All eyes on Tuscany for the ‘Coppa Carnevale’

By Steve Mitchell

The new league will be Italys top division

This Monday, the 62nd Viareggio Youth Football Tournament kicks off in the beautiful city of Viareggio, Italy.

Known as the ‘Coppa Carnevale’ due to the fact that it falls right in the middle of the city’s carnival season, the tournament has been graced by some of the world’s most famous players as they started on the road to stardom.

Since its inception in 1949, the competition has played host to some of the all-time greats. Dino Zoff, Giacinto Faccetti, Gaetano Scirea and Frances Totti are just a few of the home-grown talents who have participated in the competition. Sepp Maier, Gabriel Batistuta and Goran Pandev are an example of some of the overseas players who came to prominence in this Tuscan seaside extravaganza.

Italian clubs have dominated the tournament’s history with Fiorentina and AC Milan sharing top spot with eight victories apiece. Indeed, Milan were the first ever winners way back in 1949, beating Lazio in the final.

Outside of the host country, you need to look to the Czech Republic to find the team that has the most titles to their name. That honour goes to Dukla Prague with six wins, the last one being way back in 1980.

From a British perspective, Ipswich Town were runners up two years running in 1981 and 82. The last time the trophy left the peninsula was in 2006 when Uruguayan outfit Juventude beat Juventus in the final to take the crown back to South America.

This latest edition will feature 48 teams who will send their best young players to compete for the trophy in what has become the world’s biggest and best youth football tournament. The matches take place at various locations around the commune of Viareggio, and the stadiums will be awash with scouts from all over the world casting their experienced eyes on the talent on show.

As you would expect, Italian teams are heavily represented, and this year 28 club sides, plus a Serie D representative squad will embark on their quest to lift the trophy in two weeks time.

Unfortunately, this edition features no sides from the UK but Australia, China, Mexico, Brazil and even Sierra Leone are represented along with Serbia, Russia, Hungary, Paraguay, USA, Macedonia, Belgium, Poland, Macedonia, Latvia, The Czech Republic, Uzbekistan and Israel.

Viareggio provides a real diverse mix of footballing cultures. The competition format comprises of two sections, A and B, with six groups of four teams contained in each. The top team in each group will qualify for the last 16 alongside the four best runners up. Juventus are the current holders after their 4-1 victory over Sampdoria in last years final.

The Bianconeri will again start as one of the competition favourites alongside Inter Milan, AC Milan, Roma and Siena, who can call upon their marvellous youth academy at the Artemio Franchi.

The overseas challenge could be spearheaded by Anderlecht from Belgium, Gremio from Brasil or even Spartak Moscow from Russia. One thing that is for certain is that there will be some surprises along the way.

The tournament kicks off on Monday afternoon with the holders Juventus taking on Legia Warsaw from Poland in section A group one. The self titled “group of death” in the top half of the draw goes to group three which brings together Bologna, Torino and L.I.A.C of New York.

In section B, there is an intriguing scenario in group 11 which comprises of Lazio, Atalanta, Anderlecht and Pakhtakor FC from Uzbekistan whilst in group nine, hosts Esperia Viareggio will entertain AC Milan, Club Guarani from Paraguay and Leme Futebol Clube from Brazil. On Monday, Sampdoria striker Giampaolo Pazzini, who was born in the region, will officially open the tournament and lift the lid off the stars of tomorrow.

Keep up to date with all the developments from Viareggio right here at The Sport Review.

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