Fiorentina's Intercontinental Cup campaign kicked off in New Jersey last night with a sizable Viola Nation contingent in support. Unfortunately, Paulo Sousa's boys didn't win, although they did provide some sparkling moments against a French side that's been training together a couple weeks longer than they have.
In the first half, Niccolo Fazzi nearly opened the scoring in the 11th minute with a free kick that beat the wall and the keeper, but not the post, and Abdou Diakhate wasn't able to corral the rebound. Zlatan Ibrahimovic fired just wide from a Gregory van der Wiel cross, but the Dutch right-back's cross was tapped in by Blaise Matuidi in the 35th minute, who evaded the Fiorentina defense with ease. In the 41st, Matuidi released promising young striker Jean-Kevin Augustin, who neatly finished past Ciprian Tatarusanu with the defense nowhere to be seen.
The second half went a bit better for la Viola as they switched to a 4-3-3. The first chance fell to Ante Rebic, who fired well wide from a very promising spot. On the hour mark, Joaquin then uncorked a 25 yard bending thunderbastard to halve the deficit. Khouma Babacar then missed a one-on-one, but the real injustice occurred shortly afterwards, as Ante Rebic's nice finish was wrongly disallowed for offside.
PSG immediately hit back on the break, Ibrahimovic shaking Marcos Alonso in the box and easily finishing a cross from Lucas Moura. Augustin scored another in the 75th from distance that Luca Lezzerini could have done better with before Giuseppe Rossi forced a handball in the box and easily converted the penalty, ending the game on a high note.
Highlights (and lowlights)
PSG (4-3-3): Trapp (Sirigu 65); van der Wiel (Sabaly 65), Aurier, Kimpembe, Maxwell (Digne 76); Matuidi (Stambouli 65), Rabiot, Ongenda; Lucas, Ibrahimovic (Bahebeck 70), Augustin
Fiorentina (3-5-2): Tatarusanu (Lezzerini 73); Bagadur (Joaquin 59), Hegazy (Tomovic 58), Basanta (Gonzalo 58); Fazzi, Badelj (Valero 46), Vecino (Capezzi 73), Diakhate (Bernardeschi 46); Gomez (Babacar 46-73, Rossi 73), Rebic (Ilicic 73)
Three things we learned
1. It looks like we've got a full list of squad numbers. Some highlights are Joaquin taking David Pizarro's recently vacated 7, Vecino taking 8, Babacar spurning 9 in favor of 30, Hegazy taking 6 from Vargas, Rebic snagging 11, Sepe in 56 (?), Diakhate in 98, and (eeeeeeeeeeeeee) Federico Bernardeschi taking up number 10. With so many youngsters taking 1-11, it seems that Sousa's promises of a youth movement are true indeed.
2. The defense is... a work in progress. While Ricardo Bagadur looked shaky against Lucas, consensus is that he could make the jump at some point in the future. Ahmed Hegazy wasn't very convincing in the back line, though, and may be a candidate for another year on loan, or even a sale. Marcos Alonso had a rough day, getting schooled by Ibrahimovic for a goal and run ragged on the wing all day. The right side of the defense didn't fare much better. Fortunately, the club is selling defenders like crazy right now, so that's, um, comforting.
3. Possession? We don't got no possession. We don't need no possession. We don't got to show you any stinking possession. Seriously, though (and nothing is more serious than Humphrey Bogart), 27% possession is not super encouraging. PSG have been practicing longer, fielded a much more experienced side, and have a good deal of continuity together, but having the ball for less than a third of the game is unsettling, especially for Fiorentina fans used to seeing la Viola dominate that statistic. While nobody's expecting circa 2012 Barcelona-type passing, that's not great.
Well, now that that's over with, it's on to Benfica. Fiorentina takes on the Portuguese champions on Friday, July 24th, at 8 PM EST. The venue is the 40,000-seat Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, home of the UConn Huskies and also of 480 toilets and urinals.
Expect another mix of experience and youth from Sousa's boys, and maybe, just maybe, a positive result. Oh yeah, and ROSSI'S BACK KLJF;LKJADS;KLFJAS;KLJSDF!!!