Preview: Udinese reminded of the penalty that changed everything

Reuters , Friday 30 Mar 2018

File photo: Soccer Football - Serie A - Udinese Calcio vs Napoli - Dacia Arena, Udine, Italy - November 26, 2017 Udinese coach Massimo Oddo REUTERS

Mired in the lower half of the Serie A table again this season, Udinese were given another reminder this week of a bizarre missed penalty nearly six years ago which is widely seen as the turning point in their recent history.

Udinese's fortunes took a dramatic turn for the worse after they agonisingly missed out on the Champions League group stage for 2012/13 by losing 5-4 on penalties to Portuguese side Braga in a playoff tie.

Midfielder Maicosuel, then a recent signing, missed the crucial penalty after his attempted "Panenka" went embarrassingly wrong.

The Brazilian tried to copy the style pioneered by Czech player Antonin Panenka by nonchalantly chipping the ball into the centre of the goal but his mis-hit effort was saved by Braga goalkeeper Beto.

Francesco Guidolin, the Udinese coach at the time, told Gazzetta dello Sport this week that he was still haunted by the defeat which was estimated to have cost the club at least 20 million euros ($25 million) in lost Champions League revenue.

"After six years, I still can't get it out of my head," he said. "It stalks me."

"I have never asked him why he took it that way. It was my mistake, I should have picked five penalty takers who had helped get to the team to that stage, not the last one to have arrived."

The player himself went on to spend two years at Udinese, although he said his career was never the same again, and is now playing in Brazil for Gremio.

Udinese have never come close to qualifying for the Champions League group stage since and have finished in the bottom half of the Serie A table for the last four seasons.

This current campaign has also turned into a slog and defeats in their last five matches have left Massimo Oddo, the sixth coach to occupy the hot seat since Guidolin left in 2014, looking over his shoulder.

With Udinese only nine points clear of the relegation zone, Oddo has warned his players that they are in a relegation battle and need to begin winning matches, starting with Saturday's visit to Atalanta.

"This is a delicate moment and we have to work hard," he said after a 2-1 defeat by Sassuolo in their previous game.

"From now on, we are beginning a new mini-league which is the battle against relegation, where we have to get as many points as possible. Maybe we need to be afraid, so that we are motivated again."

"I began to get nervous when people started talking about qualifying for the Europa League," he added.

"This squad is not mature enough to aspire to such things and it made us take some steps backwards. We need to get our feet back on the ground."

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