This week, as a football fan, it has been impossible to avoid talk of the match between Inter and Barcelona. Even the usually insulated English Press have been interested, with the Sunday Telegraph running a story about Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s chances of success at Barca. The match, of course, took place on Wednesday night and it would be remiss of Football Italiano to dedicate much of this club focus to the Italy vs Spain battle.
Unfortunately, for all Inter’s talk and bravado leading up to the game, the performance was not really what fans of the Nerazzurri would describe as encouraging. Barca had a huge amount of possession over the course of the match, and Inter were largely restricted to attacking on the break – not what one would expect from the home side. In terms of chances Wesley Sneijder and Dejan Stankovic went close from outside the area, but la Beneamata failed to create a clear chance all evening. In order to keep some perspective it is important to point out that Barcelona are still the best team in Europe, and any side would struggle against them – they are the finished product that Inter are striving to become. In all fairness to Inter, Jose Mourinho is still forming his post-Ibrahimovic team, and maybe when Inter go to the Camp Nou later in the group stage, we will see a side that is more confident and cohesive.
Perhaps the most amusing element of the match, given the huge hype it received during the build up, was the latest instalment of the Ibrahimovic vs. Samuel Eto’o saga. Neither striker had a very good game or, conversely, a very bad one. The best chance between either man fell to the Barca No 9 early in the first half when he was sent through on goal by Xavi, controlled nicely on his chest but dispatched the ball high and wide. Although it was not an easy chance, the Swedish striker will, no doubt, have been left thinking about what could have been last night. Eto’o on the other hand, was a victim of Inter’s overall lack of ambition to win the match. As an orthodox striker, the Cameroon international needs players to support him and create chances, of which he had none last night.
After the match, Mourinho was upbeat about his team’s performance: “We played a fantastic game, and it was a positive response against the reining European champions and the best team in the World.” The Special One then proved he is not immune to making clichéd statements about matches: “We were compact in defence, and if we had scored, we could have easily won the game.” finished the Portuguese Coach, showing sound technical knowledge of how football matches are won. Nerazzurri captain, Javier Zanetti, was also very happy with the result and paid tribute to Barca, commenting: “We have played against one of, if not the best team in the World, so to get a result is very pleasing…We did well to close down their space, especially in the second half. This is a starting point for us in the competition, and we hope to win the next time we play.”
The Barcelona players were in no doubt that they had missed a chance to win, with both Lionel Messi and Ibrahimovic having something to say on the matter: “We leave feeling that we could have won the game,” said the Argentine genius, “It was an important game, a difficult game in a massive stadium which as always was full. Still the draw was not a bad result.” Zlatan was also insistent that his new side could have emerged victorious: “I had a number of opportunities to score tonight, and with a little bit of luck, I would have scored,” said the Swede, “I’m happy with the result though, but I think that we played better than Inter, so had the team been lucky we could have got all three points.”
In truth, la Beneamata can consider themselves somewhat fortunate to have kept a clean sheet, but they can use this result as a platform on which to build. They now know what will be required to beat the best teams around and next time will be more prepared for the inevitable onslaught and lack of possession that playing Barca brings. Hopefully, the early season excitement surrounding Inter that resulted in a lot of very ambitious predictions will start to die down, and allow the Coach to start turning his highly talented group of players into an effective team (and maybe slightly with a more attacking attitude, Jose?). Last night’s game may have failed to live up to the hype, but maybe, for the Nerazzurri, that is not a bad thing.
Inter Club Focus 2009/10
Another Scudetto for the Nerazzurri? – August 18, 2009
A stuttering start, and a Portuguese explosion – August 25, 2009
It’s derby time – August 28, 2009
A wonderful derby but the champions of Europe are waiting – September 1, 2009
All is well for la Beneamata – September 4, 2009
International week (Georgia-Italy, Italy-Bulgaria)
Friendlies, injuries and stolen boots… – September 7, 2009
Nerazzurri look to the future as Ibra looks back – September 11, 2009
Inter get a point, but that’s not the point – September 18, 2009