Inter Milan has finally arrived for their highly anticipated tour of North America, and FCDallas.com has your ticket to follow the Champions of Europe every step of the way. We’ve sent a team of FC Dallas staffers to join the UEFA Champions League winners on the road, and they’ll be providing daily updates, videos and photo galleries as Inter travels from their first stop in Philadelphia all the way until they take the pitch at Pizza Hut Park on Thursday, Aug. 5 at 8 p.m.
Stay tuned to this blog for multiple updates each day, and don’t forget to purchase your tickets to see Inter Milan face off with FC Dallas next week!
Thursday, August 5: Post-game (11:30 p.m. Central)
Inter Milan ended their North American tour with a 2-2 tie against FC Dallas on Thursday night at Pizza Hut Park. A few impressions from the match:
FC Dallas held their own. In fact, Rafa Benitez commented in the post-game press conference that FCD looked “quite sharp” and “in very good physical condition.” Inter meanwhile looked fatigued from a combination of their long road trip and the stifling Texas heat.
But when Inter wants to play, they play. Look no further than this Samuel Eto’o highlight for evidence. Inter is one of those rare teams that has the ability to impose their will on a defense, but tonight that will seemed missing but for two rare glimpses.
Not surprisingly, both of those glimpses involved Eto’o. Besides his spectacular goal in the 64th minute, Eto’o also assisted on Diego Milito’s first-half finish to take the early lead. On a team of superstars, Eto’o still stands out for his technique and flawless finishing.
The Inter defense is still taking shape. The last two games of Inter’s preseason tour exposed some shaky defending from the Italian side, something Benitez has openly acknowledged. The defending UEFA Champions have work to do if they want a shot at another treble.
Inter has one more practice tomorrow morning (closed to media and fans) before heading home on Saturday. We’ll keep you updated as Inter Milan: Destination Dallas comes to a close.
Thursday, August 5: Inter's Starting XI (8:00 p.m. Central)
Here’s your Inter Milan Starting XI for tonight’s match:
Couple thoughts on the Starting XI:
Inter Milan doesn’t like to lose. Coming off that 3-2 defeat at the hands of Greek club Panathinaikos, Inter Milan came out with their big guns: six of the starting XI played for their respective countries in the 2010 World Cup. That includes Brazil’s Maicon and Lucio, Argentina’s Milito and Samuel, Cameroon’s Eto’o and Serbia’s Stankovic. Pretty impressive grouping if you ask me.
Cesar will get some action. The Brazilian keeper is listed as an available sub for the first time on this North American tour, which bodes well for the packed house here tonight – FC Dallas fans will get a chance to see arguably the best keeper in the world.
Benitez is high on Coutinho. The kid gets his second start of pre-season amongst some of the best players in the world – and he’s proven he can hold his own out there. Italians fans everywhere must be drooling over the 18-year-old.
We’ll see how the Champions of Europe match up against their first MLS side of pre-season.
Thursday, August 5: Game day in Dallas (6:00 p.m. Central)
Thought you guys would enjoy a summary trascript of the press conference Inter Milan head coach Rafa Benitez held yesterday prior to practice. With only hours to go before game time, Pizza Hut Park is buzzing with excitement!
Q: Talk about the heat here in Texas and how it might affect the team.
A: Hopefully it won’t. Hopefully our practices will get the players used to the heat and it will not affect them later on.
Q: What are your impressions of Inter Milan so far, and the challenges of being new to a team with so much success last year?
A: It’s good. It’s a challenge after winning three titles, now we have the opportunity to win six…we will try to do our best in every trophy and see what happens. My motto has always been one step at a time, so obviously we can go forward to the first one and afterward think about the next one.
Q: Did you feel like a change at this point in your career was vital to moving forward?
A: I had been in Liverpool for six years. It was a fantastic experience, a fantastic club and fantastic fans, so I really enjoyed it there. Hopefully it will be the same here. I am coming to a big club that has won many trophies in the last year; it seems like for the past five or six years the team has been very successful, so hopefully we can keep it the same way. It is a challenge for me.
