Neither Italian giants Juventus nor beloved Mexican side Club América enjoyed a warm welcome to the Herbalife World Football Challenge, and now it’s time to see which side can turn their fate.
The two teams will turn the New York Mets’ sparkling Citi Field from a baseball stadium into the home for a rare soccer showdown in Flushing, N.Y., on Tuesday (7:30 pm ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), in the second game for each club in this year’s tournament.
The match marks Juventus’ return to New York for a second straight year — the Bianconeri dropped in on the New York Red Bulls’ newly opened home last May and were beaten 3-1 by Hans Backe’s men in Harrison, N.J. They lost their WFC opener 2-1 on Saturday to Sporting Clube de Portugal at BMO Field in Toronto.
Club América, meanwhile, also fumbled in their first shot at the WFC, dropping a 2-0 decision to English power Manchester City on July 16 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Although perhaps not the Serie A power they once were, the Bianconeri are still a titanic draw for fans. Whether or not they can deliver for those supporters, however, is another issue, as new manager Antonio Conte tries to reverse the fortunes for the club with which he once shined as a player.
The roster is littered with Italian national-team regulars, perhaps none more identifiable and indefatigable than goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, the man between the pipes for Italy’s 2006 World Cup win. But there’s also strikers Alessandro Del Piero and Luca Toni to lean on, as well as midfielder Andrea Pirlo and defender Andrea Barzagli.
And then there’s the crowd. There’s probably no better place for Juve to play than New York City, home to nearly 3.4 million people of Italian descent, the fifth-largest population of any city in the world.
They’ll look to come alive earlier in this game than they did in the loss against Sporting, where a lazy first half doomed Juventus.
If there’s a team to rival Juventus for fan support, however, it just might be las Águilas. Arguably the most popular and one of the most successful teams in Mexico, Club América draw a rabid following wherever they go.
América finished sixth in the general table of the Mexican Primera División but concluded their bid for the Clausura 2011 crown early after falling in the quarterfinals to Monarcas Morelia. Their run in the Copa Libertadores also came to a premature halt after being ousted by Brazil’s Santos in the round of 16.
The creative spark is provided by Argentine midfielder Daniel Montenegro, and US international Edgar Castillo and American-born midfielder Isaac Acuña are a sure-fire bet to draw support during the Águilas' time on US soil.
After kicking off the Apertura 2011 campaign on with a 2-1 win over Querétaro on Sunday, manager Carlos Reinoso will likely feature a mix of starters and reserves to keep his players fresh for the Mexican Primera Divisón Round 2 fixture.
Juventus: Alessandro Del Piero
There’s probably no better chance for fireworks than from the foot of Del Piero, the 36-year-old who’s creeping up on a staggering 500 appearances for his club. He scored the lone goal of Juve’s loss to Sporting and is the most recognizable name on either team. Period.
Club América: Daniel Montenegro
América have certainly had their share of stars in the past (think Luis Hernández and Cuauhtémoc Blanco, among others), and Montenegro is trying to etch his name alongside some of the greats. The playmaker joined up in 2009 after plying his trade largely in his native Argentina, most notably during an impressive stretch with Independiente from 2006 to '09.