‘The Invading Hawk’: How Linfield will face Mario Ferri’s Champions League final and World Cup experience in European qualifer against Tre Fiori






    Famous Italian pitch-invader Mario Ferri, who will make his own Champions League debut against Linfield on Saturday.

    Gareth Hanna Twitter

    When Linfield kick-off next season’s European campaign in their preliminary round semi-final tomorrow afternoon, they’ll be coming up against a man who’s no stranger to World Cups and Champions League finals.

    The Blues are facing San Marinese side Tre Fiori in Nyon in the opening preliminary round semi-final tomorrow (kick-off 2pm) keen to repeat, or better, last year’s long qualifying qualifying run that brought them to within one goal of the Europa League group stage.

    To do it, they’ll first have to get past ‘Il Falco’. The Hawk, real name Mario Ferri, is the new signing in Tre Fiori’s ranks and arrives as a cult hero of Italian football.

    Not known for his own playing abilities, it is his proficiency as a pitch-invader that has earned him fame, with his ‘successful’ excursions including the 2010 World Cup semi-final and 2011 Champions League final at Wembley.

    He’s not content to just give security the runaround either, usually making headlines with his famous Superman t-shirt, sporting a custom-made slogan or a daring act.

    In the 2010 World Cup, he took to the pitch during Spain’s semi against Germany to protest at the omission of then Sampdoria star Antonio Cassano from an Italian squad that had suffered a scandalous group-stage exit, losing to Slovakia and held by both New Zealand and Paraguay.

    « Cassano in the national team (Lippi I told you) » read Ferri’s Superman t-shirt, directed at boss Marcello Lippi.

    A year later and Ferri turned his attention to the Champions League final at Wembley between Barcelona and Manchester United. Successfully making it onto the pitch, he hung his AC Milan scarf round the neck of superstar Messi, who would go on to be named man of the match as Barca won 3-1.

    It was that summer Ferri was arguably at the peak of his powers, going on to somehow sneak into the G’iro D’Italia cycling race on his own bike.

    Having started pitch invading 2007 aged only 17, he didn’t stop once he’d reached the top though, returning at the 2014 World Cup tie between the USA and Belgium, again in his Superman top and this time with the message “Save Favelas Children », in protest against the poverty in host-country Brazil.

    Back in Italy, he has continued his hobby, most notably throwing a Napoli scarf in the face of Juventus striker Gonzalo Higauin during an ill-tempered game.

    Braća tra una settimana si va in guerra ⚽️ ?? ?? ?? ⚽️ – 7 giorni al preliminare di @championsleague @trefiori_fc

    A post shared by Mario Ferri il Falco (@marioferrifalco) on Aug 1, 2020 at 4:20am PDT

    Where are they from? Tre Fiori are the San Marino champions. The country – a microstate surrounded by northern Italy – has a population of just under 34,000 – about the same size as Larne – and has a land mass of just 61 square kilometres.

    Club history: The club dates back to 1949, although the San Marino football league – the Campionato Sammarinese di Calcio – was founded only in 1985. Since then, Tre Fiori have lifted eight league titles to become the most successful domestic club. Fifteen teams compete in the league, with no promotion or relegation.

    How did they perform last season? Well enough to win the league. The division is first split into two sections as Tre Fiori came second in their section, behind La Fiorita, who Linfield beat to earn a tie against Celtic thanks to a late Jordan Stewart goal back in 2017. From there, the top eight teams qualify for the top group in phase two. Eight fixtures had been played by the time the league was suspended due to the coronavirus and, with Tre Fiori four points clear of Folgore after winning six and losing two games, they were crowned champions in a similar vein to Linfield.

    Notable players: Well none have as much high-profile experience as new-boy Ferri, of course. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the squad is made up almost entirely of San Marinese and Italian players. Five have been capped by the San Marino national team, including goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini and defender Davide Simoncini, who each have over 60 caps. Captain Francesco Lunardini, 35, played 18 games for Parma in Serie A in the 09/10 season and had plenty more Serie B experience with Rimini and Triestina. Last season’s star strikers are two of the few imports in the side, with North Macedonian forward Bojan Gjurchinoski netting 10 goals in 15 league games and Cuban veteran Joel Apezteguía Hijuelos scoring 13 in 17 matches.

    European experience: This will be Tre Fiori’s sixth season in UEFA competition. They have to date won only one tie, two years ago when they beat Welsh side Bala Town 3-1 on aggregate in the Europa League. That was followed by a crushing 10-0 aggregate defeat to Slovenian side Rudar Velenje while last season, there was a 9-1 loss to Faroese side KÍ Klaksvík.

    How does this round work? The champions of the bottom four ranked nations go into a mini-tournament with just one team progressing to the Champions League first qualifying round after two semi-finals and a final. The remaining three sides drop into the Europa League second qualifying round. In the other semi-final, Kosovan side Drita Gjilan face Inter Club D’Escaldes from Andorra. The two winners will meet in the final on Tuesday.




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    SOURCE: https://www.w24news.com

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