Q: Have you given much thought to your formation this season and who will start?
A: I have not because we have too many players coming back late from international duty, so we have to see how everyone has settled down. But more or less the majority of the players that were winning last year. I don’t have an exact idea, they have to compete for their positions but more or less the same players will start.
Q: Can you talk about the play of some of your younger players like Coutinho and Obi and how they have performed in preseason?
A: We are really impressed with all of them and the way that they train and the way that they work. It is what we were expecting from young players. They have the desire and ambition. We are really pleased, and also they show some quality on the pitch. It is not easy because we have only had two games and this is the third one, but you can see things that would be good for the future of the club.
Q: You’ve talked about bringing a more attacking style to the pitch. Talk about your plans for the offense.
A: I feel that Inter is an offensive team. Normally they win a lot of games, so that means they are attacking all the time so we will try to do the same. Our idea is to attack and then you have to defend, and hopefully we can do it better than we did in the first half the other day (against Panathinaikos in Toronto).
Q: What do you know about the MLS, and what do you think the game against FC Dallas will hold for you?
A: I have been here to the Dallas Cup 20 years ago, and I know about the reputation of the Dallas Youth system. Liverpool I believe has been here also and they’ve won it three times. I know the MLS team is playoff-bound, so I am sure that they will be a hard task for us.
Wednesday, August 4: Inter has arrived (8:30 p.m. Eastern)
The moment DFW soccer fans have been awaiting finally arrived today at approximately 5:15 p.m. when a charter bus carrying Inter Milan pulled up to the Northwest gate at Pizza Hut Park. The guys were met by throngs of fans there to watch Inter’s open practice on the Frisco pitch.
The practice itself was a light one, as the coaching staff has voiced concerns over the Texas heat (which at one point today hit 103 degrees). The real standout was watching the guys interact with fans. Despite the sweat, heat and already having signed 100 items for charity, each player stopped along the rail after practice and signed autographs for the waiting fans.
Esteban Cambiasso in particular continued to sign long after he could have politely headed for the lockerroom, and Nelson Rivas, Maicon and Lucio all stayed late to accommodate the crowd. It was great to see the incredible soccer fans of the DFW area be rewarded for their enthusiasm and support!
In player news, Mario Balotelli did indeed rejoin the team today – turns out the passport excuse was a real one, although it appears unlikely he will be an available sub tomorrow night.
Maicon was also there and practicing with the team. One of the Inter staffers remarked that “for me, he is the best out there,” and I would have to agree after the past five days spent with the team. FC Dallas fans will really get a treat to see him for one of the last times (presumably) in an Inter jersey.
And finally, at the end of practice head coach Rafa Benitez stopped to speak with reporters. When asked about the condition of the field he called the pitch “fantastic,” saying “if we do not play well here, we do not have any excuse.”
Inter will return to PHP early tomorrow morning for a closed practice before taking the pitch against FC Dallas tomorrow night at 8 p.m.
Tuesday, August 3: Post-game (10:30 p.m. Eastern)
The final score tonight ended with an Inter Milan 2-3 loss to Greek side Panathinaikos. Some key learnings from the match:
The travel schedule might have caught up with Inter. The Italian side looked sluggish and back on their heels, compared to a Greek side that was playing the first match of their North American tour. Inter, meanwhile, has visited Philadelphia (training), Baltimore (friendly), New York City (appearance) and Toronto (friendly) in just nine days.
Coutinho is the real deal. The 18-year-old burgeoning star scored for the second straight match, this time off a perfect pass from Maicon in the 85th minute. Dubbed “the Jonas brother” by…well, us, it’s fun to watch Coutinho go from a quiet, unassuming kid around veteran teammates to a playmaker on the field. Keep an eye on him Thursday night – hopefully we’ll be seeing him in an Inter jersey for a long time to come.
Practice makes perfect. Remember that drill I was talking about on Monday, the one they didn’t let us film? It was all about offensive schemes and pairings, and it literally came to life on the pitch Tuesday night when Obi got the ball on a breakaway and perfectly laid it off to Samuel Eto’o, who buried it in the net for Inter in the 32nd minute.
