Tied for third place in the inaugural World Football Challenge tournament, Inter and AC Milan fought for pride at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, and Jose Mourinho’s Inter kept their dignity with a 2-0 win over hometown rival AC Milan. Chelsea won the tournament July 26 by shutting out second place Club America 2-0.
Diego Milito scored both goals for Inter, first unassisted in the fourth minute and again in the 75th minute off an assist by Dejan Stankovic. Milito beat keeper Zeliko Kalac coming out of the net, chipped the ball which hit the crossbar and bounced down inside, and there was nothing Kalac could do. After the second goal, Inter played for joy with creative attacks, a volley of shots, and frequent substitutions.
At the end of the day, Inter outshot Milan 15 to eight with eight shots on goal overshadowing Milan’s four. Inter was called offside nine times, Milan not at all. Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato of Milan were issued cautions, as was Mario Balotelli of Inter.
Leonardo said tournament schedule unfair, Milan needs new players
In his native Italian translated by Pino Mittiga of America Oggi Newspaper, Milan coach Leonardo said he was very upset with the tournament organization because of scheduling. He also blamed the losses on injured players, including top goal scorer Filippo Inzaghi, who was injured in the match with Chelsea, and that Milan’s defenders, aside from Mathieu Flamini, are no longer young.
Leonardo said Milan isn’t ready to compete because they need a new goal scorer and a defender, and that both he and Gennaro Gattuso had appealed to AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi (also prime minister of Italy), and that Berlusconi said he would consider the player purchases if not too expensive.
Leonardo didn’t name the desired players, but rumors circulating in the Italian media say Juventus’ French striker Trezeguet is the target, and that Milan wants an additional unnamed player from Juventus in the deal, which has been refused.
In English Leonardo said, “In the last five days we played three matches and it’s not equal that Inter had five days to prepare for this match. To play a match in two days, it’s impossible. This team needs preparation and time to come back from injuries, but what they’re demonstrating is enough for me to say that we can be a good team. Three defeats is so heavy but we have to manage that, look a positive way to prepare the team, and obviously we need some new players.”
Milan’s new central defender gets first starts in World Football Challenge
New Milan central defender and US men’s national team player Oguchi Onyewu made his first start in World Football Challenge.
“[Onyewu] is a good player for us right now”said Leonardo. “He needs to prepare for the team, train with the team to understand our system and what we are. He’s a very important player in the group and it will be his performance that will say what he’ll do with us.”
“I’ve only been with this team a week” said Onyewu. “We’ve only had a full session two times, so slowly but surely I’m beginning to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the players around me and I’m sure they’re able to do the same with me. We need time to jell and let that chemistry set in and take place, but with time that’s going to happen and we’ll build a strong unit.”
Inter staff and players enthusiastic, Mourinho silent
Mourinho, who promoted Inter’s global initiative and World Football Challenge in Boston this spring, did not speak to the media.
“We’re a winning team”said Giuseppe Baresi, assistant coach of Inter Milan, “and we’re going to try to win everything in our path – the Champions League, the Italian Championship, and the upcoming tournament in China. We’ll play game by game, not let our egos get too big, and that’s how we’ll win Scudetto once again.”
Man of the Match Melito, whose star is rising, said he has had no contact with Maradona, but understands the coach wants him to play with the Argentine national team versus Brazil and if Maradona calls him he’ll be happy to play for Argentina, particularly with the home advantage.
Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar, who only arrived in preseason two days before, was enthusiastic about the American tour with World Football Challenge.
“It’s very good for the team to be playing some of the top teams in the world, like Milan, Chelsea, and Club America. Having Lucio on the team is a tremendous addition because of his professionalism as well as his abilities. I’m happy having him in front of me after having played together in the national team for many years.”
World Football Challenge attendance soars, exceeds expectations
A spokesman for World Football Challenge, broadcast on ESPN, said attendance exceeded expectations with a 71k sellout crowd in Baltimore for AC MIlan vs. Chelsea, 81k in Pasadena for Chelsea vs. Inter Milan, 51k in Atlanta for AC Milan vs. Club America, 32k in Palo Alto for Club America vs. Inter Milan, and 57,229 for Club America vs. Chelsea.
The passionate crowd of 42,531 fans of European and South/Central American football came early to drink, play, and tailgate before the Inter vs. AC Milan match, but fans, foreign and local media alike expressed outrage at the massive stage scaffolding for an upcoming concert looming at one end zone that prevented use of those seats and tainted the aesthetics of the field.
The demand for international matches like World Football Challenge and international friendlies with MLS clubs, such as Chelsea vs. Seattle Sounders and AC Milan vs. LA Galaxy (where angry fans harrassed Beckham), contrasts sharply with decreased attendance for MLS this season. In June, eight teams (LA, DCU, NE, CHI, NY, CO, NE, SJ, and FCD) experienced declining ticket sales in double digits. The US passion for the international game is moving MLS to adopt more international standards.
“It’s very important [for American fans] to see games of this caliber and level,” said Onyewu. “Not to say the MLS is not a good quality, but obviously games like AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Chelsea show that it’s a different level and it’s very important for American fans of soccer and even people who aren’t familiar with soccer to watch these games and better familiarize themselves with the sport.”