Five takeaways from Italy’s latest Euro 2020 qualifiers

Italy wrapped up their latest set of Euro 2020 Group J qualifiers with a 2-1 victory Sunday evening over second-place Finland, with Ciro Immobile putting away his first goal for the Azzurri since September 2017 and Jorginho converting the decisive match-winner from the penalty spot.

With wins over Armenia and Finland, Roberto Mancini’s men maintained their perfect record in the qualifying phase with 6 victories and have moved closer to securing a spot in next summer’s competition.

Here are five takeaways from Italy’s latest matches. Continue reading

Italy 2-0 Finland: Player Ratings for the Azzurri

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On Saturday at the Stadio Friuli in Udine, Italy managed to secure the 2-0 win over Finland in Group J of Euro 2020 Qualifying thanks to Nicolò Barella and Moise Kean opening up their accounts for the Azzurri.

Here are the player ratings from the victory. Continue reading

Blue Wave: Mancini Calling Up Sensi and Tonali Signals Azzurri Shift

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It has been nearly a year to date since the Azzurri’s full-blown capitulation and failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup shook the country to its core, and only up until recently have the Italians shown a glimmer of hope in lifting themselves back to the summit of international football.

Much has been made about the fitness of acting coach Roberto Mancini to lead the Italian National Team back to prominence they are historically known for, but unlike his failed predecessor and universally loathed coach Gian Piero Ventura, the 53-year old CT is signaling a shift towards success through the regular integration of future stars. Continue reading

Italy improving under Mancini, but supporters must pump the breaks

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After banging in the stoppage-time goal at the back post thanks to substitute Kevin Lasagna’s initial glancing header from the corner, Fiorentina’s Cristiano Biraghi’s late-game heroics were enough to see Italy past Poland 1-0 on Sunday, escaping relegation from Group 3 in the UEFA Nations League.

The 26-year old celebrated his first international tally by throwing up a “13″ towards the heavens in honor of the late Viola captain Davide Astori. Surely, it was a unifying moment for Italy and Italians everywhere who swarmed the match-winner and finally had something to rally around after 12 months of heartbreak.

Continue reading

Nicolo Barella impressive on Italy debut vs Ukraine

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Italy and Ukraine played to a 1-1 draw last night in Genoa at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris where recent struggles persisted yet again for the Azzurri.

The Italians controlled proceedings in the first half, pinning Andriy Shevchenko’s men back and stirring up several quality chances that unfortunately could not best keeper Andriy Pytatov. Early on in the second 45 minutes however, Roberto Mancini found his breakthrough via a Federico Bernardeschi strike that Pyatov fluffed and could not prevent from squeaking into the net. It would be a short lived lead as Ukraine leveled in the 62nd minute after a lapse of concentration in the back from the Italy defence.

Certainly, Mancini and the proud, yet distraught, Italian fanbase must feel disappointed in the result considering the polar opposite halves of play, not to mention the state of ‘La Nazionale’ at this time. However, one of the few positives to take from the tie was the shift Cagliari product Nicolo Barella turned in on his impressive Azzurri debut.

Boasting an array of raw technical ability and positional flexibility, Barella’s potential has been understood for a while now, with supporters campaigning for him to get into the senior team framework. The 21-year old had been called up roughly a year ago under Gian Piero Ventura for Italy’s World Cup qualifiers versus Macedonia and Albania, but did not feature. His usage, or lack thereof, was not a question of his quality or readiness for the responsibility. Rather, just a simple case of not having the proper manager or ideal opportunity. Last night, the youngster finally got his feet wet and left a lasting impression on the home crowd.

Mancini rolled out a 4-3-3, with a midfield trio consisting of Marco Verratti, Jorginho and Barella. The first two gelled well for the most part, stringing together some good passing sequences and dictating the tempo to assignment. Despite being orchestrators for their respective club teams, neither Verratti nor Jorginho seemed to step on each other’s toes and fulfilled their duties so that Barella could be the all-action midfielder tasked with freely getting up and down the pitch.

Barella, a robust but strong and agile midfielder, gave us an exhibition that demonstrated all that he offers even at a young age; technically sound, intelligent, understanding when to float into pockets of space for the ball and the high work-rate tying it all together to win over his coach.

Despite not picking up the desired results early in his tenure, Mancini must be given some credit for succeeding where others before him failed in handing important minutes to youth and attempting to usher younger players in each break. The manner in which Barella approached the match last night showed he was equally prepared for both the physical and mental test, with a little guidance from Jorginho and Verratti as lamented in his post-match interview.

Composed, and confidently navigating through tightly-marked situations with the ball, the former U-21 starlet passed the first challenge Ukraine presented – and performed well in Italy blue.

Barella’s exploits for his boyhood club in Sardegna over the past few years have not gone unnoticed around Italy and the rest of Europe as several major outfits lurk for his signature. Milan, Inter and Liverpool are among many top clubs courting the Italian, and the list is fully expected to grow with each passing performance for both club and country. While Barella probably could have moved on last summer to a bigger stage, the decision to stay put an additional year at Cagliari for further seasoning was for the better, and puts him in position to be a regular fixture in Mancini’s plans long-term.

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Serie A: Top Young Italians In 17/18 Season

Another Serie A season has come to a close, and the 38 rounds showcased great talent to calcio fans all around the world. With that, many young Italian players bursted their way on to the scene this season, and made their names known to Serie A and Azzurri fans quickly. In no specific order, this piece will list five of the top Italian starlets in the Serie A for 2017-2018, and will provide an explanation and analysis of their season.

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Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina):

Son of popular footballer Enrico Chiesa, the quick and agile winger had a great full season for La Viola under Stefano Pioli, tallying 6 goals and adding 5 assists. Looking further upon the stats, Chiesa is a player that excites every time he gets a touch on the ball. Continue reading