Italian Playoff Final: Carrarese Wins Promotion After 76 Years

Italian Playoff Final: Carrarese Wins Promotion After 76 Years

BENEVENTO, ITALY – JUNE 02: fans of Carrarese during the Serie C Playoff match between Benevento … [+] and Carrarese at Stadio Ciro Vigorito on June 02, 2024 in Benevento, Italy. (Photo by Image Photo Agency/via Getty Images)

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Carrarese has won the fourth and final Serie B promotion spot after defeating Vicenza 1-0 in the Serie C Playoff Final, ending a seventy-six-year wait for the Giallazzurri.

The Tuscan side from Carrara is now set to contest their first Serie B season since 1948, joining already-promoted Mantova, Cesena and Juve Stabia, who won their regional groups in May.

After the goalless draw in Vicenza last week, Mattia Finotto headed home Simone Zanon’s beautifully weighted cross in the sixth minute of the second leg at the Stadio dei Marmi on Sunday.

“So many sacrifices, so many matches in just a few days that there wasn’t much time to celebrate them,” Finotto told Italian broadcaster RAI.

Carrarese finished third in Group B of Serie C behind Cesena and, along with 27 other clubs, automatically qualified for the Playoffs – the knockout system devised by Lega Pro – where they eliminated Juventus (U23), Perugia and Benevento.

Conceding six times throughout the knockouts, Carrarese then rallied to keep two clean sheets against Vicenza (third place in Group A). Finotto, 31, scored his third goal of the Playoffs and tenth of the 2023-24 campaign.

“It’s a beautiful moment,” Finotto said. “It was important to unlock the game immediately, then we defended until the last minute. We arrived a little tired and excited, but our desire got us to Serie B. It will be something we will remember forever. We made history. It was tough.”

Former Italy international and Carrara native Gianluigi Buffon took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to pay tribute to the club he has supported from childhood.

“What a fantastic season! Juve winning the Italian Cup, Parma back in Serie A and my Carrarese in Serie B. I couldn’t be happier.”

Buffon formed part of the consortium which acquired Carrarese Calcio in 2010. Within six years, the club entered a new era, bringing in Silvio Baldini as coach and signing former Italy internationals Massimo Maccarone and Francesco Tavano in attack.

A transitional phase followed with Antonio Di Natale and then Alessandro Dal Canto in charge, the latter replaced in January by Antonio Calabro who also oversaw the Playoff series.

“Whoever didn’t consider us favourites, perhaps didn’t know the game well enough,” Calabro said in the post-match conference.

“When we won 5-0 against Torres, I understood there would be the foundations to do well and get to the playoffs. We deserved to win these playoffs, it’s not luck.”

Moreover, Carrarese conceded just thirty goals during the home and away season, the second-best record in Group B behind winners Cesena. That’s the tightest defence the Marmiferi have enjoyed since 1980 (25 conceded in the fourth division).

CARRARA, ITALY – JUNE 09: Players of Carrarese celebrate promotion in Serie B at the end of the … [+] Serie C Playoff Final match between Carrarese and Vicenza at Stadio dei Marmi on June 09, 2024 in Carrara, Italy. (Photo by Image Photo Agency/Getty Images)

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Looking ahead to next season, changes will inevitably be forthcoming in the summer transfer window. Yet, considering the entire playing roster is valued at just $5.7 million, according to Transfermarkt, club president Salvo Zangari must act swiftly to hold on to the club’s best performers.

Finotto, who has eight seasons of experience in Serie B with Monza, SPAL and Cosenza, is contracted until 2025. Top scoring with 11 goals this term, late bloomer Giuseppe Panico has completed his best professional season at 27 years of age but must negotiate an extension to remain beyond July.

Unfortunately for Vicenza, the former side of Roberto Baggio, their promotion push unravelled at the final hurdle. The Biancorossi remain in Serie C and will be joined by Ternana, Ascoli, FeralpiSalo and Lecco who all suffered relegation from Serie B.

The big derbies are coming for Carrarese. Spezia is half an hour away to the north and Pisa situated less than an hour southbound. If Calabro extends his short-term deal, he could find himself facing the likes of Sampdoria and Palermo, as well as Salernitana, Frosinone and Sassuolo who were all relegated from Serie A.

“I dedicate this victory to my father, my mother, my wife and my children,” the 47-year-old told reporters.

Serie B 2024-25

Bari, Brescia, Carrarese, Catanzaro, Cesena, Cittadella, Cosenza, Cremonese, Frosinone, Juve Stabia, Mantova, Modena, Palermo, Pisa, Reggiana, Salernitana, Sampdoria, Sassuolo, Spezia and Sudtirol.

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