It took “The End” of Italian football to create it, but boy, it was worth it.
Giorgio Chiellini took the ball to his chest under pressure from Burak Yilmaz in the middle of the first half, simply redirected it to Alessandro Florenzi and turned his back on the game – the job is done. It was Chiellini quality with a touch of her inimitable shithousery, exemplified much more clearly on other occasions in this game. But it was the rejection that was noticeable; it sums up the superiority of his team over their opponents. Italy was brilliant; Turkey was punctured in about 20 minutes.
You probably know the statistics that predicted a 0-0 draw: Turkey did not concede an open play goal in qualifying; Italy spent more than 13 hours without cashing in. But even with the game without a goal at half-time it was never boring and Italy didn’t hit but hit.
“Our goal is to entertain people” Roberto Mancini said before the tournament, eager to see the world his Italy, a team born from an instant The Gazzetta dello Sport simply described as “La Fine”.
The 2018 World Cup play-off loss to Sweden was the end, but also the start.
It’s far from being a batten in the hatches, counterattack style. They call it CARP. Costruzione (construction), Ampiezza (width), Rifinitura (approach game between the lines and in the last third) and Profondita (space behind).
Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Jorginho were the main Costruzione-rs, the Chelsea man particularly brilliant at controlling a very fast tempo. Full-backs were basically wingers given their dominance and Leonardo Spinazzola playing on the ‘wrong side’ as an inverted full-back was a massive threat throughout.
Domenico Berardi and Lorenzo Insigne were a threat between the lines and behind, with the former providing the cross for the opening goal against his side and the latter curling up beautifully in a hoodoo finishing third. It was the first time Italy had scored more than two goals at the European Championships, in their 39th game. And Ciro Immobile had smashed his major tournament duck right before, coming home from a bounce after another smooth move.
It was an almost perfect performance, from a team superbly formed by their manager. It’s very rare for an international team to be so synchronized – they looked like a Serie A team rather than a team with little time on the training ground to work together. It was extremely impressive.
Mancini’s own international career has been slowed down. He only played four major tournaments, a fact he called “absurd”, while admitting that “a lot of it is my fault”.
Coaching Italy is his antidote to the poison of missed opportunities. “I was given a second chance,” he says. And the man who dodged his jubilant teammates who scored the first goal of Euro 88 to run to the press box and gesticulate towards those who believed he was not worthy of his place in the squad, has built his own to open Euro 2021 with the same passion, but with an unrecognizable disparate style.
Italy were appreciated by connoisseurs and considered black horses by some, but that’s nothing new to them in a major tournament. The brilliance of the defense isn’t either – Chiellini’s mind-blowing tackle and celebration for keeping a clean sheet has been a reminder that there is a pinch of old methods among the new ones.
But so many things are different: the pressing – which continued until the stop; rapid interaction; the exchange of roles; the absence of real positions; one-touch switching. They are an energetic and exciting Italian team. And this was a great way to start a tournament.
Euro 2020 is finally here – and what better way to celebrate it than with a preview to mark the launch of our new multisport site Planet Sport?