Sunday, August 4, 2013

Conte: Juventus needs to wake up

Two losses in the Guinness International Champions Cup indicate that Juventus needs to correct its mental approach, according to its coach. 

LOS ANGELES – Antonio Conte held his fingers up to his mouth, talking through them, mumbling slightly. He looked either tired or disinterested, answering questions at length in a monotone. His hair was ragged.

But when the substance of his words filtered through the translator, they contained none of the formless pulp usually offered in press conferences.

Juventus lost 3-1 to the LA Galaxy in the Guinness International Champions Cup on Saturday.

“The performance was not good,” Conte said in Italian. “We need everybody to wake up. I put myself first on that list. If we think we don't need hard work and determination anymore, we're not going to get far. We have great players, we have a high-quality roster, but in these last two years we have always gone beyond our limits for the artwork and determination we've shown on the field. We need to return to that mentality.”

Juventus won the Italian Serie A in each of the last two seasons under Conte. Last year it advanced to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

“We dominated two championships in Italy because we were organized, determined and we had the fury and the artwork to do all the things properly,” Conte said. “We need to understand that right now we aren't doing things properly.”

Earlier in the week, Everton prevailed over the Old Lady in penalties. Conte highlighted that losses coming during preseason counted as slight positives, because they gave his side time to fix its errors. However, he stressed that the need for reform in his team's mental approach is pressing.

“I think it's reductive to say that this loss is caused by the fact that we're in preseason and it's just a friendly,” Conte said. “We're here in LA, it's a fancy place, we have parties. Everything is very fun. But everywhere you go to play, all over the world, if you don't show the determination on the pitch, you're going to have big problems and, as happened tonight, you're going to lose the game. That's the rule of soccer.”

Of course, the coach of the winning side, Bruce Arena, put far less stake in the match than Conte seemed to. The Galaxy coach said he wouldn't relish playing Juventus in a match that “really counts.”

“The result isn't going to change anything in this world,” Arena said. “It's an exhibition; we understand that.”

Still, the matches will really count for Juventus very shortly. The Old Lady takes on Lazio in the Supercoppa on Aug. 18 and kicks off the league a week later.

“I think that Buffon said a very important thing tonight,” Conte said. “He said, 'I'm worried we don't have the determination to win like we did in the previous two years.' I think that's right. We need to be great, because we actually are great, not because people said we're great. We need to show, when we play on the pitch, who we are.”