Something Great

Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Found on Page 15b

I watched the highlights of the shootout again last night along with numerous SportsCenter showings and I began to feel this weird emotion - empathy. Not only is Terry crying (which I hadn't seen first time around) but his face and body language is one of complete devastation. "Oh wow," I thought. A twinge of sadness hit me and then I remembered all the mean things I wrote and long story short I just wanted to come out on record as saying I feel bad for the guy. Nobody deserved to be blamed, except maybe Anelka, and it sucks that a hero rarely emerges from PKs as opposed to the much likely goat. Consider this a retraction of any blame on Terry.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Post Game Interviews

Here is a post game interview I conducted with some of the players after the thrilling Champions League Final.

(Michael Carrick at the podium)

- What are you doing here?

Uh... I don't know. You know I made my PK right?

-Yeah, that was pretty surprising. I had my mortgage on you missing. After all, you did miss that wide open net from the top of the box.

Those are my two plays. I missed that comebacker that could have really changed the game and I made my PK somehow. Other than that you wouldn't have known I played. Thanks

(Ryan Giggs at the podium)

- Hey muff-city, any reason you awkwardly poked at that sure goal with your left foot instead of passing it into the net with your right?

Well that's because I'm pretty bad at soccer. I'm one of those players that has stuck around a good team for long enough that everyone just associates me with being good. Kind of like Teddy Bruschi...

- Good point. I thought you were going to miss your PK too. Good job... not doing that.


(Michael Ballack enters)

- In big games, you have a phenomenal tendency at shooting over the crossbar.

Today was no different Juan. I really let that pressure build up in my head as I lean back and crush the ball over. I bet you can't remember the last shot from distance I've scored?

-You got me there. (thinking...) Yeah actually, I can remember a head ball or something, and then, like, some tap-in in the box.

Don't know which tap-in you're thinking of but I do score some important headers every now and then. I guess I'll stop shooting from outside the box since it's not really part of my game.

(Didier Drogba at the podium)

- Hey there Didier. I bet you kind of wished you didn't psuedo-slap Tevez?

Well actually, it kind of worked out in my favor. I didn't have to take a PK - that's pretty nerve racking stuff - and plus it let Anelka, who pretty much cared the least out of any player on either side about the outcome of this game, become the goat. I don't care for him too much.

- That's true. You like being "the guy" and if you leave Chelsea, it'll probably be awkwardly to some kind of bad team in a lesser league that you think you'll instantly make better. Checking your stat sheet here you didn't really play during the season but stepped up big in the Champions League.

I don't care for "regular" things. I pretty much ball-outrageous in tournament format - you know, world-cup, african nations, Champs League, that kind of stuff. But I'm not really motivated otherwise.

- That's cool I guess. I'd rather have your 2 goals against Arsenal than somewhere else. Everyone knows you're really talented, we just need to figure out what will make you happy. Because being "the guy" and being on a winning team that carries you at times seems a bit contradictory.

Uber pwnage. Don't forget Liverpool too. Bitchholler.

(Cristiano Ronaldo enters to music)

- There was this one camera shot after Carrick made his PK where you looked pretty nervous. It was that moment that everyone watching pretty much knew you would miss.

Hahaha, was it that obvious? You see, I do that stutter step thing to catch goalies leaning even the slightest bit. Peeps figured out that I do that, so they expect it, so then I thought I'd change it up a bit against Barca. For that one I just ran up and took the shot but I wasn't used to doing that so I messed up. I figured I'd just go back to my same old stutter step again, which is most certainly illegal actually (check the replay, I did step backwards ever so slightly), but I didn't convert this one either.

- You must have been thrilled when Terry missed his. I can see the press salivating at the opportunity to say you're not a "big" game performer.

Well that's all part of it. I did score a pretty sweet header, that freakish aspect of my game that is unnecessarily awesome, on the same play that Owen Hargreaves messed up three times. But now I've just used myself and Owen Hargreaves in the same sentence so I'll just stop there.

- The other thing is that 95% of players take one penalty kick, maybe two a whole year. That gives them the whole, "I always go bottom-left" comfort. Soccer has this weird aspect to its sport where sending your "designated" PK taker doesn't seem to help. It's sort of why John Terry, who is just as capable as you are at converting a penalty kick, is gonna get like, no scruff for this, while you would have been handed to the butcher (even after you had already scored in the game!).

