Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Coppa Italia: Milan, Meet your Destiny

It’s that time of the year again: Coppa Italia. Well, actually, it’s just finally time for Milan to enter this year’s competition. Coppa Italia matches have been going on since early August. But since the format favors the biggest teams, we get to sit back and wait while all of the smaller teams eliminate one another. Which is good, because it increases our chances of fulfilling Allegri’s objective for the team this year: Winning the Coppa Italia. He knows it’s his only chance at a trophy, the most likely path for a Europa League spot, and the chance to leave his mark on Milan next year with the fabulous “Coccarda” patch. Milan, meet your destiny.
The fabulous coccarda patch, aka "The Precious"

The first Coppa Italia match was played in 1922, and featured mostly lower division teams. Thus, Vado’s claim to fame is to be listed on the winner’s list along with all of bigger teams. But the tournament was resurrected in the 1935-36 season, with Torino winning that trophy. The competition includes teams from Serie A, Serie B, and Lega Pro Prima & Seconda Division teams (formerly known as Serie C & D) and is Italy’s domestic cup. Napoli are the current reigning champions, as they handed Juventus their only defeat in any competition last year to take the trophy.

The format as it stands today includes a draw with all of the teams before the competition begins, and all games are single elimination knockout games, meaning in the event of a draw, they go to added extra time and then penalties to have a winner to advance. This is except for the semi-final, which is a 2-leg affair, for some reason. (The final used to be 2 legs, too, up until 2008.) The first round is exclusively for the top 36 Lega Pro teams, and the winners of this round join the 22 Serie B teams in the second round. The third round includes the 12 lowest ranked Serie A teams from the prior season. At the end of third round, there are 16 teams left, with the others having been eliminated, so a fourth round is played at this point to narrow the field to 8 teams. It is at this point, in December or January, that the top-ranked 8 teams from Serie A join in, known as the Round of 16.

The tricolore coccarda also traditionally appears on Italian military planes

The Round of 16 is narrowed down to the Quarterfinals and then the Semifinals. The final is typically played in May. The winner of the final wins the trophy, the opportunity to wear the Coccarda patch the following season, and a Europa League spot, too. The winner also faces the league winner in the Super Coppa in August. Once a team wins 10 Coppa titles, they also get to wear a silver star on their uniform indefinitely, like the gold stars worn for 10 league titles. Both Juventus and Roma have won 9 Coppa Italia titles, whereas Milan have only won 5 so far.

The Coppa Italia, or TIM cup, as it is known for its sponsorship, is often not taken seriously, at least not by Serie A title contenders who are also playing in Europe. It is often seen as unimportant, but by default, the strongest teams still end up contending for the title. This year, Allegri has said that winning the Coppa is our objective. This means that either Milan are not planning to take our other competitions seriously, or he views us as a “provincial” side who are not capable of contending in the other competitions. Either way, it is now our destiny. And I can only imagine his press conference when we are knocked out by a Serie B or lower table Serie A team: “We played well, but the result does not reflect what happened on the pitch,” etc. Simply because it is a single elimination tournament, it is strange that we are putting all of our proverbial eggs in one proverbial basket.

The object of our desire this season

Either way, on Thursday we begin the road to our destiny vs. Serie B’s Reggina. There will be a full preview up tomorrow, but if you would like to see the table with all of the results so far as well as our path to our destiny, you can go here. (it can take a few minutes to load, it is a large file.) Let’s hope that with recent results, we will put equal energy into all three competitions, and that the force will be with us. Particularly since we will have to face the winner of Juventus and Cagliari in the quarterfinals. If you'll recall, last year, when we had a stronger team, Juventus eliminated us in the Semi-finals.

While I agree that winning the Coppa is a good thing for Milan this year, I wouldn’t mind not embarrassing ourselves in the league or in Europe, either. We have a jersey to honor, and that jersey demands our very best in every match. But another trophy doesn’t hurt, either, and a guaranteed European spot plus a snazzy patch on our kits next year would also be nice. Plus, Hamsik shaved his head last year when they won the Coppa, maybe El Shaarawy will shave his head, too (he’s already promised this if we win the Scudetto.) Milan, meet your Destiny.

This post inspired by the music of The Smiths “Louder Than Bombs” album

Our next match is
Coppa Italia Round of 16
Milan vs. Reggina
Thursday, December 13 • 21:00 CET (3pm EST)