Here’s a list counting down my Top 5 best soccer moments in 2012 and my five worst soccer moments in 2012. Keep in my mind it is an Italo-centric list.
5. Italian Coaches Succeeding with EPL Clubs
Roberto Mancini won the EPL title with Manchester City and Roberto Di Matteo coached Chelsea to its first Champions League title. Mancini had to work with some of football's biggest hot-heads and even though most Chelsea players were used to Jose Mourinho's defensive methods for seasons ago, Di Matteo won the CL with the old-school Italian approach. For all the bad press the English media generates on Italian football, at least club presidents know that Italian coaches have good reputations, largely due to their tactical know-how and organizational skills.
4. Juventus’ Scudetto Win
As an ex-juventino, it was good to see Juve win the title. Despite an inconsistent attack, Antonio Conte found an even spread of goalscorers. Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal showed that they were capable of putting chances away, not just creating them. Gianluigi Buffon was great in goal again and Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini were rocks in defence. Stephan Lichtsteiner was a constant threat on the right side too. Most critics are usually keen to point out refereeing calls that favour Juve or that they have luck on their side. Conte’s team showed that they could play good football and they could put any team under pressure. Only the third team in Serie A history to go unbeaten in one season.
3. Sampdoria’s Return to Serie A
The Garrone family broke off nearly all the pieces from the team that finished fourth in the Serie A in 2009-10 as soon as they could, resulting in relegation in the following season. Despite winning 6-0 against newly-promoted Gubbio, Sampdoria’s season in Serie B was looking bleak under Gianluca Atzori. Giuseppe Iachini replaced Atzori, got rid of the disappointing Massimo Maccarone and Doria beat Sassuolo and Varese in the play-offs.
2. Italy’s Euro 2012 run
South Africa 2010 was a disaster for Italy and Cesare Prandelli had to rebuild the team. A new generation of players have come in and he has placed emphasis on a possession game. After a good qualifying campaign, the Azzurri had some poor results in the friendlies before Euro 2012 and had to deal with the calcioscommese scandal. When the tournament started, Prandelli didn’t have his best attack. Antonio Cassano was half-fit after heart surgery and Giuseppe Rossi had a knee injury. Once Euro 2012 started, things clicked for Prandelli and his men. Cassano ended up to doing well under the circumstances and the eccentric Mario Balotelli had some good performances. Andrea Pirlo was Italy’s star of the tournament, dictating the play and even scoring a splendid free-kick against Croatia. The Azzurri got an impressive draw against Spain and great wins against England and Germany in the knock-out stages. Defeat in the final didn’t do justice for the great run Italy had in Poland and Ukraine.
1. Italy v England at Euro 2012
The Azzurri won on penalties after a 0-0 draw but it was what happened during the 120 minutes that made the difference. Italy had enough chances to win the match in 90 minutes. If the goals came, it would have been the perfect result. Prandelli’s team played in an attacking manner and Pirlo stole the show in midfield. Roy Hodgson’s team was defensive and they even struggled to counter-attack. The English press have been calcio’s biggest critics for decades but they saw an Azzurri team making the most of its offensive talents and an English team playing in a stereotypically Italian manner. After this match and in particular, Pirlo’s passing master class, the English press and fans had to realise that their players needed to be more technical and know how to keep possession.
5. Del Piero's Time in Sydney
He has generated great publicity for the A-League and he has played well for Sydney. The rest of the team is not on the same wavelength though. The Sky Blues are on the bottom of the A-League, he hasn't got the right partner in attack and the Sydney defence is very leaky. If results don't improve under new coach Frank Farina, Del Piero might want to cut his stay in Australia short.
4. Mancini Failing in Europe
In domestic competitions, his record is impressive. European competition seems to be a different proposition for Roberto Mancini. He hasn’t reached the semi-finals of a European competition as a coach since he coached Lazio in the UEFA Cup in 2002-03. After finishing third in its Champions League group in 2011-12, Manchester City ended up on the bottom of its group this season. Mancini flopped at Inter in the CL and he is doing the same with the Mancunians. He always had stars at his disposal. What does he need to do to do well in Europe?
3. The Calcioscommese Scandal
Calciopoli six years ago was bad enough and now this scandal. Isn’t there too much bad press in Italy already? Most of the verdicts were ridiculous too. The people who got punished weren’t the culprits but the ones who failed to let the authorities know. Shouldn’t crimes be punished first, not cowardice?
2. Udinese Failing in Europe
Francesco Guidolin is an excellent coach but he keeps losing players every season. This is the common trend during Giampaolo Pozzo’s reign as Udinese’s patron. He sells of most his star players every season and his scouts and coaches constantly start from scratch. As a result, Udinese fail in the CL and then in the Europa League. The club is an embarrassment to calcio. The friulani have a good business model in place and do well in the Serie A but they need to keep some stars if they are to represent Italy again. For the greater good of Italian football, it would be better if Fiorentina, Napoli and the Roman and Milanese clubs make the European competitions in 2013-14.
1. Euro 2012 Final
This result clearly doesn’t reflect all the good work the Azzurri did before the final. Credit to Spain, who will go down as one of the greatest sides ever and they were fitter and fresher than Italy in the final. The 4-0 scoreline only shows that Spain was the better team on the day and the Spaniards’ finishing was better. The 1-1 draw in the group stage was a better representation of both sides.