More than 4,800 miles separated Hard Rock Stadium from Parc des Princes and Juventus Stadium, but popular French team Paris Saint-Germain and Italian giant Juventus surely felt at home Wednesday night for their International Champions Cup match.
The weather was more oppressive than what they’re used to, with a 95-degree heat index at kickoff, but both teams had tens of thousands of fans in the crowd of 44,444 as Juventus won 3-2 on a Claudio Marchisio penalty kick in the closing minutes.
Juve’s trademark black and white striped shirts and PSG jerseys were in equal numbers. And there were plenty of Brazilian and Argentine jerseys in the audience, too, as several players from both squads are from those countries. The reception from the crowd was as warm as the weather.
“It’s Miami,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, when asked about the heat and humidity. “It was great to be received by the fans with such warmth, no pun intended.”
The roar was just as loud when Argentines Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo “Pipita” Higuain teamed up to give Juventus a 1-0 lead seconds before halftime as when Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Goncalo Guedes tied it up 1-1 on a cross from Argentine Angel DiMaria in the 53rd minute.
Juventus took a 2-1 lead eight minutes later on a close-range shot from substitute Marchisio, and legendary 39-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi “Gigi” Buffon, who made a few big saves, went to the bench as the crowd gave him a warm ovation.
Paris Saint-Germain tied it 2-2 in the 79th minute on a header from midfielder Javier Pastore of Argentina. The game was finally decided in the 89th minute, when Presnel Kimpembe of PSG was called for a foul on Moise Kean in the box. Marchisio, a Portuguese midfielder, converted the penalty kick.
PSG fans were hoping that the Neymar transfer rumors were true, and that the FC Barcelona star would be a late-minute addition to the Paris squad. Alas, Neymar remains with Barca – at least for the time being – and he is expected to play against Real Madrid on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium in El Clasico Miami.
According to L’Equipe, the French sports newspaper, PSG has given the Brazilian forward a deadline of next week to make a decision, and the club is ready to pay a record fee of $258 million to release Neymar from his Barcelona contract.
The French team has everything in place to lure Neymar from Barcelona. The PSG roster includes Brazilians Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, Marquinhos and Lucas Moura, who is a friend of Neymar’s. Alves transferred from Juventus to PSG this off-season, and joked around with Allegri before the game.
Altough they came up short on Wednesday, PSG players said before the game that their club benefitted greatly from the trip to Miami.
“The reception we’ve gotten is beautiful, makes us feel good,” said Thiago Motta. “Hopefully, we can bring the fans as much happiness as they bring us. At the end of the day, the most important thing is the happiness of the fans.”
Adrien Rabiot said: “A few years ago, our team was not that famous. Now it’s really becoming a big thing, more and more fans know PSG. Paris is starting to become known worldwide, and that’s a good thing.”
PSG was heading back to Paris right after the match, as they have a Champions Cup game against AS Monaco on Saturday.
Asked whether he was worried about such a quick turnaround, PSG coach Unai Emery said: “Our players are high-level players and they are used to that kind of travel. Many of them play on their national teams and have to take long flights and then play a few days later. We will not use that as an excuse on Saturday...This tournament allowed us to prepare against high-level rivals, and dealing with heat and humidity and travel will get us ready for the challenges of the season.”
Juventus, which reached the Champions League final last season, heads to Boston for a Sunday ICC match against AS Roma.