Maldini, Buffon and Baggio feature in star-studded farewell for Italy legend Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo celebrates with teammates at the end of his testimonial match. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Maldini, Buffon and Baggio feature in star-studded farewell for Italy legend Pirlo

  • Filippo Inzaghi scores hat-trick in 7-7 draw
  • Pirlo bows out having won 116 caps for his country

MILAN: Former Italy star Andrea Pirlo took to the pitch for the final time to say goodbye to football in a star-studded testimonial “Night of the Master” tournament at the San Siro on Monday.
Champions and former teammates from all over the world — from Paolo Maldini to Gianluigi Buffon, and Roberto Baggio to Frank Lampard — joined the retiring legend to celebrate the final act of a glittering career.
“I thank my friends and all the people who came to the stadium to enjoy a fantastic evening of entertainment, sport and charity,” the 39-year-old said as he received a standing ovation from 50,000 fans.
Towards the end of the match which finished 7-7 with a hat-trick from former AC Milan and Juventus striker Filippo Inzaghi, Pirlo gave his place to his 15-year-old son Nicolo, also a midfielder and who plays for Juventus’s youth team.
“He has fun and I’m happy, he must be happy to play football, it’s the best thing in the world, in the future we’ll see,” said Pirlo.
And there was no lack of coaching talent either on the bench with former AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti leading the ‘White Stars’ team and Juventus’s Massimiliano Allegri in charge of the ‘Blue Stars’.
Italian FA vice-commissioner Alessandro Costacurta, another former AC Milan player, and who has said Pirlo could have a future role in the federation, also took to the pitch.
Pirlo said he was considering coaching.
“I have time to think about what to do. I stopped recently, I don’t miss the pitch. In the future it could be coaching,” he said.
“All my ex-teammates didn’t want to become coaches, yet they’ve all done it.”
Capped 116 times for Italy, Pirlo called time on his illustrious career last November after winning the 2006 World Cup, two Champions League titles and six Serie A trophies.
Pirlo began his career at Brescia and also played for Inter, AC Milan and Juventus before moving to play in New York City FC in the MLS.
“I chose May 21 because 21 is my number and I made my debut in May,” said Pirlo.


Asian Cup heartbreak for Jordan as Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Green Falcons chase glory against Japan

Updated 20 January 2019
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Asian Cup heartbreak for Jordan as Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Green Falcons chase glory against Japan

  • After extra-time finished at 1-1, BT Dung rolled in the decisive spot-kick for a 4-2 shootout win for Vietnam
  • The dramatic win will definitely be considered an upset after Jordan were the first to qualify for the knockout stages

DUBAI: It was Asian Cup agony for Jordan on Sunday after Vietnam emerged victorious from a penalty shoot out to become the first team to reach the quarterfinals — after being the last side to scrape into the round of 16.
After extra-time finished at 1-1, BT Dung rolled in the decisive spot-kick for a 4-2 shootout win and saluted the crowd after Baha Faisal and Ahmed Samir had missed for Jordan.
The dramatic win will definitely be considered an upset after Jordan were the first to qualify for the knockout stages, and Vietnam only went through because of their disciplinary record after they finished with an identical points and goals record to Lebanon.
However, the south-east Asian champions came back from a goal down to force extra time, and they were, on balance, the stronger and more positive team over the 120 minutes of play.
Vital Borkelmans’ Jordan came into the game as the form side and they spurned a number of chances before opening the scoring six minutes from half-time.
Baha Abdel-Rahman, taking a free kick from the right edge of the penalty area, hit it just right as the ball bent around the wall and flew into the top corner.
However, the goal stung Vietnam into action and they nearly hit back when Hung Dung’s dipping shot was tipped over by Jordan goalkeeper Amer Shafi.
Vietnam, who won the Suzuki Cup in December, levelled six minutes after the break, when Cong Phuong showed great technique to steer home a volley from close range.
On the hour-mark, Van Duc nearly snatched it for the Vietnamese but his dink over Shafi was hacked off the line by Anas Bani-Yaseen.
And Jordan’s Yaseen Bakheet had a great chance to grab the win in the first period of extra time, but from a high ball into the box he ballooned his volley over.
One could cut the tension in Dubai’s Al-Maktoum Stadium with a knife as the spot-kicks got underway and when Faisal hit the bar and Van Lam saved from Salih, Vietnam were very much in the driving seat.
Shafi, diving low, saved Minh Vuong’s attempt but it was only delaying defeat as Dung coolly netted the winner, giving a military salute in celebration before being mobbed by his team-mates.
Just 20 kilometers to the east, Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Saudi Arabia were adding the finishing touches to their preparations for the huge round of 16 clash with Japan in Sharjah, which kicks off today.
And the Argentine coach was in confident mood, despite the “Samurai Blue” being one of the favorites for the the title.
“We have great ambition, we are facing a main candidate for winning (the tournament), our confidence is in our team and we came into the tournament knowing it would be tough,” he said on Sunday.
“All of our players are ready, injury-free and available for the game.”
When asked about the defeat to Qatar in the last game, Pizzi said his Green Falcons side were using it as an opportunity to learn for their “do-or-die” clash with Japan.
“If we lose (on Sunday) then we go home, we know that.
“I have followed the Japanese team in the past few matches, and consider them as one of the best teams.
“They are among one of the most consistent and 10 out of 11 (first-team) players play abroad. I consider them as strong candidates to win, but I also trust my players abilities,” he said.
As has been his wont throughout the Asian Cup, Pizzi was keen to dedicate Saudi Arabia’s progress in the tournament to the fans.
“I know the history of the two teams, especially in World Cup qualification, and I am also aware of the joy of Saudi people when we qualified.
“You have to focus on what’s in front of you as all matches are different. We are highly committed toward our fans and we will play in the best manner to win because our fans deserve the best,” he added.