Winners and Losers from Coppa Italia
The Coppa Italia semi-finals concluded this week, with both second legs played as May’s final draws ever nearer.
That tie will now see Vincenzo Montella’s exciting, young Fiorentina side go head-to-head with Rafael Benitez's Napoli.
Here’s a rundown of the winners and losers from those games and a quick look at what awaits for the two teams at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.
Winner: Fiorentina End Their Coppa Hiatus
The win over Udinese saw the Viola reach the final for the first time since 2001. Since then, they have gone bankrupt, been relegated to the fourth tier of Italian football and have fought their way back to the top.
Much like Napoli—who ended a similar drought two years ago—Fiorentina now have the opportunity to mark their return with silverware, the first since the Della Valle family took control of the club.
Winner: Mario Gomez Back on the Big Stage
Out injured since September, Mario Gomez has barely played for Fiorentina after injuring his left knee against Cagliari in September. He returned to training early in February and was on the bench for Tuesday’s victory.
The Germany international was the club’s major signing in the summer, joining the Viola from Bayern Munich, but picked up the problem in only the third league game of the season.
“Mario Gomez will be there for the Final!” Vincenzo Montella told Italian broadcaster RAI (h/t Football Italia). “He is recovering and was on the bench tonight, as we might have used him if needed for 5-10 minutes.”
Winner: New-Look Napoli Roll on
Rafael Benitez has completely reinvented Napoli this season, dispensing with the style that had brought the club all their recent success. He has also brought in a raft of players to replace Uruguayan hitman Edinson Cavani.
Three of those—Jose Callejon, Gonzalo Higuain and Jorginho—were on the scoresheet against Roma, and reaching their second final in three years will serve to highlight just how well they are gelling together.
Loser: No Finale for Antonio Di Natale
Sadly for all fans of Italian football, Antonio Di Natale will not end his career in the competition’s showpiece event. The 36-year-old striker announced earlier this season that he will stop playing this summer (h/t Sky Sport Italia) and will now simply play out Udinese’s remaining league games.
The two-time leading scorer in Serie A has always been a player to admire, his sheer volume of goals worthy of the highest praise. Now, instead of watching him lead out the Zebrette in search of glory we have to see him battle relegation.
Loser: Tough Exit for Title Challengers Roma
Roma are currently the only team who can realistically halt Juve's charge to a third consecutive title, and they will hope their cup elimination at the hands of Napoli does not impact on their confidence.
While their hope of being the first side to reach 10 Coppa Italia triumphs is now on hold for another year, Rudi Garcia's squad can focus fully on the league.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect was not the defeat but the return of the mental fragility seen in the league loss to Juventus. A needless red card for Kevin Strootman compounded their misery, and followers of the capital club will hope it can be quickly forgotten.
Loser: Juan Guillermo Cuadrado Still Out
Any other time, the man who scores the goal to seal his side’s passage to a final could not be labelled a loser, but in this case it most certainly applies.
Colombian utility man Juan Cuadrado netted a sublime goal to secure Fiorentina’s win over Udinese only to ensure he will not play in the Viola’s biggest game for over a decade.
He picked up a needless booking for time-wasting towards the end of Tuesday’s game, which took him over the yellow-card limit for an automatic one-match suspension.