Here’s hoping the transfer deal for Maicon doesn’t go through. The Brazilian star came on the field with Benitez’s flight of World Cup players in the 74th minute (Maicon, Lucio, Muntari, Samuel, Milito) and still managed to stand out among all that talent. His ball distribution created numerous chances in only 16 short minutes, changing the pace of the game and elevating Inter Milan almost immediately. I, for one, am hoping the rumored transfer deal to Real Madrid falls through so he can keep sparking the Inter’s offensive attack.
Immediately following the game we boarded a plane with the team to Dallas, finally arriving in the Lone Star State at 3 a.m. Central time. First comments from the team? It’s hot.
Inter will practice today, Wednesday at 6 p.m., at Pizza Hut Park. The practice is open to all those who purchased their tickets before July 19th; simply bring your game ticket with you for entrance.
Tuesday, August 3: Starting XI (8:00 p.m. Eastern)
Starting lineup for tonight’s friendly versus Panathinaikos FC:
Inter Milan – Ivan Cordoba, Javier Zanetti, Samuel Eto’O, MacDonald Mariga, Esteban Cambiasso, Joel Chukwuma Obi, Paolo Orlandoni, Marco Materazzi, Christian Chivu, Goran Pandev, Victor Nsofor Obinna
Panathinaikos FC – Josu Sarriegi, Sotirios Ninis, Cedric Kante, Djibril Cisse, Sidney Govou, Sebastian Eduardo Leto, Simao Mate Junior, Loukas Vyntra, Konstantinos Katsouranis, Alexandros Tzorvas, Nikolaos Spyropoulos
Some thoughts on that first XI for Inter:
World Cup stars back in action. The members of Inter who played in the World Cup must be feeling recovered. Samuel Eto’o makes his first pre-season start, and Julio Cesar (Brazil), Lucio (Brazil), Sulley Muntari (Ghana), Maicon (Brazil) and Diego Milito (Argentina) are all listed as available subs for the first time during this North American tour. If that trend continues, fans at Pizza Hut Park could truly be in for a star-studded lineup.
That’s right, I said Maicon. Don’t order your new Real Madrid jerseys just yet. Maicon traveled with the team today and is available to play. Could it be that transfer talks with Jose Mourinho’s side have broken down for good?
No sign of Mario Balotelli. Is it a passport issue or has the transfer fee finally been agreed upon? We’ll know more if he meets the team in Dallas.
Zanetti and Materazzi are gamers. From what I can gather by watching training and these friendlies, Zanetti and Materazzi just like to play. Everything on the pitch runs through them, and even on days when they could take a well-deserved break they’re out there on the field. Their enthusiasm for the game is evident in everything they do.
Benitez is giving his youth a chance to shine. From starting Coutinho against Manchester City to Joel Chukwuma Obi tonight (18 and 19-years-old, respectively), Benitez is giving his young talent an opportunity to show their stuff in preseason.
More thoughts after the match.
Tuesday, August 3: Travel to Toronto (11:00 a.m. Eastern)
As I write this we are on the Inter Milan plane to Toronto, where the team will take on Panathinaikos FC tonight at the Rogers Centre at 8 p.m. Eastern. After being around the team for four days now, I can tell you that what you are getting at Pizza Hut Park on Thursday night is a truly world-class organization. From the head coach to the staff to the players, Inter Milan are true professionals who are going to give you some of the best soccer in the world.
A few observations from this morning:
Mario Balotelli was not with the team and is not traveling to Toronto. From what we heard, the official reason was some kind of passport mix-up, but with Goal.com reporting that the transfer deal with Man City is all but done you have to wonder. We’ll see if he rejoins the team for their scheduled Wednesday training session at PHP.
These guys travel in style. I have personally never witnessed so much Louis Vuitton luggage in one place at one time. Clearly the Italians prefer their own designer!
Julio Cesar might be one of the nicest guys on the planet – not to mention arguably the best keeper. After one of the American CAA agents misplaced his passport, Cesar took it personally upon himself to track it down. His concern was genuine and the passport was eventually found. Nice to know that you can be a superstar athlete and still a nice guy. I’ll be especially excited to see him face off against the FC Dallas guys on Thursday.