Well I think part of the problem is that fans assume players should convert PKs at a rate consistent with their talent level. In reality, all soccer players beginning from about the highschool level should always make PKs. That's the whole "mental" aspect of it. No professional soccer player in history has missed a penalty kick because they didnt have the footballing talent to place the ball near a corner. Except maybe Diego Lugano, but he's the exception that proves the rule.

- That's true about Lugano, good point. It's interesting how in this modern era you can essentially tell how the media feels about you based on your result of a missed penalty kick. I'm 99% sure that if you, Cristiano, had gone up there and slipped as well, it wouldn't have mattered. Someone probably would have pointed out that you had kicked the ball 50 times that game and never once had your plant foot slipped. Then some other Canadian guy would have been like, "yeah! slipping at that point indicates an even bigger choke job, buddy." I'm not your buddy, friend! I'm not your friend, guy! - the exchange would have been from the rioting Canadians.

I think what you're trying to say is that John Terry probably cheats on his wife, drinks excessively and degrades women like every other average looking soccer player, but at the end of the day, even though he choked on a big black horse penis like a HoneyKey sister, he's still a good guy. Me, on the other hand, I'm like this really handsome 23 year old kid who is obnoxiously good at soccer and can't cheat on my wife yet because I'm not married.

- Yeah, it's part of sports. If everyone liked you, that'd be stupid.

-I think it's pretty safe to say though that you can't miss any more big PKs, alright? You were given new life, something not granted often. You're definitely going to have a PK in the Euros and at least 4 more in the next 2 world cups, so don't miss those and I won't have to rant for 2 hours to protect your image.

I won't. Thanks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hold Your Head Up, John

I'll start by stating the obvious: that was in no way boring. And now, some very quick recap thoughts:

1. I have really mixed feelings about Ronaldo. I don't think he answered any questions about whether or not he has what it takes to be an all-time legend. On the one hand, he scored in a massive game, but it was a fairly easy (albeit pretty) header as Michael Essien forgot his marking duties. On the other hand, he missed the biggest penalty of his life, and despite early success against Essien, was kept pretty quiet once Joe Cole began tracking back to help.

2. This loss is really hard on Chelsea. From the moment Lampard scored, they proceeded to dominate the match, with United finding only one real chance (which we'll get to in a second). I've had a secret belief all season that they were the better team, and though they lost, this match may have gone more towards confirming it than refuting it.

3. John Terry will have nightmares for the rest of his life about that penalty. And truth be told, I feel really bad for the guy. The pitch, always spotty, turned horrible when the rain started coming down, and he slipped, which could have happened to anyone. Making it worse, though, is that he will take this loss on himself when he was the only reason the game had gone that far. He came back from a painful shoulder dislocation suffered only ten days ago, and played a fantastic match. His goal-line clearance of Giggs' scuffed shot was the stuff of legend. So hold your head up, John.

4. Didier Drogba is a petulant child. He is fantastic at putting the ball in the net, but he needs to go. Immediately. And to Italy.

5. Wes Brown may actually be my man of the match. Didn't think that would happen.


What a season it has been in the League of Champions. I wanted to do a quick preview of today's final, but at this point, the match has probably been analyzed to death. So instead, let's take a look back at some of this year's highlights. I'm going to hand out some awards, and feel free to chime in with your own votes:

Best Team Performance in a Match (Group Stage):
Arsenal 7-0 Slavia Prague

This might actually be the toughest one to award, as Liverpool one-upped the Gunners shortly after with an 8-0 display against Besiktas in a must-win game. However, having watched both matches, I would argue that the quality of Arsenal's goals and the utter selflessness of the team play made this match superior.

Best Team Performance Overall (Group Stage):
Manchester United (Group F)

You can't argue with perfect, and United very nearly were as they utterly dominated one of the stronger groups of the league. They didn't have the breakout displays of Arsenal or Liverpool, but went about their business in a methodical fashion, doing just enough to come out on top.

