Perhaps Juventus are not the juggernaut Italy’s Serie A thinks they are

Napoli's win in the Italian Super Cup might serve as a hopeful sign to 18 other teams in Serie A that Juventus can be confronted bravely, that their stamina, while impressive, is finite.
French midfielder Paul Pogba has carried Juventus many a match. Karim Jaafar / AFP
French midfielder Paul Pogba has carried Juventus many a match. Karim Jaafar / AFP

Perhaps the Italian Super Cup should take place in December every year.

Monday’s match between Juventus and Napoli, the champions and the Coppa Italia holders, had been delayed from August and rescheduled in Doha for the beginning of the winter break. It turned out an entertaining, warming way of bringing down the curtain on 2014.

Napoli won, albeit after an elongated penalty shootout, which might serve as a hopeful sign to 18 other teams in Serie A that Juventus can be confronted bravely, that their stamina, while impressive, is finite.

Napoli came from behind late in extra time to draw 2-2 and earn themselves the penalties. “It was an advertisement for Italian football, and it was a preparation for what we’ll see in the league,” said Aurelio De Laurentiis, the Napoli president.

Napoli, in third place, already trail Juventus by 12 points, and it would be far-fetched to imagine anybody other than Roma can really disrupt the champions’ route to a fourth successive championship.

At the summit of Serie A, 2014/15 has so far resembled the previous season, with an attractive Roma chasing an accomplished Juventus, spearheaded by Carlos Tevez, the leading scorer in Italy, with 10 goals.

In Doha, he scored Juve’s goals but then left a small reminder for the rest that he is not perfect: in the shootout, his spot kick banged off the post.

By the end of the drama, Napoli had their second trophy of the year, but Rafa Benitez’s team will still look back on 2014 with regrets. Their failure to make the Uefa Champions League group phase, having lost their play-off to Athletic Bilbao, did Italian football no favours, nor, earlier this month, did Roma’s falling short of qualification for the knockout phase of the same competition.

Roma will seethe for longer about some of the refereeing during their league defeat against Juventus. A different outcome and they would be level on points at the top.

Yet, Roma coach Rudi Garcia continues to enjoy his Serie A adventure and Italian football. He appreciates his side’s flair, speed and the enduring excellence of Francesco Totti. It has been a good few months for the ageless stars. Gianluigi Buffon, the Juventus goalkeeper, was agile and brilliant again in Doha.

But for some famous clubs, these are testing times. The two so-called giants of Milan look up the table and see a pair of clubs from the city of Genoa above them. Inter, in the bottom half, are a mere point above spirited Sassuolo. There is fascination in the fluid middle order of Serie A, but it also indicates a collective frailty in the Italian game.

sports@thenational.ae

Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 24, 2014 04:00 AM

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