I won’t make any predictions about tonight’s lineup, but it’s my impression that, as the tour progresses, more of the big name guys will get in the game earlier and for longer. Make no mistake, this is not a tour for show; Rafa Benitez is treating this as a real pre-season and a true way to get his team ready. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been in two-a-days for much of their training in Philadelphia.
We’ve got some great photos and video of the team boarding the plane that we’ll post soon. Stay tuned for more game day updates as the team readies themselves for their Tuesday night matchup.
Monday, August 2: Q&A with Rafa Benitez (5:30 p.m. Eastern)
FCDallas.com: Is it hard to come into a team that had the success Inter did last year?
I think that always you have a chance in a big-name squad, and there is a challenge for every man out here to have the opportunity to train with a team like this that has won everything in the last year. So it is a challenge for me to do the same this year or at least to try to reach for trophies.
FCDallas.com: You came to Inter Milan from Liverpool, what was it like moving on?
My feeling about Liverpool has been and will be always the same. I was really pleased to be there. It was a fantastic group and fantastic fans. Now I am at another club so I have to move forward so I don’t think too much about the past, I just try to do it now.
FCDallas.com: What are your thoughts about the Dallas stop of the tour?
I was in Dallas before with Real Madrid and I won the trophy maybe 10 years ago, I don’t remember exactly how long ago. I know the city and I know the place where we play there, it’s a nice place. I am really pleased to go there. But it is another team, another challenge, another expectation, so I will try to enjoy it.
FCDallas.com: When you are looking for players to acquire, is it important for them to be Italian?
We have always the same idea. As a coach we want the best players and the fans they want the best players so we don’t think about the passport, we don’t think about the nationality of a player. We think about just who could play for us. And that is the key, that is what the fans will enjoy. It doesn’t matter the passport of a player. If you said to me that it would be good to have a lot of local players, fantastic. But at this level it’s not easy because the players we have in this clubhouse are so good that it’s difficult to bring in a new player at this level.
Monday, August 2: Final training (11:45 a.m. Eastern)
The big news from today’s practice was that Mario Balotelli was still present and working out with the team. Despite persistent rumors to the contrary, it appears the impending deal with Manchester City is not yet finalized – but Balotelli is certainly the picture of a player who knows his days with his current team are numbered.
The 19-year-old phenom (and believe me, he lives up to the billing in person) was the first out on the practice field, but mostly kept to himself before joining up with the team for the first three phases of the training session: warm-up, holding position skills and possession. After that he disappeared into the gym for strength building exercises.
Three players had individual sessions today: Thiago Motta, Nelson Rivas and David Suazo. Suazo, a forward from Honduras, was focused mainly on fitness and agility while working with a conditioning coach and a set of cones, while Colombian defender Rivas spent most of his time running laps around the complex.
After warming up, the players split into groups of four and worked on offensive schemes and pairings. This was also the point where they asked us to turn off our video camera. I can say, however, that it was my first time seeing Samuel Eto’o play up close and in person and he is every bit as good as advertised. His perfectly placed headers found the back of the net more frequently than any other Inter player in the drill.
The final section of training was a mini tournament. The squad divided into three teams who took turns facing off on a small field, forcing them to work in limited space and testing their ball control. I noticed that Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar did not work as a keeper, but instead donned a penny and jumped right in the action in the middle of the field. He is incredibly agile and looked just as at home on the pitch as he does in the net.
This session was the last of Inter’s time at NovaCare Complex, the practice facility of the Philadelphia Eagles. Tomorrow morning we’ll join the team on the plane to Toronto, where they’ll play Panathinaikos FC that night, and then we’ll fly to Dallas with them immediately following the game – making for a very late arrival in the Lone Star State.
We were able to get a short interview with head coach Rafael Benitez, and will post that for you later today.