Best Goal (Group Stage):
Deivid (Fenerbahce) vs. Internazionale

Inter's only loss of the group stages was brought about by this spectacularly timed volley. Barely missing out are Cristiano Ronaldo's ridiculous free kick (his face is priceless, though it makes me want to punch him), a long-range blast from Alex de Souza (a member of the fearless and trigger-happy Fenerbahce, of course), and a precision guided missile from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Best Team Performance in a Match (Knockout Stage):
Chelsea 3- 2 Liverpool (Semifinals, 2nd Leg)

Has to be this one. Drogba's powerful and clinical finishing, Lampard's bravery and vindication, and Ballack's stranglehold on the midfield overcame the brilliance of Torres and a stubborn Liverpool side that refused to go quietly into the night. Gets the nod over Arsenal's historic 2 nil in the San Siro and the thrilling Fenerbahce comeback against Sevilla.

Best Team Performance Overall (Knockout Stage):

There's bound to be some disagreement about this, but I think they've earned it. This team (as usual) had no business getting as far as they did, and were twenty minutes away from forcing penalties and almost certainly advancing to the final. They took part in two of the best ties (vs. Arsenal and Chelsea) that the Champions League has produced in recent years. Their resilience and good fortune saw them stifle the Serie A champions, snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against an excellent Arsenal side and push the immensely talented Chelsea to the wire. Of course, this award really belongs to whoever triumphs today, but until that's been decided, Liverpool get this consolation.

Best Goal (Knockout Stage):
Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal) vs. Liverpool

It may say Adebayor on the scoresheet, but everyone knows it was Theo Walcott's goal, and that's how it will forever be remembered. I have never seen a player in my lifetime make a run like that before, and that's including Messi, C. Ronaldo, and all the rest. It was truly amazing, and it had to be in order to beat out Paul Scholes ("he scores goals") doing what it do against Barca, Deivid unleashing his bazooka of a right leg against Chelsea, Torres creating something from nothing, and Cesc's surgical strike against Milan.

Well, that just about does it. Again, it's been fantastic, and let's all keep our fingers crossed for a final worthy of this excellent season. Just for old time's sake, here's a wishful and incorrect prediction: Chelsea 3 - 2 United. Oh, and I almost forgot the final award:

Most Shocking and Horrendous Own Goal
John Arne Riise (Liverpool) vs. Liverpool

Sorry, I just couldn't stop myself. Neither could he.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Finishing Strong

Before we get to tomorrow's mammoth clash, I'd like to give my congratulations to United, Inter, Madrid, and Bayern for winning their respective leagues. None of those victories seemed "wrong" or unexpected in any way. In every case, it was clearly the best team that won.

The same goes for Porto and Lyon, but here I'm not sure if I should be offering my congratulations or my condolences. Yes, they won their leagues, but now they can look forward to having their quality players stolen by teams from the "Big Three" leagues.

Three things I've been thinking about during this lengthy hiatus:

1. Both the Serie A and the EPL had fantastic finishes, with the league hanging in the balance until the final Sunday. And in both leagues, it was the favorite who finished on top and the persistent underdog who fell short. I found it particularly fitting the way United and Inter won their last games, with Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, the true offensive catalysts and stars of their squads, rising to the occasion and breaking the deadlock. Both players have often had their pedigree in important matches questioned, and it was a real coup for both to secure a championship for their respective sides. I don't completely agree with my esteemed colleague that Inter were uncatchable; scoreless at the half against a team desperate to stay up in monsoon weather had to have even the most staunch Inter supporter nervous. But as soon as Mancini called for Ibrahimovic off the bench, you could see Nerazzuri confidence rise. And with good reason.

(Also, for those who watched that match, has it ever been more apparent that a player would score from the moment he was brought on? Zlatan's first touch was an attempt at goal which went wide, but if you watched closely, I'm pretty sure you could actually see him mentally adjusting his scope.)

2. Barca are in absolute disarray. In any other year, I'm sure Juan and I would have been leaping at the chance to jot down some thoughts about El Clasico, but there was a shocking gulf in class this year between the two old rivals, and it really showed. Pep Guardiola has his work cut out for him, and things won't get any easier if they lose half the players that have already been mentioned in transfer rumors: Gaucho, Titi, Sammy, 'Brotta, Magico, Gio, Kolo Jr., etc. Who's going where will be a good topic to accompany the Euros this summer.

