Udinese, homeless Cagliari add to Italy woes
MILANO - Reuters
Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin reacts after his team’s loss in the UEFA Champions League playoff stage. EPA photoItalian football has been given two more reminders of the sorry state of its domestic game by Udinese’s failure to qualify for the Champions League and the plight of homeless Cagliari.
Udinese’s penalty shootout defeat to Braga, a side made up largely of journeymen Brazilian players, on Aug. 28 means Italy will have only two teams in the group stage.
After falling to Arsenal at the same stage last year, Udinese’s latest setback has also raised worries about the future of the team who have habitually overachieved in recent seasons and been one of the success stories in the league.
Coach Francesco Guidolin did not think he would get another chance to reach the group stage with the club.
“Evidently I am not capable of leading a team into the Champions League,” said a dejected Guidolin. “When you get so close several times and can’t go through, you have to learn from that experience and accept the truth.”
Italy had its quota of automatic Champions League places cut from three to two this season after Serie A dropped below the Bundesliga in the rankings used to calculate the number of berths per country.
If Italy needed a timely reminder of why the top players no longer want to come, then the confusion over the venue for this weekend’s Cagliari-Atalanta match has provided it. The Sardinian side has moved out of Stade Sant’Elia, its home since 1970, due to disagreements with the local authorities and growing safety worries.
During the second half of last season, these forced Cagliari to play home games in Trieste, 1,000 kilometres and closer to Belgrade than their own base.
Cagliari had intended to move to the Is Arenas stadium in the commune of Quartu Sant’Elena, around five kilometres outside the city.
With 72 hours to kickoff and faced with the option of another trip to Trieste, Cagliari was still trying to convince the league that the new venue would be ready.