Absent from the Champions League since Real Madrid eliminated them during the European Cup 1986 Round of 16, Juventus is back to C1 with a child’s soul, a lion’s hunger, and the style of a pretender. Let’s remember its road to the Champions League 1996 final.
Real and Nantes to the ground
Real vs Juve is the shock of the Champions League 1996 quarters. The Old Lady did her homework and avoid the trap. Ok, she lost at Madrid (0-1) after Raul’s goal. But, getting back to the old Stadio Comunale, refreshed to Stadio delle Alpi for the FIFA World Cup 1990, she does not betray her fans.
Alessandro Del Piero and Michele Padovano score two goals and turn the qualification to Juventus side. In the semifinals, Nantes is not strong enough to limit Juventus road to the Champions League 1996 final. After a 4-3 aggregate score, the Old Lady is back to a final after the 1985 Heysel tragedy.
Ajax is not so great anymore
The 1996 Ajax is not the same as the 1995 one. Of course, van Gaal keeps the same philosophy, but he lost Frank Rijkaard (retired) and Clarence Seedorf (transferred to Sampdoria).
Moreover, Michael Reiziger is suspended, Marc Overmars is injured and Frank De Boer just recovered after a 4 week absence. If you think that it couldn’t get worse, last year hero, Patrick Kluivert, is also injured.
You understand now why the D-Day will be tough for Ajax. Still, van Gaal tries to keep the moral up “Even tough Juve is strong on the back, well organised in the center and more intuitive than before, we are self-confident that we can make it”.
The Champions League 1996 final at Stadio Olimpico
However, it’s another story on the field. Juve delivered their promise. The Italian team scores quickly after a misunderstanding between van der Sar and De Boer. Ajax comes and equalizes before half-time. But Juve keeps its self-control, especially during the penalty shootout. Edgar Davids and Sonny Silooy missed, while the first four Juve players don’t tremble.
In the aftermath, Lippi, the Italian coach, speaks of “a collective masterpiece” after two years of hard work. Vialli says to get an immense joy, while Michel Platini testifies: “I’ve rarely seen a high pressing at this level.” Didier Deschamps, one of the great craftsmen of the victory, remarked, “I am often on the good sides”. For him, the best is yet to come, under the French T-shirt.