Sunday, August 1: Rumors persist (1:45 p.m. Eastern)
It appears that the deal to send 19-year-old “Super” Mario Balotelli to Manchester City is all but done, with several news outlets reporting that the deal will be announced early this week. As far as what we’ve seen here in Philadelphia, Balotelli has been present at team training but has mostly participated in specialized individual training drills and very few team drills. This morning he warmed up individually but then held a session of ball possession with several teammates.
We witnessed him board the bus yesterday to Baltimore to face off against his potential new team, but he was not listed as an available sub on the roster and did not appear to suit out. Head coach Rafa Benitez was asked about the status of his young star in the post-game press conference, but repeated his oft-used mantra that he is “just here to coach.” Benitez has distanced himself from the entire Balotelli situation, saying he wants the youngster to focus on conditioning and training as long as he’s a member of the team.
We’ll keep you posted as to what we witness here on the ground in Philadelphia – it will be interesting to see if Balotelli is present at team training Monday morning.
Sunday, August 1: No rest for the weary (10:15 a.m. Eastern)
You might assume that following last night’s 3-0 victory over Manchester City, Inter Milan might take a well-deserved break from their early morning practice routine – maybe even sleep in after arriving back to their Philadelphia hotel after 1 a.m.
But sleeping in doesn’t win you trebles, and Inter was back at it bright and early this morning at the Philadelphia Eagles training facility. The practice was technically closed to members of the media, but much like your own FC Dallas team, FCD staffers are nothing if not persistent. I expected to see something resembling a recovery practice, where the guys do some light jogging coupled with a few technical drills and call it a day. Practices like that are common in professional sports and allow the athletes to flush any soreness out of their legs while keeping sharp for matches ahead.
But from what we saw, this was no recovery day. The Nerrazzuri who played long minutes last night had an aerobic session on the field, but for the rest it was business as usual. Samuel Eto’o and Marco Materazzi were leading a small group running laps around the field – no light jog here, the pace was high – while the rest of the squad worked on possesion and small-field scrimmages. The intensity of these small-field scrimmages was very focused – think a half-court scrimmage in basketball – and several of the guys were pulling on their shorts only a few minutes in.
We were told that head coach Rafa Benitez wanted to work the players hard in the morning before allowing them the afternoon off. The schedule will be the same tomorrow, and then the team heads to Toronto Tuesday morning before facing off against Panathinaikos FC on Tuesday night.
As for what the players will do with their free afternoon, it appears several are heading on a team shuttle to New York City while others will scatter around Philadelphia going shopping and sight-seeing. If you’re in either city, be on the lookout for the gold Inter star emblazoned on team polos.
We’ll pick the blog back up tomorrow morning and preview the Toronto matchup for you then.
Saturday, July 31: Game recap (10:30 p.m. Eastern)
Great showing in Baltimore tonight. 36,569 strong – banners all over the building from fans of the Nerazzurri. Vuvuzelas spotted (and heard).
Rafa’s debut proved that one focus for this team will be team chemistry and knowing your teammates. Sharp passes from Pandev, Zanetti and field general Cambiasso led to a great attack from the Italian side. Much of what we’ve seen in practice this week centered around chemistry (buddy system drill, short-sided games, etc.). His team also showed a very exciting style of play – uptempo, attacking, taking changes and making them count.
Marco means business. It may be the first game of the preseason, but don’t tell that to Marco Materazzi. He rushed to the defense of teammate Goran Pandev in the 19th minute and was involved in a very physical play resulting in a red card for Man City’s Patrick Viera in the 21st minute.
The crowd offered a fantastic reception as Eto’o came on field in the second half. Eto’o had a solid run on a ball but was unable to convert.
Obinna Obinna. Victor Obinna was one of the first Inter players we visited with when they arrived in Philadelphia on Sunday. Obinna told us he was taking the preseason “a game at a time.” His first pre-season game included a goal in the 38th minute and a second shot, on goal, which lead to an own goal in the 54th minute.
That's it for me, as I'm headed back to Dallas to make sure Pizza Hut Park is ready for our match with Inter on Thursday. Melanie Jarrett, your FC Dallas digital content editor, will be taking it from here.
See you Thursday!
