BREAKING: The group stages for the world renowned Viareggio Cup have been released earlier today. Seeded in Group 5, the club will match up against two Italian sides, Parma Calcio 1913 (Serie A) and Venezia FC (Serie B) and Ghanian tournament newcomers FC Nania (Poly Tank Division One League). The tournament will kick off one month from now as matches will be played on March 11, 13 and 15 (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).
An interesting note regarding the group pairings is that Parma Calcio and Venezia FC share something, specifically someone, common with the club: Leo Štulac. It was Leo's performances during the 2014 edition of the Viareggio Cup, as an FA Euro player, that has attracted the interest from Venezia FC. It was in 2016 where Leo signed with then Arancioneroverdi, who were in Italian Third Division, Lega Pro. In his first year with Venezia, Leo and the team gained promotion to Serie B and would go on to win the Coppa Italia Lega Pro, making 35 appearances and scoring 6 goals. Leo was a starlet in the league and in the summer of 2018, he was signed by Parma Calcio on a five year contract making regular first team appearances in the 2018-19 season.
The club will meet another familiar face when they play Parma Calcio in FA Euro's very own 2001 player Nicolò Canalicchio, who following his impressive performance in the 2018 edition of the Viareggio Cup with the club would go on to sign for the Gialloblù this past summer. "Stories like Leo and Nicolò are proof that show how important and respected this tournament is in the world of soccer." exclaims Head Coach Joe Balsamo. "Nicolò? The goal and club mission is to alway promote our home grown talent to the next level and it will be somewhat of bittersweet sensation to face off against him. He was terrific for us and we are all happy to see him progress and achieve his dream. It will be a lovely reunion for both him and his teammates. But I'm sure the boys will do everything in their power to make life difficult for him and Parma for ninety minutes (laughs)."
"Last year was a good experience for us." continues Balsamo. The players know what to expect, they know the reality regarding level of play very well. Now we must be close to perfect in all technical, physical and tactical aspects in our game and I am satisfied with our preparations. The tournament will be here before we know it and will do our best. We want to surprise people this year and play good soccer that will go noticed. The roster? We are almost complete, there are one or two potential additions and an official announcement will be made sometime in the next couple of weeks."
One of the most important youth professional showcases in the world, the Viareggio Cup has produced world-class talents since 1949, in what is truly a breeding ground for stars. The club's Under 19's will be on display in hopes of becoming scouted and becoming professional players overseas, whether it be in Italy or other countries in Europe. Acting as a professional showcase, the Viareggio Cup has been the launching pad for many soccer legends. Pirlo, Inzaghi, Totti, Buffon, Gattuso, Nesta, Cannavaro, De Rossi, Balotelli, Del Piero, Costacurta, Maldini, Insigne, Darmian, Zaza, Marchisio, Zambrotta, Cassano, Giovinco, El Shaarawy, Bonaventura, and Bernadeschi are just some of the Italian alumni that have risen from this tournament. Non-Italian alumni include Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Papu Gomez, Pandev, Basta, Cavani, Éder, Nainggolan, Biabiany, Lukaku, Falque, Obi, Jorginho, and Icardi to name a few.