Fans were perhaps right to wonder why Andrea Poli was getting a start. However Jeremy Menez gave something to celebrate early on. A passing play involving Riccardo Montolivo and Giacomo Bonaventura was finished off well by the Frenchman. The first half was otherwise ok. Early in the second half Bonaventura headed in a Pablo Armero cross to double the lead. As in the first goal the Napoli defence didn’t exactly enhance their reputation. Minutes later Adil Rami was subbed out due to injury but Milan played well and Diego Lopez did well when called upon.
A win and three potentially crucial points heading to Rome for the final match before the holiday break.
Read more about the game in the forums
Riccardo Montolivo got his first start of the season after being a sub last game. The defense featured Daniele Boneera again and as feared he had a hand in Genoa’s first goal. A corner wasn’t well marked and Luca Antonelli headed into the corner of the net. The first half was otherwise uneventful with the final ball missing and not much in terms of execution. The second was no different, tactics and purpose seemed to be missing. Andrea Poli and Giampaolo Pazzini replaced Montolivo and Keisuke Honda and that didn’t make much of a difference. Later M’Baye Niang was a somewhat surprise sub for Stephan El Shaarawy. It seemed that Pippo Inzaghi ran out of options both literally and figuratively and just decided to throw the unused Niang. A poor game with all players underperforming … more about the game in its forum thread
Many years ago as Michel Platini started up the ladder of European and World football first as coach then as organizer of World Cup 1998 many speculated and expressed positive hopes that Platini might eventually succeed Sepp Blatter at FIFA. Times passed and as history has recorded he decided against running for the FIFA job and instead ran against and replaced Lennart Johansson at UEFA. His image was and has remained a clean one, especially compared to the many tainted faces at FIFA and football federations the world. His promises as he campaigned for the UEFA job were inclusive and hinted at a bigger role or chance for Europe’s minnows or small nations. The Europa League was a rebrand of sorts early on and was met with indifference with most. It reshaped the previous UEFA Cup and was to be often dismissed as second class by sponsors, top coaches and teams.
Next, Platini led the charge for another set of changes. The first was the expansion of the European Championship to 24 teams. The World Cup had already shown the absurdity of having 24 teams as it involved third placed teams qualifying for later rounds in a less than obvious format. In UEFA’s case the format was not the only cause for negative reactions but the number itself meant that a hefty 44% (24/54) member teams qualified for a final tournament. A much too big a number that rendered the qualification process less meaningful and at first try in 2014 is already showing its effects with odd qualifying results.
All this was in line with Platini’s “inclusive” promise. He is giving smaller national teams more chances at the big match and participation in bigger events like the Euro finals itself.
Around the same time UEFA presented the idea of having a European Championship held in several countries. Turkey was close to grabbing hosting rights for the 2020 edition but complications and Platini came up with a spread up championship. One can presume an expanded tournament lowers the number of countries capable of hosting a tournament all by themselves therefore arguably that counts as another negative for a 24 team Euro. After all was said and done 13 venues were selected to stage matches and by football standards the list included a few from smaller hosts. Baku Azerbaijan being one example with it set to host a quarter final.
Fast forward to December 2014 and the latest idea truly deserves the confusing term. The UEFA Nations League is the latest reshape of national team calendar and the often maligned friendly fixtures.
In the UEFA Nations League the 54 UEFA members will be divided into groups or divisions based on recent results to play each other on international friendly dates. The complication starts when the format is to be explained, it is as follows and the first edition starts in September 2018:
- Countries are divided into 4 divisions – 12 teams, 12 teams, 14 teams, 16 teams – with the top countries in group A.
- Each division will be divided into four pools of three or four therefore each team will play four or six matches within their pool and division.
- There will be a relegation and promotion between divisions.
- The games will run from September to November and a final four in June of the following year to determine a winner.
- There will be an incentive as teams doing well here will be involved in a playoffs for four spots in the European Championships (starting with Euro 2020), one team from each division will qualify for the Euros.
It is perhaps best to just look at the graphic below!
The fixture list is full with the clubs being most responsible for providing no meaningful rest to players who in turn get burnt out and injured more easily. UEFA, led by Platini, has added layers of confusing formats and competitions which while not without a beneficiary – the aforementioned smaller teams for example – are not helping keep the simple game as beautiful as it has been.
With injuries meaning Ignazio Abate and Alex not yet ready Adil Rami and Philippe Mexes started at the back and Pablo Armero got a rare start against his old team. Back from suspension Daniele Bonera got the captain’s armband and started at right back. Early possession was mainly Milan’s and the score should have been 1-0 in the 17th minute when Rami headed in from a corner but the goal line ref’s view was obstructed by Orestis Karnezis in the Udinese goal. This was one more instance where goal line technology was needed. Jeremy Menez and Honda in particular came close to giving the lead more than once during the half.
The possession and half chances continued in the second half. The goal finally came from a penalty, Menez easily converted after Honda was held back in the area. Arguably harshly, the defender, Maurizio Domizzi, was also sent off. Minutes later Michael Essien got a second yellow for a hand on face. The 10 vs 10 game soon produced another goal as Menez ran through several defenders and shot in the near side. Late on Riccardo Montolivo made his first appearance of the season having been out since before the World Cup.
Read more about the game in the forum
Unfortunately the contest didn’t reach its goal and is now closed. A new and better way to win is coming in 2015.
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Thank you, Forza Milan
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Daniele Bonera suspended, Alex and Ignazio Abate carrying injuries and Pippo Inzaghi’s apparent complete mistrust of Pablo Armero meant Adil Rami started as right back and the starting defense featured Philippe Mexes getting a rare start and given the captain’s arm band! In front of them Nigel De Jong had not yet recovered and therefore Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari started. The latter almost gifted an early goal as he gave away the ball without any pressure only for Diego Lopez to stop Mauro Icardi’s low shot.
The goal came when Stephan El Shaarawy’s low cross was well diverted into the far side by Jeremy Menez. Inter’s equaliser arrived when Obi shot through legs and into the far corner. A full stretched Lopez was unable to stop the ball. An invisible Fernando Torres was replaced by Keisuke Honda and then Andrea Poli came on for Muntari, in between El Shaarawy had a very good chance to regain the lead but his shot over Handanovic hit the cross bar. Chances and good plays were rare and the derby finished ranking as one of the least memorable.
More about the game in the forum
Japan’s Toyo Tires is one of Milan’s newer premium sponsors. The partnership started last spring and in this new video (with a surprise ending!) Menez, Montolivo, Rami and Honda race a “PROXES T1 Sport” Toyo Tires equipped Audi R8 in the streets of Milan in a bid to get to Casa Milan first.
Toyo Tires was founded in Osaka, Japan in 1945 and now has a world wide presence. The “PROXES T1 Sport” model of tires are made to provide control and balance in both dry and wet conditions, in any kind of road or turn. The tires’ performance is on display in the video below.
Milan 0-2 Palermo
Zapata OG 23 Dybala 26
A home loss with little offered and a horror first half only barely salvaged by Diego Lopez. The midfield offered little, Jeremy Menez worryingly poor again and Cristian Zapata, a very early sub for injured Alex, only made it easier for the visitors. An own goal off his head and another a result of just about poor everything. More about the game in the forum match thread