Saturday, July 31: Game underway (8 p.m. Eastern)
We are underway at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Inter’s starting XI includes:
Joel Chukwuma Obi
Nsofor Victor Obinna
Some thoughts on that lineup:
Rafa seems to be easing into the preseason. His World Cup players, including Maicon, Muntari, Cesar, Samuel and Milito joined the team late today in Baltimore.
Coutinho gets the nod tonight. On Sunday Rafa said this player was the one he had seen the most improvement of coming into preseason training. Coutinho turned 18 in June.
Available subs that we’re excited to see: Stankovic, Eto’o and Mancini.
Saturday, July 31: Game day (3 p.m. Eastern)
The Nerazurri team bus left Philadelphia around 10:00 a.m. this morning for Baltimore. Amidst rumors of a transfer to tonight’s opponent, Manchester City, Mario Balotelli was on the bus.
Missing from the bus were the World Cup players, including Maicon, Muntari, Samuel, Lucio and Cesar.
We have confirmed that the players will be in Baltimore for Inter’s game tonight following a specialized training session this afternoon.
Friday, July 30: Press conference (12 p.m. Eastern)
What did we learn from Javier Zanetti and Rafa Benitez in this morning’s Inter Milan press conference, which was streamed live on FCDallas.com?
Captain Javier Zanetti is confident. When speaking on the differences between the previous head coach (Mourinho) and the new one (Benitez), Zanetti said, “We conquered a lot with Mourinho and believe we will do the same with Benitez."
Zanetti is also ready to get out and play, calling Saturday’s matchup with Manchester City (in Baltimore) “an interesting one.”
The game is more than interesting for one Inter player, Mario Balotelli. Reports this week have “Super” Mario transferring to Man City. Additionally, we’ve also heard that Maicon might be on his way out.
Rafa Benitez said that he wants both players “to focus on their training sessions” and added, “You can’t control the market.”
Both Zanetti and Benitez closed by acknowledging the fans in Baltimore, Toronto and Dallas who will witness their upcoming games on the North American tour, which culminates in Dallas on Thursday, August 5 at 8 p.m.
Thursday, July 29: Star sightings (12 p.m. Eastern)
Maicon, Diego Milito, Walter Samuel, Sulley Muntari and Julio Cesar joined Inter Milan at the Eagles NovaCare facility for this morning’s training, arriving after successful World Cup runs.
Maicon and Julio Cesar played on the Brazilian team that made it to the quarterfinals before a loss to the Netherlands. Sulley Muntari played for the Black Stars from Ghana in their victory over the U.S. before a quarterfinal loss to Uruguay. Champions League final hero Diego Milito, along with Walter Samuel, both were members of the Argentine national team that lost in the quarterfinals to Germany.
Maicon, Milito, Samuel and Muntari began the morning with a technical warm-up for creating one-touch opportunities. The group, along with Cesar, then stretched while the rest of the team broke into groups for 6v6 scrimmages.
Inter has closed practice this evening before having another set of two-a-days tomorrow, as well as a press conference which can be seen on FCDallas.com.
Wednesday, July 28: Field trip (7 p.m. Eastern)
Internazionale’s practice schedule changed today, with only one morning practice before an appearance in Manhattan’s Niketown store this afternoon.
After a technical warm-up, the team participated in situational drills that helped to continue to build team chemistry under new head coach Rafa Benitez. Inter’s intra-squad scrimmages lasted a total of 40 minutes.
While the team was scrimmaging, I noticed individual training sessions for “Super” Mario Balotelli, Nelson Rivas and David Suazo.
As reported earlier this morning, Diego Milito’s arrival was confirmed by Inter.IT. Milito did not attend morning training, but instead met with his teammates at the hotel prior to the departure for New York.
Fans of the Nerazzurri packed 57th & 5th Avenue chanting traditional Inter songs this afternoon for a special appearance at Niketown. The place was literally buzzing with anticipation for the arrival of the championship side and the official unveiling of their new uniforms.
