Juventus, Napoli arrive in Qatar ahead of the Italian Super Cup
Serie A defending champions Juventus and Coppa Italia holders Napoli arrived in Qatar yesterday ahead of their Supercoppa Italiana (Italian Super Cup) faceoff on Monday at the Al-Sadd Stadium in Doha. The Supercoppa is being held on foreign soil for the seventh time, with the Washington D.C., New Jersey, Tripoli and Beijing having hosted earlier editions.
The traditional curtain raiser to the Italian football season has been moved to winter this time around after Napoli requested a rescheduling because of their Champions League qualification playoff. Monday’s match will be the last one for both teams before they take a two-week break until January 6 when the Serie A will resume.
Juventus were the first to arrive in Doha, touching down at the brand new Hamad International Airport in the morning. They were welcomed by a spirited set of fans, led by the Qatar chapter of the official supporters’ group. Gianluigi Buffon and Arturo Vidal were in great demand for selfies and autographs before being whisked away to a specially decorated bus. Dedicated fans followed the team to the hotel and to the training session, where security personnel kept them at a distance.
The Napoli squad arrived later in the evening to relatively lesser fanfare. However, there was an expectant queue of fans waiting to click pictures with coach Rafa Benitez, striker Jose Callejon and Algerian left back Fouzi Ghoulam when the team went out for the first training session at around half past seven local time. Those looking out for Gonzalo Higuain and Marek Hamsik were left waiting until the delayed team equipment was finally delivered.
Both teams had open training sessions at the Aspire Academy pitches, following which Juventus held a press conference at the Grand Heritage Hotel with coach Massimilano Allegri and striker Carlos Tevez taking questions from the media.
Allegri had earlier expressed his disappointment with the scheduling of the match, telling Sky Sports Italia : "Those that do not have to play in the Supercoppa have an advantage in terms of cards because someone who gets booked in Doha risks missing a game in the league. I do not find that very fair.” However, he made it clear that Juve would give their best in the match. “The Super Cup is a tournament we all want to win. I do, as do the club, the players and the fans,” he told reporters in Doha. “We’ll be facing a strong Napoli team, especially with their dangerous attacking capabilities.”
Argentine marksman Tevez also reiterated the importance of winning the Super Cup. He then went on to comment on the attacking threat of Gonzalo Higuain. “ Although things didn’t work out well at the World Cup, he did give his maximum and El Pipita (Higuain) is always a very dangerous player. But we will be ready for him.” When asked about his recent form, which included a four-game goalless streak, Tevez put it down to lady luck. “A slice of luck is also required to score goals. I scored in Cagliari because the ball fell right at my feet.”
Both Allegri and Tevez were full of praise when local reporters popped up with the inevitable question: “What are your thoughts on the Qatar ‘22 World Cup?” “It will be wonderful,” said Tevez. “This is a beautiful country and it deserves to be discovered by the world.” Allegri pointed to the summer-winter debate as the only issue, saying: “The conditions are right for success. They just have to decide whether to play in winter or summer. I think it will be an excellent tournament.”