All-Italian final fails to stir Europe's mediaPosted: Thursday May 29, 2003 6:57 PM
ROME (Reuters) -- AC Milan's Champions League final victory over Juventus left Europe's media wondering whatever happened to the so-called Italian renaissance.
"What a bore," moaned Spanish daily Marca on Thursday after 120 minutes of goalless football at Old Trafford the night before finished in a 3-2 win on penalties for Carlo Ancelotti's side.
"Give the Cup back [to Real Madrid]," continued the paper that earlier in the week had predicted a mind-numbing deadlock between two defensive teams.
Marca's told-you-so tone on the morning after was echoed by rival sports daily AS.
"They should prohibit two Italian teams from playing in a European final because, as [Johann] Cruyff has said, the presence of just one Italian team is a tragedy for football," it crowed.
Both were predictably sour reactions from papers that had attacked Juventus and Inter Milan for "undeserved" wins over Barcelona and Valencia in the quarterfinals of this season's competition.
Even the Italian press, however, could not help but scratch their head after the final, which they had billed as a crowning moment for the Italian game.
While the result, they admitted, represented a victory for individuals -- above all Milan president Silvio Berlusconi and coach Ancelotti -- it had failed to dispel Italy's image as the home of dull, defensive football.
"From now on it'll be difficult to argue with the aesthetes of football -- those who insist the true European final was last month's showdown between Real Madrid and Manchester United," commented La Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday.
"It will also revive our vociferous Spanish critics and sow doubt in England and France, where they had just started to celebrate Italy's footballing style."
The two teams' failure to score was especially disappointing, continued La Gazzetta, because they had started so promisingly, both seemingly committed to shaking off the old stereotypes with a display of fluid, attacking football.
"In front of 500 million people across the world, Juve and Milan freed themselves from the fear of losing," it said.
"The opening 15 minutes promised spectacle, excitement and fireworks, maybe a memorable match.
"But after 120 minutes it boiled down to penalties, which returned like a condemnation of Italian football."
Italy's last triumph in the Champions League -- by Juventus in 1996 -- was also achieved on penalties.
English reaction, meanwhile, was the most varied, ranging from boredom to incomprehension at the Italian way of playing football to polite applause.
"The Eurovision Pong Contest! Milan win stinker of an Old Trafford final," ran a strident headline in The Daily Mirror, which went on to describe the match as "a drab stalemate."
The Daily Express euphemistically branded it "a game for purists," but the Daily Mail was more appreciative, commenting: "This might have been billed as an encounter that could send its spectators to sleep, but it did anything but that."
The Guardian mustered the warmest praise.
"Juve and Milan came to Old Trafford to prove how attractive an impasse can be," it said -- hardly the compliment Italian football was fishing for, but a fitting coda to a anti-climactic end to the European competition.
Brazilians hail 'Saint Dida'
The Brazilian media praised AC Milan goalkeeper Dida on Thursday after he saved three penalties during the Champions League final shootout against Juventus on Wednesday.
The Folha de Sao Paulo ran the headline "Dida pushes Milan to the top of Europe" while both O Globo and the sports daily Lance labelled the Brazil international "Saint Dida."
"Saint Dida gives Milan their sixth European title" said O Globo, while Lance went for "In the hands of Saint Dida."
Dida, who was reserve to Marcos in Brazil's World Cup winning team last year, had a reputation as a penalty saver in his homeland before joining Milan.
One of his most famous saves was in a Copa America tie against Argentina in 1999, when Brazil won 2-1 and went on to win the competition.
His saves also helped Corinthians win FIFA's only Club World championship after another goalless final, against fellow Brazilian club Vasco da Gama, in 2000.
Apart from Dida's heroics, Brazilian media gave short shrift to the all-Italian final.
"Italy's biggest teams didn't want to take any risks in injury time," said the Estado de Sao Paulo. "They just passed the ball around and waited for penalties."
UEFA praises behavior of Italian fans
UEFA praised AC Milan and Juventus fans for their "fantastic" behavior at the all-Italian Champions League final at Old Trafford on Wednesday, saying they were a credit to their clubs and their country.
Almost 70,000 fans turned Manchester United's home ground into a venue more in keeping with a Serie A arena but there was no trouble whatsoever as Milan won the match 3-2 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes.
UEFA's Director of Communications Mike Lee said: "The fans were fantastic. Many thousands traveled and they behaved superbly.
"The support they gave their teams in the stadium was inspiring. Like the Scottish fans who went to see Celtic in Seville last week, the Italian fans showed you can enjoy a glass of wine, enjoy the football and show respect to each other and the city you are visiting.
"They helped make this a great occasion and we thank all those who came and gave such great support."
Ronaldo's verdict on final: 'Ugly and boring'
World and European player of the Year Ronaldo says he was unimpressed by the performance of Italy's AC Milan and Juventus in Wednesday's Champions League final.
"It was obviously no great spectacle," the Brazilian striker told a news conference on Thursday when asked for his verdict on Milan's penalty shootout victory over Juventus. The game had ended 0-0 after extra-time.
"The Italians are going to think that the Spanish are being critical of their style of play, but we all saw that it was a very ugly and boring final for the spectators," the former Inter Milan player said.
"The result says that Milan are now the best team in Europe, but we [Real] have shown that we play the prettiest football in Europe."
Real, who were knocked out of the competition at the semifinal stage by Juventus, have won the Champions League three times in the last five years.
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