Even though things have been awfully quiet so far this summer, there are signs that life is picking up. Preseason training has started and some, though not all, Juventus players that played in the European Championships or Copa América are returning from their late summer breaks.
The anticipation is building ahead of The Return of the
King Max, so let’s see what happened in July.
The quarter finals of the European Championships started in July. Switzerland, still riding the emotional high of knocking out reigning world champions France on penalties in the previous round, faced Spain in the first quarter final. The game went to penalties again after Xherdan Shaqiri canceled out Denis Zakaria’s early own-goal and the teams failed to score any other goals for the rest of the game. Spain progressed to the semi-finals after winning the shootout 3-1.
Italy edged Belgium 2-1 in a very entertaining and highly technical game in Munich. Nicolò Barella and Lorenzo Insigne scored for Italy, though Romelu Lukaku’s penalty in stoppage time of the first half meant that the Italians had to battle it out for the rest of the game (unfortunately one Italian player wasn’t quite ready for the battle). Elsewhere, England turned on the style by thrashing Ukraine 4-0 thanks to goals from Harry Kane (2), Harry Maguire, and Jordan Henderson.
In the fourth quarter final, Denmark beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in a wonderfully entertaining game between two of the surprise teams of the tournament. Thomas Delaney and Kasper Dolberg (after a phenomenal assist from Joakim Maehle) put the Danes 2-0 ahead in the first half. Patrik Schick, one of the players of the tournament, halved the deficit soon after the break and led a spirited Czech comeback, but it wasn’t enough as the Danes won 2-1 and progressed to the next round.
We were set for yet another penalty shootout in the semifinals. Italy and Spain played out a high quality 1-1 draw which the Spaniards dominated but Italy battled through with great spirit. Chiesa continued his fantastic tournament with a stunning goal to put Italy ahead, but Morata scored a lovely team goal to equalize 10 minutes before the final whistle. Italy won the shootout 4-2.
Denmark pushed England to the limit in the other semi-final. Mikkel Damsgaard scored a marvelous freekick to open the scoring, but England equalized through Simon Kjaer’s own goal in the 39th minute. The game went to extra time and seemed to be heading to penalties before Dutch referee Danny Makkelie awarded England a dubious penalty in the 104th minute.
Kasper Schmeichel saved Kane’s penalty but the striker scored the rebound after it came straight back to him. England’s 2-1 victory ensured that they would play in their first major final in 55 years.
Then came the big day: Sunday, July 11, 2021; Wembley Stadium, London; Italy versus England.
England started the final in irresistible fashion as Luke Shaw scored the opener in less than two minutes. Gareth Southgate comprehensively won the tactical battle in the first half as Italy were completely out of sorts in the opening period.
But the Italians fought back admirably in the second half. Mancini made a crucial tactical switch to a three-man backline and made the front three more dynamic by replacing the ineffective Ciro Immobile with Domenico Berardi. This put England on the back foot and Italy in the driver’s seat as Gli Azzurri thoroughly dominated the rest of the game..
Italy clinched the equalizer in scrappy fashion as Bonucci bundled in a corner in the second half. The game went to extra time and, finally, to penalties where player-of-the-tournament Gianluigi Donnarumma was the hero after saving two penalties. Italy beat England 3-2 on penalties to ensure that after years of demise and a dark period for Italian national football, Italy deservedly won the Euro 2020 Championships.
Italy is back.
Brazil edged Chile 1-0 in the first Copa América quarter final, despite Gabriel Jesus being sent off for an absolutely horrific foul on Eugenio Mena. Then Perú and Paraguay played arguably the most entertaining game of the tournament in a cracking 3-3 draw. Paraguay's Gustavo Gómez was the game’s pivotal player after scoring one, scoring an own goal, then getting two yellow cards in six minutes in a manic 35-minute phase in the first-half.
Andre Carrillo also received his second yellow card a few minutes before the end of the game to ensure that both teams would end it with 10 men. Copa América knockout games go straight to penalties in the case of a draw after fulltime and in this case Perú edged Paraguay 4-3 to progress to the semifinals.
