Juventus Women came into the season off the back of a shining Scudetto, from their first attempt... But how could they repeat the same emotion again? The answer is in the plot of a historical season, culminating in front of 39 000 at Allianz Stadium, and with the final twist...
#HERE2STAY - A blockbuster... in bianconero!
"Just like being in a movie,” was the emotional synthesis of Rita Guarino after the fundamental victory against Fiorentina at Allianz Stadium, that left her seething with enthusiasm.
A film whose screenplay comes from afar, and that has been written since last summer... The plot presented its most demanding objective to Juventus: to claim another Scudetto trophy.
The sequels, critics say, are always worse than the original. The Bianconere came into the season off the back of a shining Scudetto, from their first attempt.. So, how could they repeat the same emotion? The first championship had received applause from the public and critics alike, but now it was up to the whole team, including staff, to raise the bar.
The first commitment was taken up by Stefano Braghin, Head of Women, who had a a European vision. In just a few days, players arrived capable of raising the level of a winning team: in defence, Petronella Ekroth, in midfield, Lianne Sanderson and Aleksandra Sikora, in attack two real strikers, Eniola Aluko and Cristiana Girelli, while in the winter transfer window, two midfielders would be added in the shape of Ashley Nick and Sofie Junge Pedersen.
As in any good subject, the hero must start with some difficulty, and the Women, unexpectedly, began the season in a non-brilliant manner.
Robust victories (6-0 at Chievo Valpo, 3-0 at Florentia, 5-0 at Orobica, 4-0 at Roma), where also accompanied by some false steps against Mozzanica (1-1) and a nasty 0-3 stumble in the challenge for the top against Milan at Franco Ossola in Varese.
A painful slap came two weeks after the defeat in the Italian Super Cup, at Picco di La Spezia, against Fiorentina (0-1). On match day six, Juventus can be found in third place, behind the Rossoneri and Viola...
It's only November, but for the hero, it's time to look in the mirror. And react.
The charge still comes from the coach, already in the Varese locker room, after the nightmare quarter hour that resulted in three goals conceded and Milan overtaking Juventus in the standings. "Losing these points weighs heavy, but it will help us find the right capacity to react and adjust ourselves," Guarino prophesized.
A hero knows his or her potential and does not fear any twists. However, screenwriters know that a film works only if there is a worthy antagonist. This time there are even two: Milan, who we have already seen, but also and - it will soon be discovered - above all, Fiorentina. Two teams of high rank, who underpin the turning points of the Bianconeri championship.
It was in the home of the lilies where, in fact, Juventus began to understand that destiny was changing. Three weeks had passed since the defeat to the Rossoneri, and they took to the field at Gino Bozzi in Florence. No one said it, but if there is a game very close to the inside or outside, it is this. On the eve, Stefano Braghin declares: "In case of victory, our championship could take a different turn.” It was a strong statement that empowered the group. And, in fact, here's the answer: a 2-0 win signed off by the two prolific Italian strikers; Girelli and Bonansea, in what would be a true turning point in the league.
On match day 10, Milan fell, while Juve had already tripped up: 0-0 against Mozzanica, and Rita Guarino's team where able to return to the top of the log and breathe the scent of fresh air at the pinnacle. Juve didn’t know it at the time, but it was to inspire them until the end.
Each victory became more convincing with each triumph, the next thing that stood in their path was revenge over Milan. For the occasion, the Women took to the field of Silvio Piola in Vercelli, where they imposed themselves through Barbara Bonansea’s brace. It would not be the last time that the girls would taste victory in front of packed stands at an important stadium. Indeed, it would quickly become just the appetizer. The showdown, the redde rationem, will be an epic moment.
This day alone would be enough to fill an entire plot. The announcement already creates an iconic moment: Juventus Women will play their league match against Fiorentina Women’s at Allianz Stadium. In the temple of the seven Scudetti, and what will soon be the eighth, where history had already been written by men, it was up to women to add an important chapter.
The event is so great that it deserves a title: "The Première", the first. "Just like being in a movie," with the words of Guarino.
Enthusiasts felt the call of the historical moment, and within a few days, the availability of places were quickly snapped up. A full house. Eight thousand spectators was the target. However, two days after the announcement, ticket reservations reached 20 000. Eventually a total of 39 000 fans would fill the stands. Chills.
The wait is a crescendo of emotions: Rita Guarino's girls have turned the spotlight on a movement that is becoming increasingly popular. But there is a risk: being at the center of such a scene can distract you from the game that is worth the league title.
And finally, the moment arrived: Sunday, March 24th, at 15:00. The stadium filled up in a blaze of black and white flags. A joy like this can only be described by an emotional Rita Guarino, on the side of the field, after the most important victory in the Scudetto race: “Playing in such a full stadium creates one more opponent, at least initially. It was a very heartfelt game, a fundamental move one step closer to winning the Scudetto. Winning in front of all these people is emotional. I look back and I think of all the people who fought with me to make this sport more appreciated and followed: this was really an important day.”
Many were moved to see Cecilia Salvai, victim of a bad knee injury, carried onto the field to celebrate the victory under the curva with her teammates. It is a group photo, the poster of a victory, that has the signature of all, none excluded.
It's a classic for Hollywood's best screenwriters: putting a twist on the film when it looks like it's headed for a happy ending. This time the U-turn takes place at Sassuolo's home, just three days after the triumph at the Allianz Stadium. It’s a game that seems to have been written specifically to maintain tension: poles, crossbars, a continuous siege. Then, at the end of the second half, the twist: a goal by Sassuolo. And Juve's lead at the top of the table is shortened: Juventus have one point more than Fiorentina and two over Milan, with only two games to go.
Rita Guarino’s ladies delivered the final knockout punch that amazed and exalted, thanks to a victory over Hellas Verona in Verona. Juventus is thus, coup de théâtre in the coup de théâtre, celebrating their second league title in two years.
The answer to those who asked themselves: can a sequel be more beautiful than the original, is plain and obvious? Of course it can! And the beauty is that no one intends to close the saga here.