To blame UEFA for everything will be an act of negligence by Juventus, who simply looked awful in the continuation of their crucial group stage match in Istanbul against Galatasaray. But besides their own mistakes, the pitch should never have been played on, and the weather, still snowing, hailing and raining, would have delayed the match to a different time if a normal organization was running things.
How can a match be played when one end of the pitch is looking almost like a standard patch of grass, playable and manageable, while the other is one huge swamp made up of mud and melting, crushed snow and ice? For UEFA, the schedule is more important than Fair Play (oh right, that’s FIFA), safety of players, fans, stadium workers and anyone else who had to return to the stadium less than 24 hours after it was impossible to play football there, with the weather remaining exactly the same, more or less, when the two teams met again in the Turkish afternoon.
Antonio Conte knew why he was complaining before half time. He saw the pitch. His team played attacking to the good side, where it was possible to put the ball on the ground and pass, for only 11 minutes. Galatasaray? They got an entire half worth of having the pleasure to attack to the right side, while Juventus found it impossible to do anything. It ended up with Wesley Sneijder scoring the winning goal at the 86th minute, enough to put Galatasaray through along with Real Madrid.
Conspiracy? Who knows, but everyone saw two completely different sides to the pitch once the snow thawed (only an intermission before it began coming down again). Who knows if the pitch wasn’t doctored and tended to by the home side. UEFA just wanted to get this over with, not really caring what the costs are to the teams given the wrong side of the draw.
But as for Juventus – not this match specifically, because the conditions were against them from the first moment, the word failure immediately comes up. A team on the way up with two consecutive league titles and a Champions League quarterfinals suddenly finds itself playing in the Europa League after a very managable group. However – drawing at home against Galatasaray and away against the terrible FC Copenhagen proved to costly. Playing for a draw instead of a win, or at least giving everyone that vibe, was just as costly on their final match.
UEFA are the ones with the most guilt on their non-existent conscience, but this is the first time Antonio Conte’s team has taken a step backwards over the last two and a half years.