.
“We wanted to win, to bring home this trophy, despite it not being a positive season. We came back together, got it into our heads that this was an important objective. We beat great teams in the semi-final [Inter Milan] and final [Atalanta], so Juventus deserved this trophy.”
Federico Chiesa banged in the winning goal with Paulo Dybala already standing by the fourth official ready to replace him.
“We were about to take him off when he scored, that’s football for you. Not everyone has scored a decisive goal in a Cup Final, so it’s great for him.”
While they looked like they were weathering the pressing storm of Atalanta in the first half, in the second half Juve looked like a much more efficient machine in the second and Gasperini’s side had no answer for Pirlo’s side.
“Juan Cuadrado was a little too deep in the first half, but I told him to be more ferocious on Gosens and Weston McKennie to attack their centre-back. We did it in the second half and it all went much better.”
Juve’s fate is dependent on their rivals with them needing either of AC Milan (vs Atalanta) or Napoli (vs Hellas Verona) to slip up while they have to beat Bologna in the last matchday of the season.
“We wouldn’t be here talking about fifth place and a premature Champions League exit if it had been a totally positive season. There were ups and downs, these two trophies cannot cancel that out.
“For my first season, I have learned a great deal and then found these satisfactions that are very gratifying.
“We always tried to build with three from the back, then at times we’d have two centre-backs and a midfielder, at times three, it depended on the opponent.
“The regret is that we dropped points against teams who on paper were supposed to be easier to beat. Now we go into the final round and know it’s not all in our hands.”
Ironically enough, their defeated opponent in the final could do them a favor by beating Milan.
“We are confident everyone will play to the death, Atalanta, Bologna and Verona, which is as it should be.”
Pirlo, as has become customary now, was asked if he thought he would still be coach of this side next season.
“Of course I would confirm myself in this role. I’ve loved football since I was a child and will continue to love it. The club will decide, but I love coaching, I love this club, and we’ll see what is decided. I would like to continue.”
As a player he lifted this very trophy with both Milan and then Juventus, Pirlo talked about what was different as a coach while throwing shade at the tabloid media that has had their focus trained on him since day one.
“It’s more difficult as a coach than a player. Sometimes you call the players and they can’t hear you, or you can see things from the sidelines that they cannot in the game. I still feel like running on and playing!
“The lads have always been behind me 100 per cent and that’s very satisfying for a coach, no matter what the gossip says in the papers.”