3. I'm extremely optimistic about tomorrow's match. These are definitely the two best teams in Europe. Chelsea-United has admittedly been a borefest for the last few years (hell, Chelsea-anyone has the potential to become sports tryptophan), as both teams warily try to avoid committing that killer error instead of actually taking chances and being creative in the hopes of scoring, but their recent, enthralling showdown at the Bridge gives me hope. As some have already said, an early goal would be extremely welcome, as it will naturally up the tempo and urgency of the match.

Serie A Wrap-up With Some Biscotti and Italian Love Cake

Let me first begin with the fact that Italian Love Cake is a real dessert. For some reason I can see that being integral to a Luca Toni pickup line.

This is the end of the Serie A wrap up with the final five teams. All of these teams are relevant to some degree (in reverse order again).

AC Milan
- 18 wins, 10 losses, 10 draws, 64 points. Where to start... where to start... Clarence Seerdorf sucks. Of course he has some shining moments, he's a professional footballer, but for this team and possibly Italian soccer in general, he's no good. How do I know? For starters his best games, which for me are still mostly unimpressive, are in the Champions League (this must be why people think he's good). And after watching at least 15 Milan games, the two I witnessed without Seerdorf is when the Rossinerri were at their finest.

Then there is Andre Pirlo, or I should say, the exhausted cadaver formerly known as Andre Pirlo. His freekicks have been generally bad if not completely terrible at times. His turnovers are evident and his transitions are slow. The man looks exhausted and he is not the same. Watch his game against Arsenal and you'll call 911... or whatever it is in Italy (thanks to Sept 11th its impossible to find on google).

Then there is Kaka. Something isn't quite right with Brasilians these days. Ronaldo got extorted by transvestites, Ninho is unhappy at Barca for some reason unbeknownst to me, Dunga has openly said he does not prefer older players (he means 24 and older here), Anderson can't close his mouth when he plays (pictured), Romario thinks he's better than Pele??? and their U-20 team could probably win the World Cup right now. The same goes for Kaka but in a different way. It used to be that I had never seen him make a mistake, and after seeing like... 2 mistakes this year, something must be wrong.

Inzaghi has been fun to watch but I think everyone agrees its time for him to part ways with AC Milan and come to the MLS. Same goes for Ambrosini.

If you aren't convinced by Alexander the Duck yet it's probably because the Champions League announcers ripped on him unjustly all game. He infused energy into this dying team and in the middle of the season he turned them around.

If this seems like rambling you're absolutely right. AC needs a complete makeover. Keep Kaka, Pato, Gilardino, Nesta, and Gattuso (if you can, he'll be gone though) and get rid of the rest. Especially Kalac, who sucks, and Dida (see Kalac).
So far their first move - signing Flamini is a great start. If they can snag Ninho they'll be gravy. As a Juventude I wouldn't mind AC rebuilding for 2 years but something tells me that won't happen.
Enjoy the Uefa cup this year boys.

And no, I don't mean that.

Fiorentina - 19 wins, 10 losses, 9 draws, 66 points. What a fiesty team. Their loses were against Inter (2), Lazio (2), Milan, Udinese, Roma, Napoli, Cagliari, Palermo (once each). Yep, Juve wasn't on that list (sonsabitches) and really there are only 3 "bad" losses on that list and those are outnumbered by "good" wins. The resume only gets better - they made it to the semis in the Uefa Cup beating some legit squads along the way and eventually lost to the Rangers in PKs. This a young upstart team that developed well. Expect them to be around for awhile and then for their good players to be bought.

Juventus - 20 wins, 6 losses, 12 draws, 72 points. Their loses - Udinese, Napoli, Reggina, Fiorentina, Palermo, Siena. The Siena one was at the end of the season when they had secured third so that one doesn't count. Palermo absolutely stunned/outplayed/raped us and Fiorentina similar. Udinese and Napoli were unacceptable. The problem with this team as you can see is not the losses, but the draws. This tends to be the case for a top 3 team (see: Arsenal).
Unacceptable draws: Cagliari, Sampdoria, and Catania. To be fair, Juventus had a pretty good Serie A. Coppa Italia hurt and the lack of Champions League (after The Scandal) hurt as well.
I really wish we had gunned for Roma a bit more and earned an Auto-qualifying spot instead of the opposite of that.

I have alot of worries for next year. Quickly - Nedved faded hard, Tiago is a huge maybe, Sissoko improved every game but was it because we said we would listen to offers?, Del Piero can't possibly produce like he did and Buffon carried us way way too much for comfort. Molinaro, my nemesis, we must replace. Our defense as a unit came around but my goodness they looked shaky at the start of the season.

