Napoli just about keep Italian flag flying in the Europa League

Italy’s collective Europa League campaign has been one of flops, failures and in the end a freezing out of Europe’s B-list competition.

Napoli are the sole survivors with one round remaining of the group stages, where the four Serie A representatives have managed just two wins out of a possible twenty.

Juventus, Sampdoria and Palermo all saw their hopes disappear this week, but in truth the damage was done earlier on when victories were needed but never materialised.

Juve could well have complained that they could have done with playing in anti-glare snow goggles in Poland, where they drew with Lech Poznan in temperatures that reportedly fell to -11c, but there had been a chilling wind signalling an end to the Old Lady’s European hopes long before that.

Five straight draws have ultimately proven their undoing, and if they had managed to hold on for a draw at Manchester City then the return match next week may have held some significance, rather than becoming a glorified friendly. The goalless draw at home to Salzburg is something Gigi Del Neri and his men will not look back at with much pride either.

The rallying call in Turin will now be ‘the scudetto’ but clubs with their sights set on the title are generally not participating in the Europa League in the first place, never mind exiting at the group stage

Granted, there isn’t one team dominating the league at the moment and Juve are only six points off leaders AC Milan, but as in Europe, dropping two points has been the problem and the Turin outfit have also been dogged by the inability to put consecutive victories together.

Palermo look better equipped to launch a title bid after their failure to overcome Sparta Prague left them also facing elimination from the Europa League.

The Sicilians will have gained valuable experience from their brief stay in the competition - especially when it comes to ensuring that, if they are going to pick up yellow cards, they need to spread them around the team.

Dorian Goian was the latest guilty party when he needlessly picked up a yellow card early on against the Czech team and then could have no complaints when he received a second for a foul to give away a penalty.

Petulance is Javier Pastore’s problem and kicking the ball away when you are already booked was just plain brainless for what was the Argentine’s second dismissal in the competition, although a talent such as he will no doubt be performing in the Champions League next season, be it with his current club or his pick of Europe’s elite.

Whatever you may think of Sampdoria’s stand against the potty-mouthed Antonio Cassano, the truth of the matter is that they lacked that extra quality their star performer brings to the pitch (and that he so obviously lacks away from it) in their 2-1 home defeat to PSV Eindhoven.

Earlier this season, the Blucerchiati were sixty seconds away from making the group stages of the Champions League against Werder Bremen, but ultimately paid for not been able to hold on to a lead as was the case again in both matches against the Dutch side.

So it is left to Napoli to maintain some Italian pride, and a home win in their final game against Steau Bucharest will see them through.

The Partenopei had Edinson Cavani to thank again in another incredible comeback when it looked all over in Utrecht last night. The Uruguayan, who had grabbed a 98th-minute equaliser at Steau earlier in the campaign, hit a hat-trick against the Eredivisie side to set up what is effectively a knock-out European tie at the San Paolo against the Romanian side next Thursday.

It is hard to believe that Palermo president Maurizio Zamperini felt that Cavani was not up to the task of leading the frontline and although Juve, Samp and Palermo will not have another chance to show what they can do in Europe this season, at least one club from the peninsula is keeping the flag flying which for a time yesterday evening looked highly unlikely.