The crowd, estimated at 1000+, erupted as the team was introduced and entered a three-tiered platform on the floor of the five-story Nike facility. Dressed in a mix of their home, road and alternate 2010 Nike kits, Inter’s players smiled, playing off of the energy from the crowd.
Sitting front and center on the platform were four of the leaders from the squad: Javier “Pupi” Zanetti, Marco Materazzi, Ivan Cordoba and head coach Rafael Benitez.
Amid chants of “Diego! Diego!” (for Diego Milito, seated behind Benitez), the four answered questions regarding their appearances in the U.S., defending a treble and expectations for the new season.
When asked about his current training regimen and how it compares to in his youth, Cordova said, “I try to follow the instructions of my coach and a little bit extra.”
His answer belied the longevity of an athlete who has played more than 290 games with the Nerazzurri. Of course, it also pleased his new coach.
“We’re here to train and nothing else” said Marco Materazzi, speaking about the team’s North American tour and the prospect of sightseeing while stateside. “We don’t have much down time.”
Inter will resume two-a-days on Thursday.
Wednesday, July 28: Milito watch (10 a.m. Eastern)
Reports from Inter.IT are that Diego Milito has arrived and will join his team in today's afternoon activities, which includes a team trip to Niketown for an appearance.
Milito, a center-forward, has become widely known after his two-goal game against Bayern Munich is May's Champions League victory. The Argentine forward is beginning his second full season for the Nerazzurri.
Tuesday, July 27: Two-a-days (10 p.m. Eastern)
Inter’s two-a-days continued today. The championship side focused on offense this morning and practiced drills aimed at positional attacking before separating into midfielders and forwards to practice crosses.
Samuel Eto’O was of particular interest to me throughout today’s sessions.
The Cameroon National Team captain, in his second year playing for Inter, was out of strength training early to work on his conditioning. He seemed exceptionally sharp as the team worked on finishing.
I’ve heard FC Dallas’ own Bobby Rhine say on many occasions that the great ones “make their own luck.”
There may not be a player luckier than Samuel Eto’O.
Eto’O’s career includes stops with Real Madrid, Mallorca, Barcelona and Internazionale. He has notched 216 career goals, including 16 in his first season with Inter, a season in which he helped lead them to a Champions League victory. The 2-1 win over Bayern Munich secured Eto’O’s place in history as the only player to win the treble in back-to-back seasons (2008-09 with Barcelona; 2009-10 with Inter).
With experience like that, it’s understandable to see Rafa lean on Eto’O for on-field leadership during scrimmages, as witnessed in today’s afternoon session.
If Eto’ O is lucky, he’s in good company with the Nerazzurri. As noted in previous posts, Inter Milan has won five consecutive Serie A titles, quite a run for Front Office staff who have been there to witness it.
One of those is Luigi Crippa, press officer for Inter. Crippa has been with the club for eight years, and has seen the team win 12 titles in that span.
I can’t say if Crippa made his own luck or happened upon it, but it is refreshing to see the soccer gods shine on someone who has passionately devoted themselves to the game they so love.
Monday, July 26: Quick hits from training (11 p.m. Eastern)
Quick hit observations from this afternoon’s training:
Much of the team’s session was spent in team-oriented drills. The Champions League winner seems determined to perfect its touch and recreate the chemistry that led to victories over Chelsea, Barcelona and Bayern Munich en route to capturing the treble.
And speaking of titles, Inter is preparing to defend their fifth straight Italian Serie A title. Whether in team training or positional/ball technique drills, there is a tremendous focus apparent from this side. Field general Javier Zanetti set the tone alongside Goran Pandev in conditioning.
Coach Rafael Benitez isn’t the type of coach to stand and watch. Donning his new club's colors, Rafa spent much of the training in the middle of the group, where he barked calls and encouraged his team’s performance. This is Benitez’ first season with Nerazzurri, following six seasons with Liverpool.
Inter plays FC Dallas on Thursday, August 5. This game is the last in their North American tour before taking on Roma in the Italian Super Cup on August 21.
Maicon, Milito, Cesar, Muntari and Samuel are set to join the club towards the end of this week.