What I'm not worried about: Our forwards, Iaquinta, Palladino, Trezegol. Camoranesi, Legrottaglie, Chellini, Grygera, Buffon.

Where I would love an upgrade: wing back (Molinotgood), attacking center mid (Tiago? Nedved? do we even have an attacking center mid?) and we could use a slightly better wing mid (Salihamidzic - who I like but still).

Roma - 24 wins, 4 losses, 10 draws, 82 points. Their losses - Inter, Juventus, AC Milan, Napoli. None of those are bad losses. In fact, I think this team really over-achieved this year. Totti was not the ridiculous force he used to be, Vucinic was very on/off and underused, Taddei I think is terrible and the same goes for Mancini. Guily, who I think is quite good, was underused as well. I really don't know how they scored any goals at all. Their defense and defensive midfield is world class though: Mexes, Panucci, Juan, Cicinho, Cassetti, and De Rossi held this team together.
Roma essentially chose the Champions League over the Scudetto - like most teams - and came out with nothing - like most teams not Manchester United. It's almost a shame how one's own league title doesn't mean as much as it should.

Roma has one more game of interest in the Coppa Italia Final and it should be a classic. Both Inter and Roma are looking for some sort of validation and because the Coppa is not all that important both teams should come out firing.

Inter Milan - don't let the media confuse you, this team was never actually vulnerable. They had 3 losses all year. Three. Tre. They were: Juventus, AC Milan and Napoli. They had 85 points and a plus 43 goal differential. Plus forty three. This squad went wire to wire and didn't lose until their 25th game. The Dragon just wanted you to think you could catch it. Go ahead, try and catch it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Summary of the Serie A With My Friends Fettucini and Alfredo

We'll start with the three shunned teams -

Livorno - 6 wins, 20 losses, -25 on goal differential (the lowest). Notable performances include a draw to Inter, and an amazing eight game point streak starting at the beginning of November. Check it out - draw, win, win, draw, draw, draw, win, win. They achieved more than half (16 of 30) of their points on the season with this run! Livorno fans from November 4th to January 20th were at a bar drunk and happy telling Torino fans that they had turned the corner this year and that their 3 year plan is totally working. Final grade - B. Haha get it? they're headed to the Serie B...

Empoli - 9 wins, 20 losses, -23 on goal differential. Their only noteworthy game was definitely of note. Along with Juventus, Empoli was a part of the most exciting Coppa Italia game and arguably the best called game of the year - more on this later. I picked a good one for my only running diary of the Serie A.
Believe it or not the Empolians qualified for the Uefa Cup last year and even won their first leg before promptly breaking their second leg and exiting - think Eight Belles. Too soon? I attended the Preakness this year; amazing per usual. This experience of course is for a different blog. Big Brown is an absolute freak by the way. I was at the fence just before turn 1 when Gayego was prematurely ejacking and Big Brown was on cruise control. Big B looked me in the eye, breathed effortlessly and then smiled at me. Not joking. Anyway, Empoli, yeah they sucked. They'll be back in 2 years.

Parma - 7 wins, 17 losses. That 17th really, really, really hurt. It was a double whammy (one of my favorite game shows) because if they won they would have handed the title to Roma and, more importantly, stuck around the Serie A to see it happen. Can you imagine the party Roma would have thrown! Parma would have totally been invited too. Parma players would have walked into the club and Totti/De Rossi would have seen them across the way, lifted their heads and pointed directly at them with a "these guys!!!" look, ran over there and introduced them to the hottest girls they had ever seen. Think Girl Next Door when the three friends walk into the porno convention except every woman is Italian and has nipples that match their skin color. See what you missed out on Parma! Gosh.

The beauty of being irrelevant. These are middle table teams that were inconsistently frisky. Jim and I refer to these teams as "NewCastlers." This also gives me a chance to write,
LONG LIVE KING KEV! - which is what Jim and I yell at the end of every phone conversation.

Catania Calcio - 8 wins, 17 losses. The benefactors of Parma's disaster. Mid way through their celebration gala for staying in the Serie A, a Catania fan looks at his buddy deep in thought and says, "what are we celebrating?" Some NewCastle fan drunkenly hands them shots and screams, "who cares!!" and the gala resumes.

