Friday, 16 July 2010

Udinese Calcio (Italy)

Udinese hail from the city of Udine, in the Friuli region in the far north east of the country, nestling in between the alps and the border with Slovenia. The club was formed in 1896, which not only makes them the second oldest club in Serie A, but they are also thought to be the second oldest club in the whole of Italy, after Genoa CFC, who predate them by some three years. They were formed as part of the Udinese Society of Gymnastics and Fencing, and in their debut year won the Torneo FNGI - an early version of Serie A - although it sadly doesn't count as an official Italian league title.

Their first flood of fame when they were finalists in the very first Coppa Italia in 1922, although this isn't quite the achievement that it would first appears, as all the major clubs had slipped off to play in their own private league that year, leaving the minnows to fight it out among themselves. Their best ever finish in the league was when they narrowly missed out on a historic Scudetto in 1955 when they were pipped at the post by Milan. However despite their good finish they were relegated because of an alledged match fixing irregularity two seasons before. To their credit they bounced straight back up, finishing a creditable fourth in their comeback season.

Quaintly known by their fans as The Little Zebras, they play at the 42,652 capacity multi- sport Stadio Friuli, an unusual ground whose main stand looks like a giant seventies clock radio. It held three of the group matches in the 1990 World Cup - including the terse goalless draw between Spain and Uruguay. 

In 1980 they won the Mitropa Cup - a strange tournament for European teams who topped their local second tiers, but found themselves embroiled in a betting scandal six years later and were docked points that saw them relegated once more.

Notable former players include Dino Zoff, Zico, Oliver Bierhoff, Asamoah Gyan, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Sulley Muntari, and Liverpool's new boss Roy Hodgson once briefly warmed the manager's bench. Recent years have seen them work their way up the table to be consistent European torunament contenders, so let's hope that after a long and varied history they're not too far from winning their first spot of proper silverware some time soon.

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