Udinese Club Focus: The Zebrette’s Season in Review
That, and Udinese must be the only zebras in the world that wear horseshoes.
With a mediocre, lacklustre start of the 2012/2013 season, a flat line, borderline boring, midseason, to a triumph, table-climbing, European-spot securing end, the Little Zebras have been all over the “success map” as much as their campaign took them all over Italy.
And what a campaign it was; full of drama! Intrigue! Conflict! Arrests! And one missed bus trip. With the Zebrette soap opera-inspired season, there was rarely a dull moment in Udine—at least, off the pitch.
The 2012/2013 season is reflective of 2010/2011, a season that is commonly considered the start of the recent Friulano Renaissance. Both began slow and ended with an explosive number of wins, resulting in an unexpected—but fully deserved—spot for a European competition. In 2010, Udinese placed fourth on the table and was eligible for Champions League (they failed to qualify in a heart breaking loss to Arsenal); this year, they placed fifth to secured a spot in the Europa League.
The 2012/2013 Zebrette season ended on eight straights wins; their final game, a 5-2 goal fest against Inter and former Udinese keeper Samir Handanovic. Their 2010/2011 saw a 13 non-losing streaking, including 7-0 victory over Palermo in Palermo, during the second half of their season.
Thus, as the Friulano would say, mior tard che mai.
However, late season winning streaks weren’t the only highlights; one of the best Serie A games Udinese played was closer to the beginning of the season, in the fall of 2012.
During late October, in the middle of a failing Europa League home and away series against BSC Young Boys, Udinese played Roma, in Rome. Erik Lamela scored a brace in the first 25 minutes, giving Rome an early lead. However, a goal by Maurizio Domizzi scored just before the half and two from Antonio Di Natale in the second, gave Udinese a much needed away win. What was remark about this game was the second half comeback from the Zebrette, including an 88th minute penalty scored by Di Natale.
Other notable games this season also saw two of the largest attendance at the Stadio Friuli and two massive wins for Udinese. In January, 21,000 people in stadium witnessed Udinese beat Inter 3-1 and in September, just under 23,000 saw Udinese win 2 -1 over Milan.
However, the best game played all season by the Little Zebras, was in October 2012, when Udinese beat Liverpool 3-2 at Anfield, during their away leg of the first round of the Europa League.
Non-game highlights this year include: Di Natale celebrating his 35th birthday, Francesco Guidolin coaching his 500th march, the launch of Udinese’s new social media platform/website/webstore, and, of course, Arrigo Brovedani.
Unfortunately, the season had quite a few lowlights too, including failed attempts at both a Europa League title – despite the win in Liverpool – and the Coppa Italia title.
Off the pitch the club also faced problems. This included defender Danilo Larangeira being found guilty of racial abuse and sentenced to a year in jail by the tribunal of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The incident over the judgment happened in 2010, while Danilo was a player for the Brazilian team Palmeiras.
During his time at Palmeiras, Danilo was accused of calling Atletico Paranaense’s Manoel “macaco” (“monkey” in Portuguese) and spitting in his face; the whole incident was caught on tape. However, the trial and the verdict were decided while Danilo was in Udine.
Additionally, it was also a bad year for Mathias Ranegie. During the celebrations of Udinese’s 3-0 win over Inter, the striker went into anaphylactic shock after accidentally eating nuts; he was hospitalized but made a full recovery. Ranegie also made headlines earlier in the season, when he was forced to drive himself to Verona during a match against Chievo. He had missed the club’s bus as he had not read the team schedule and thought the match was to be played at home.
However, thanks to, and despite of, the ups-and-downs faced by the club this year, the team still managed to finish fifth overall, with 66 points.
Player of the Season
It would be a sin not to pick Di Natale as Player of the Season. The 35 year old Neapolitan has been the heart, soul, vital organs, and pituitary gland of the team. He is Serie A’s second top goal scorer (following Napoli’s Edinson Cavani) for the year and on Sunday March 3, he scored his 150th goal; the only goal in a game against Pescara.
Although, what makes Di Natale truly unique is the he is an Italian from the south, who plays for a team from the north; he can be universally loved.
However, there is also an unsung hero of the team; one often forgotten about and over shadowed. Zeljko Brkic, Udinese’s goalkeeper, had a tough time filling Handanovic’s shoes – and net – when the Slovenian keeper left for Inter and it is easy to forget his contributions to the club when they are still pinning for Handanovic.
It also doesn’t help that Brkic kind of, sort of, looks like a poorly cast Handanovic in a made-for-tv movie.
Nevertheless, Brkic has been a solid staple in the Udinese lineup, despite being injured at the start of 2013. He is a player that can grow, develop, and succeed with the club if he’s given enough time and patience.
Which means he will be sold by the January transfer window of next year.
Goal of the Season
Well, this one is okay. I guess. You know, for a player from a small team.
(This goal was score during a 2-0 win over Chievo. Not only Goal of the Season for Udinese, but also for possibly all of Serie A).
Best and Worst Signings
Let’s begin with the worst signing this season, because “worst” in this case means “biggest hullabaloo about nothing.” Maicosuel, the Brazilian with the nickname “The Magician,” was slated to be the next Alexis Sanchez – in regards to the next big player to come out of Udinese.
That didn’t happen. In fact, you could say it was all an illusion.
Rather, he has had an average season and has been a mediocre addition to the club. However, hopefully he can continue to grow and evolve into a player for Udinese, before he is sold to another team.
The best signing of the season was the City of Udine signing over the rights of the Stadio Friuli to Udinese for the next 99 years. Now that the club owns their stadium, construction is slated to begin this summer for renovations. By the 2014/2015 season, Udinese will be playing in their new home, actually owned by them. For more details on the construction, check out the new stadium blue prints here.
And there you have it, another roller coast ride of a season for the Little Zebras. However, there’s no time to dwell on the past, the new Serie A season and Europa League group stage will start again soon.
Let’s just hope the horseshoes haven’t worn off by then.