WFC: Juventus off to rough start with loss to Sporting

TORONTO — Juventus got off to a rough start in both their preseason and their Herbalife World Football Challenge participation.

The Bianconeri looked rusty, falling 2-1 to a much sharper Sporting Clube de Portugal behind two first-half goals by Yannick Djaló. Juventus got one back via fan favorite Alessandro Del Piero late in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.

A rebuilding Juventus side had to start somewhere, and, unfortunately for the Italian side, a loss was it. Still, forward Luca Toni saw the positive side to the defeat.

HIGHLIGHTS: JUV 1, SPO 2
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“It’s a nice friendly match,” was the way Toni (pictured above) put it through a translator. “Obviously it’s not a three-point match like you’d see in the regular season, but the importance is getting trained and being able to be up physically and be prepared for the next game.”

Juventus’ next game is against Club América on Tuesday in Flushing, N.Y. Two days later, they play CD Guadalajara in Raleigh, N.C.

Toni used the word “friendly” to describe Saturday’s match. But it wasn't all daisies and roses. The big striker picked up a yellow card in the 77th minute as players from both teams got into a shoving contest. It came after Toni was called for a foul on Fabián Rinaudo.

Asked about it later, Toni shrugged it off, calling it “nothing unusual.”

“Things like that happen in the match normally,” he said. “The great thing is that after the match, we just exchanged pleasantries, shook hands and went on our way.”

Juventus manager Antonio Conte, who did not offer a postgame press conference, could not have been too happy about his team’s performance, early preseason or not.

His team managed only three shots in the first half, all of which Sporting goalkeeper Rui Patrício watched go wide of his goal.

Long-time Juve ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon, on the other hand, was forced into two saves in the first half — a stanza thoroughly dominated by Sporting — but he also allowed both goals.

Egged on by crowd — “It was great to see the energy and enthusiasm of the fans," said Toni; "It definitely motivated us" — Juventus increased their efforts in the second half. They did a little better, forcing three saves by substitute goalkeeper Marcelo Boeck and getting a goal from Del Piero, who showed his class to chip the ball into the net from outside the box.

Defensively, Juventus allowed seven shots on net, but Buffon’s replacement, Marco Storari, was forced into just one save.

It was Juventus’ first game and it certainly looked that way. Now it’s on to the next.