The Palermo Primavera has been exceeding expectations in this year’s prestigious Viareggio Cup. The annual competition which invites youth teams from all over the world is currently underway and the Palermo Primavera have stunned its opponents with their successes so far. Here’s a look at what has transpired so far.
Palermo versus Empoli – it’s an endless match this season. Not just in Serie B, where the Azzurri are Palermo’s first rivals for a Serie A spot, but also with their Primavera teams in the Viareggio Cup, where Palermo is shocking everyone.
The competition begins with a group stage where the winners advance out of their groups and enter into the knockout rounds while the runners-up have a shot at advancing as well. In this year’s group stage, it was a seemingly impossible round for “little” Palermo. The clubs the Rosanero went against were A.P.I.A. Leichhardt, Anderlecht (the defending champions) and Napoli. Only one team was sure to pass the round, and that team would be Palermo.
Ready, set, go! A 5-0 drubbing against A.P.I.A. Leichhardt was a great result for Palermo that could’ve also been larger. The “baby” Rosanero followed that win up with another victory against Napoli, 1-0 thanks to a goal from 17-year-old Sicilian defender Roberto Pirrello, a shining star for the Italy Under 17 National Team, with whom he took part in the 2013 World Cup in December. The last match was against Anderlecht, the tournament’s defending champions, and became a fight for first place. The verb “to fight” was perfect for these teams as it ended 1-1, thanks to Cephas Malele who converted a penalty in the 90th minute to draw. Anderlecht finished the match with nine men after two players were sent off and ended up second in the group. Remarkably and unbelievable, Palermo finished in first place of the group.
But let’s come back to Empoli. This year, Palermo fans may see a new rivalry with the Azzurri. In the Round of 16, Empoli were Palermo’s opponent. Yet, the Azzurri didn’t even have time to react. Five minutes in and Palermo-born striker Sergio Cucchiara scores. 1-0. Th scoreline would remain that way until the end of the match, despite several missed opportunities from Malele.
And now? The Palermo Primavera are set for the Final Eight. They will face Hellas Verona, who managed to overcome Juventus in the Round of 16. For Palermo, it’s another step towards a dream. A dream made of Erice-born goalkeeper Fabrizio Alastra’s saves (only one goal conceded), of Pirrello’s tackles, Palermo-born midfielder and captain Dario Giacomarro’s grit, which made him look like a veteran, ‘u picciriddu Accursio Bentivegna, the baby striker from Sciacca who is just 17-years-old and the “bigs” in Carlos Embalo and Cephas Malele. This Viareggio Cup has their faces. While the “baby” Rosanero have already enjoyed a great tournament, let’s hope this side led by Giovanni Bosi keeps going deeper into the Viareggio Cup and shocking the competition.