Juve still the team to beat at the Viareggio Tournament
The ‘Coppa Carnevale’ is now at the semi-final stage and defending champions Juventus are still proving the team to beat.
The Bianconeri have eased into a last four berth after some scintillating displays throughout the opening ten days of the competition. Striker Ciro Immobile has wowed tournament onlookers with some devastating performances including a hat-trick in the last-16 match against Cesena.
He tops the competition goal-scoring charts with six goals and is surely set to become a real star for La Vecchia Signora. The youngster has already had a taste of top-flight football this season with a couple of substitute appearances for recently dismissed tactician Ciro Ferrara. Over the next 12 months, he looks set to announce himself onto the World stage.
The tournament has been full of surprises, none more so than that of the team of amateurs representing Serie D, Italy’s fifth tier. After finishing second in their qualifying group, Roberto Polverelli’s men completely turned the tournament on its head, disposing of Genoa in the round of 16, and then incredibly knocking out Torino on penalties in the quarter-finals. The amateurs now face Empoli in Saturday’s semi-final with the whole of Viareggio behind them.
Empoli arrive at the last four stage thanks to a 2-1 win over Tuscan neighbours Fiorentina in the quarter-finals. Prior to that, Ettore Donati’s men put paid to highly fancied Roma’s hopes after a nerve wracking penalty shoot-out at the last 16 stage.
The semi-final quartet is completed by Atalanta who came through a tense quarter-final against current Primavera Champions Palermo. A brilliant free kick in extra time from Manolo Gabbiadini sealed the game for the Nerrazzurri to set up a mouth-watering tie against Juventus.
There have been some major upsets in the 62nd edition of the Coppa Carnevale. The round of the last 16, whilst sealing Roma’s fate, also saw the end of Inter Milan, AC Milan and Napoli - teams many thought would arrive at the quarter-final stage.
Of the overseas challengers only Club Nacional arrived at the knock out phase. The Uruguayans were involved in one of the most bizarre incidents witnessed at a football match in their final group game against Sampdoria. With the Italians leading 2-0, the referee abandoned the contest at half-time due to the fact that some of the South American players were suffering the effects of a brutally cold day in Pistoia.
Four of the Nacional side had to be taken to hospital suffering from hypothermia and the tournament organisers decided to replay the match a couple of days later. The decision incensed Sampdoria officials who refused to play the rescheduled game protesting that they should have been awarded the match due to the fact that the Uruguayans could not complete the fixture. The outcome was that Club Nacional was awarded the game 3-0 and went through to the knock-out phase at the expense of Samp. A truly bizarre episode.
The tournament has produced some wonderful football so far and has given us the first real glimpses of some stars of the future. Immobile’s considerable talents have already been well documented and he is joined by Stefano Pettinari of Roma, whose four goals helped his side into the last 16 and whose absence in the match against Empoli through suspension was a major factoring their elimination.
Giacomo Beretta, the AC Milan hotshot, smashed in an opening day hatrick against Leme Futebol Club and then collected another match ball on matchday two against hosts Esperia Viareggio.
And Empoli goalkeeper Paride Addario, whose exploits in the penalty shoot-out against Roma broke Giallorossi hearts and propelled his team into the last eight.
So, as the Coppa Carnevale enters the finishing straight, can anyone halt the seemingly unstoppable Bianconeri?
Juventus v Atalanta
Repp Serie D v Empoli