With Roma set to square off against AC Milan in the 2021 Coppa Italia final Sunday at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia, we turned to our friends at the AC Milan Offside to get some insight into the Rossonere's recently completed season, their key players, and how Roma might unravel a Milan team they have never defeated in their three years in Serie A Femminile.
Stephanie from the ACMO was kind enough to answer our questions ahead of Sunday's final, and, as always, provided a level of insight and expertise you'll seldom find elsewhere. You can find the reverse interview at the AC Milan Offside (we'll link it here once it's posted).
Without further delay, let's get to the heart of the matter: Roma's first cup final since 2013!
Milan finished in second place and were once again fueled by the scoring of Valentina Giacinti, but who were some of the unsung heroes in the Rossonere’s season?
First and foremost, there’s Laura Agard and Laura Fusetti. They helped Milan keep several clean sheets this season. Then there’s also Refiloe Jane, the beating heart of the midfield. Then there’s Linda Tucceri Cimini, our resident dead ball specialist and engineer who drives the train. Valentina Bergamaschi is our jolly who helps build up our attack while playing as a right-back. We also can’t forget Mária Korenčiová, who saved our butts on more than one occasion as well. And then, of course, there’s Vero Boquete. We can’t forget the player who not only raised our profile but elevated our game as well. All of the players played their part but these players deserve a special mention for their contributions to the team.
Following that, what is holding this team back from title contention? Are they lacking in any particular area? Is it a coaching issue? Infrastructure? Something else entirely?
I think the team is just missing a few pieces of the puzzle. We need faster forwards and midfielders and a backup fullback so that Linda Tucceri Cimini can finally have a break. And yes, I think coaching might sometimes be an issue too. At times, I question Ganz’s tactics and wonder if he’s capable of finding the right solutions to certain problems. For example, the high line they employed against Juventus was suicidal and it was one of many questionable decisions from him. I can only hope that he learns his lessons and not make the same mistakes again.
Those two things combined lead to a mental block that we eventually have to overcome. I think we will overcome it eventually though. I’m not so sure that structural issues are to blame here as I’ve worked directly with people who work for AC Milan, and I know that they care about the women’s team. The players have repeatedly spoken of Milan being a professional environment that provides for their needs as well. Milan is still the first and only team in Italy that pays pensions for their women’s team, so that’s another indication that they care about them.
So for now, the biggest obstacles to overcome are: 1.) The mental block 2.) The coach needs to implement better tactics. 3.) The team needs to sign players that will improve the overall quality of the squad.
Once those things happen, then we can finally become the team we were meant to be.
Moving to this weekend’s matchup, the gap between Roma and Milan seems to be narrowing, but Roma has yet to actually defeat Milan. Play devil’s advocate for us and paint a scenario where Roma wins this match. In other words, what’s the nightmare scenario for Milan on Sunday?
My suggestion for Roma would be to let Milan have possession, then hit them with speed on the counterattack. And when you get those chances, you must actually convert them. Milan have been shown to be slow at times and they have a hard time against teams with fast and aggressive attacks. So, if Roma do those things, and are more clinical in front of goal, then they’ll win.
Going along with that, Milan only dropped points six times this season, was there any common thread between those defeats?
Yes, and it’s Juventus! Also, Fiorentina too. It seems like both Guarino and Cincotta had our number and figured us out this season. Inter were lucky and caught us in a weak moment, as they played us right after a tough loss against Juventus. We were missing two important players for that game and Ganz decided to try to switch from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-1-2 without giving the team enough time to adjust to the formation.
With the stalemate against Roma, the Giallorosse pressed us relentlessly and wouldn’t give us any time and space on the ball. With Sassuolo, it was a cagey affair where neither team wanted to go behind, so they were both pretty cautious throughout the match.
The moral of the story is to press Milan high and hit them on the counterattack. Don’t allow them to settle into a rhythm and you’ll win the game.
Roma has benefitted from two former Milan players, Manuela Giugliano and Camelia Ceasar. Not that we’re complaining, but why didn’t it work out for either of them with Milan?
I can’t say for certain why they left. With Ceasar, I speculate that it was because she didn’t have much playing time, as she was benched in favor of Korenčiová. With Giugliano, I think she just needed to find the right place and right environment to thrive in. Milan wasn’t that environment for her, especially after the upheaval we experienced in 2019. In the end, things worked out for the better. We got Jane and Vero as midfield reinforcements and I’m glad Giugliano’s doing well at Roma.
Flip that around, if you could take one of our players, who would it be and why?
Agnese Bonfantini. After all, she is a Milanista. Either her or Annamaria Serturini. I’ve been a fan of Sertu ever since I saw her play in Italy’s qualifier against Israel (the first one). Her substitution was a masterstroke by Milena Bertolini and it changed the structure of the match and allowed them to win the game.
Given the chance, I think she can do the same for Milan too.
Lastly, how do you see this match playing out and what’s your prediction?
I don’t like making predictions for fear of a beffata, but I will say that I expect Milan to win. They’ll probably squeak out a win by one goal or through penalties.
Huge thanks to Stephanie for her time. You can catch her work at the AC Milan Offside and Sempre Milan. Look for our match preview later today and please join us for the match tomorrow—it's going to be EPIC!