Yours truly was interviewed for InterChannel this afternoon (gulp). I tried to explain that I was here to cover practice and the team, but the folks from Inter Milan were determined to get the scoop on how soccer in the U.S. was impacted by the World Cup, how FCD has performed this season and how Dallas/Ft. Worth feels about having Inter Milan coming to play at Pizza Hut Park. I’ll be sure to pass along the link once it is published.
What has impressed me most about day one of Inter Milan: Destination Dallas is this team’s focus and attention to detail. You always hear about an athlete’s hunger for winning and how the taste of one championship can fuel the competitive spirit.
Fueled is how I would best describe this side.
Benitez, Zanetti, Materazzi, Eto’o, Cambiasso and Pandev aren’t showing any signs of jet lag from their trip across the Atlantic just a day ago. They are here to work and prepare to do what they do best: play championship soccer.
Monday, July 26: Training gets underway (2 p.m. Eastern)
FCDallas.com had the opportunity to visit with a handful of Inter Milan’s players following the team’s first training today.
We first caught up with Nelson Rivas, a defender who is returning to Inter after spending the 2009-10 season on loan to A.S. Livorno Calcio. Rivas was aware of FC Dallas’ Colombian trio (David Ferreira, Milton Rodriguez and Jair Benitez).
“They were my teammates in Colombia, so I know them really well,” Rivas said.
Rivas, speaking directly to the Dallas-area’s Colombian community, extended “an invitation to all Colombians to join us and enjoy the passion of soccer” when Inter plays FCD on Thursday, August 5.
Next up was Captain Javier Zanetti, who added that he was “very happy to be here” and ready “to begin a new season” with his teammates.
Speaking about fellow Argentinian and FC Dallas player Dario Sala, Zanetti called him a “great goalkeeper.”
“Surely we’ll have the opportunity to play and shake hands,” Zanetti added.
Zanetti is no stranger to Dallas and told us that he has visited the Dallas area before and likes the opportunity to play there.
Like Rivas, Zanetti wanted to extend an invitation to the Latin community of Dallas/Ft. Worth, offering, as he said, “great greetings and a great hug to all the Latin people who will be present.”
Though they may play for an Italian club, you can sense that these men have great pride both for their home nations and their sport – a pride they look forward to displaying when they come to Dallas.
Sunday, July 25: Inter Milan arrives
When Inter Milan arrived in Philadelphia today, a couple of things were certain:
These guys were tired. Following a flight half way around the world, they had the pleasure of a two-hour delay in landing, thanks to a series of thunderstorms in the Northeast.
The Champions of Europe are all business. When asked about the North American tour and upcoming game in Dallas, Victor Obinna (Nigeria), a Striker, said quite frankly, “We’re taking this a game at a time.” So much for pre-season.
Inter wasn’t the only ones focused. Fans of the world renown club waited with anticipation for the arrival of the UEFA Champions League winner.
Vitaliano, a Sicilian-born fan of Inter Milan currently living in Philadelphia, watched carefully alongside his family and other fans for the arrival of FC Internazionale.
The fans erupted into applause as the Nezzurri walked through the terminal.
Players spotted included: Samuel Eto'O, Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Zanetti, Julio Cesar, Marco Materazzi, Ivan Cordoba, Davide Santone, Joel Obi, Mancini, Phillipe Coutinho, Goran Pandev, David Sauzo, Victor Nsofor, among others.
Inter Milan will train in Philadelphia this week before taking on Manchester City in Baltimore (Saturday, July 31) and Panathinaikos in Toronto (Tuesday, August 2) prior to their match against FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park.
“I already have my ticket,” said Vitaliano, speaking of the July 31 Inter Milan game in Baltimore.
FCDallas.com and the FC Dallas blog has your ticket to Inter prior to the highly anticipated friendly on August 5, with daily reports from training and other events.
Your contributors to this blog are the following members of the FC Dallas front office:
Justin McCord, marketing director
Melanie Jarrett, digital content editor
Michael Cruz, manager of event presentation
Casey Bowman, video media coordinator
Eric Segura, Hispanic marketing coordinator