Reggina - 9 wins, 16 losses. They have some really sweet jerseys (pictured). Look familiar? That's Andre Pirlo.

Torino - 8 wins, 13 losses. I spent 3 hours of my life trying to figure out what happened to Alvaro Recoba and eventually settled here. Torino had him on loan from Inter and I actually got to see the fallen Uruguayan phenom play. It was kind of tragic but mostly just really really inexplicable. He was injury prone and hurt most of the time, but still, the kid could play and I don't know what the hell happened to him. I read a description of Recoba once... "a lethal left foot." That makes me smile... and shake my head.

Cagliari - 11 wins, 18 losses. 7 of their 11 wins came in the second half of the season. Cagliari got off to a terrible start with only 15 points in their first 20 games. A much better second half settled them nicely into the middle table.

Siena - 9 wins, 12 losses, 17 draws. Their leading scorer was named Masssimo Maccarone. I love the first name and I had his last name for dinner the other night. They drew alot, more than anyone else, which is also a great recipe to secure middle table glory.

Lazio - 11 wins, 14 losses. We left ground zero back on planet Livorno and this spaceship is slowly approaching some stars. Goran Pandev had 14 goals for his side and if you think Cristiano Ronaldo dives, your head would have exploded watching Goran. Lazio enjoyed the fruits of their Champions League qualification last year but unfortunately couldn't get out of their tough group of Real Madrid, Olympiacos and Werder Bremen. No slouches there. In the Serie A they played almost every opponent tough but couldn't handle the big boys with 1 win, 1 draw and 6 losses against Inter, Roma and Juve. Losing to the top 3 in your league - way #3 to enjoy middle table glory. This should be a commercial or something.

Atalanta- 11 wins, 14 losses. If you want to diss Inter, confuse them with Atalanta. Also, if you do a google search of Atalanta, you won't find anything about soccer until page 3 (their away jersey) and google will think you meant to type Atlanta. Do it, it's funny.

Palermo - 12 wins, 15 losses. Ah Palermo, such fond memories. Every day is breast cancer awareness days for the Palermos. What amazing jerseys (pictured)! Not only that, but they have something very special in Carvalho Amauri. What a baller. I watched him for 90 minutes destroy Juventus and each goal was absurd. I remember not even being mad. I told Jim to watch the highlights and reaffirm whether or not I could be mad at this guy. He agreed I couldn't. Respect. This guy is officially on star watch - a list Jim and I keep adding to but have never compiled. Maybe we'll get around to doing that.

Genoa - 13 wins, 15 losses. Great salami and a great footballer in Marco Borriello. Expect him to not be on Genoa ever again.

Napoli - believe it or not but we're approaching positive goal differential! 14 wins, 15 losses, -2 goal differential.

The disappointers. This section belongs to all those teams that really thought they had something going. The words, "next year" are spoken often in this land. Also, Jim and I reside here.

Udinese - 16 wins, 12 losses, 57 points. Knowing just that win/loss margin, what would you guess their goal differential was? Make a mental note of what you thought... its -2. Minus two. Ouch. This may lead you to believe they had no defense, but thats actually not true. The truth is that they were overachieving with 2 unbelievable strikers. Di Natale and Quagliarella, 2 strikers on the Italian National team seeing significant playing time, combined for 29 goals (17 and 12 respectively). They were the second best striking duo in my opinion behind you know who. These two are the ones to taking playing time away from Luca Toni, the heartthrob who may be having the single best opening season in the Bundesliga ever, and Del Piero who just had his second best statistical season ever. Life as an Udinesian is good. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Sampdoria - 17 wins, 12 losses, +10 goal differential, 60 points. They have a player named Ferrari on their team. I don't know if he's any good. This squad faded just a bit at the end of the season. With AC Milan decaying and Juve shaky for a bit, the 3rd and 4th spot were open for the taking and Sampdoria was in the running 9/10ths of the way. They finished 3 points short of Champions League and 1 point from Uefa. That's tough. Their outcome was basically decided in the last 4 weeks of the season. They drew unjustly against Fiorentina and lost against a determined Roma. 6th place has never seemed so bad.

Stay tuned later for a more detailed description of the rest - AC Milan, Fiorentina, Juve, Roma and title champs Inter.