The third quarter final ended in a 0-0 draw between Colombia and Uruguay. In the penalty shootout, Colombia prevailed 4-2 after Matias Vina and José Giménez missed their penalties for Uruguay while Colombia scored all four of theirs. Argentina booked their place in the semi-final after brushing aside Ecuador 3-0. Goals came from Atlético Madrid-bound Rodrigo De Paul, Lautaro Martinez, and Lionel Messi.
Argentina faced Colombia in a feisty, foul-ridden semifinal. The game went to yet another penalty shootout after Luis Diaz canceled out Lautaro Martinez’s early goal and it ended 1-1 in normal time. Argentina won the shootout 3-2 and progressed to the final to face eternal rivals Brazil, who beat Perú 1-0 thanks to Lucas Paqueta's 35th-minute goal.
The dream final was, as expected, another tight, physical, and feisty game full of fouls (41 in total) and emotion. Argentina edged it thanks to Angel Di María’s 22nd minute goal after man-of-the-match Rodrigo de Paul’s excellent assist. Argentina deservedly won the game, thus winning a record-equaling 15th Copa América trophy, and Messi finally, finally won his first international trophy with Argentina.
News of the World
Just like last month, there were a whole bunch of news tidbits in the Juventus world that ranged from semi-interesting to Mad Max interesting:
- Federico Cherubini has officially replaced Fabio Paratici as Chief Football Officer and conducted his first press conference early in the month, in which he didn’t exactly say things that Juventini wanted to hear.
- Speaking of first (sorta) press conferences, Max Allegri had his second first press conference as Juventus boss. If you don’t have time to watch the replay, our very own Sergio Romero analyzed every syllable of Max’s words.
- The Manuel Locatelli saga continues as nobody has the faintest idea about where he’ll be playing next season. No really, nobody knows.
- But an old friend of ours might be coming back.
- Elsewhere, Giorgio Chiellini is close to signing a new contract with Juventus. (He has since done so.)
- But then again, Dybala has been one week away from signing a new contract since last year, so I’m not getting my hopes up.
- The Serie A fixture schedule for the 2021-22 season is live and the first few games are very interesting. Thankfully, clubs are allowed to host in the stadiums, although each stadium can fill no more than 50% of its capacity each matchday.
- SIMONE PADOIN, THE REAL MVP, HAS RETURNED! REJOICE!
- Arthur Melo faces yet another injury setback. He had surgery a few weeks ago to repair a niggling injury and will be out of action until at least the end of October.
- Coming off a fantastic Euro 2020 campaign for Italy, the rest of the continent now knows how great Federico Chiesa is. Thankfully, Juventus rejected Liverpool’s €100 million bid for the Italian superstar.
- Gianluca Frabotta might have joined Atalanta, but now he’s headed to Hellas Verona on loan for a season while Marko Pjaca has joined Torino for yet another loan as he desperately tries to revive his dwindling career.
- Juventus has supposedly agreed contract terms with the 19-year-old Brazilian striker Kaio Jorge of Santos, although Santos weren’t happy about this.
- Even though it’s almost certain that Cristiano Ronaldo will be staying at Juventus, BWRAO writer Sergio Romero argued that it might be time for the Ronaldo era to end.
Since Juventus Women were also enjoying a well-deserved summer vacation, there wasn’t a lot of new to report from their camp either.
Lisa Boattin extended her contract with Juventus through 2023 while Benedetta Glionna has left Juventus to join Roma. As part of the Glionna deal, Agnese Bonfantini of Roma joins the Bianconere on a three-year contract. Juventus also signed its new starting goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin from Atlético de Madrid as she also reunites with her former manager Joe Montemurro. She replaces Laura Giuliani, who left to join AC Milan.
Speaking of managers, Montemurro gave his first press conference as new Juventus manager and shared some interesting thoughts on his vision for the team, his ambitions for the Champions League, how he wants his team to play, and his thoughts on women’s football in general.
Let’s hope that his first game in charge, a 12-0 friendly game victory over Maltese champion Birkirkara, is a sign of things to come in the Montemurro era!
ICYMI: Football’s First Black Heroes
July 2nd was the 105th anniversary of when Juan Delgado and Isabelino Gradín became became the first black footballers to play for a national team at an international football tournament. In case you missed it, I wrote an article in which I celebrated their legacy and told their story.