Ahead of the clash against Ukraine, fans of defending champions Italy are in a good mood due to their recent performances. They are just afraid of a situation.
He also dares to celebrate again: with his arms outstretched to the night sky, beaming with joy, Federico Chiesa slid on his knees towards the corner flag. Exactly 400 days after tearing the cruciate ligament in my left knee. A ten-month layoff due to injury was followed by almost a year of arduous pursuit of his old form.
Federico Chiesa celebrates after goal
A double package and celebrations in the victory against North Macedonia on Friday (November 17, 2023) confirm: all is well again for the Juventus striker. Italy can call on perhaps their best striker in time for the European Championship clash against Ukraine (Monday 20 November 2023, live stream on sportschau.de). One point is enough for the Italians to qualify for the EURO in Germany. If they lose, they will have to make the detour through the Nations League playoffs.
Spalletti: “Chiesa is our sinner”
In any case, Italy’s national coach, Luciano Spalletti, had already named Chiesa as the best player before the game with North Macedonia. With the highest accolades currently available in sport in Italy. “We also have a top player” Spalletti told journalists when talk turned to the ATP Finals in Turin and the hype surrounding Jannik Sinner: “Our sinner is Chiesa.” The 26-year-old player thanked him for the public tribute with two goals and a strong performance.
The fact that Italy go into the game against Ukraine, in Leverkusen, with new courage is not just about Chiesa. The Azzurri Squadron as a whole radiated new enthusiasm against North Macedonia, despite some dips in performance. Above all, however, there was a clear desire to put an end to the painful period for Italy following their European Championship triumph in the summer of 2021, including their missed qualification for the World Cup in 2022.
Spalletti’s handwriting is clearly visible
Much of the signature of Spalletti, who only took charge in September, can already be seen in the Italian team: dominant behavior, pressing, pressing down the flanks, sometimes effectively a five-man attacking line through advanced midfielders.
However, against North Macedonia we could also see what was still missing. Defensively, the “Squadra Azzurra” is still far from the stability of times past, when Italy was synonymous with successful defensive work in world football.
But Spalletti, who led SSC Napoli to the league title with attacking football, does not want to deny his philosophy in the crucial phase of European Championship qualification. “We really want to win these two games”, he said before games against North Macedonia and Ukraine. To accompany your mantra: “Good Playing football increases your chances of winning.”
Italy coach Luciano Spalletti
Barela in second Bearers of hope
Alongside Chiesa, Nicolò Barella is one of Italy’s hopes for a successful mission at Euro 2024. The Inter midfielder, whose playing style reminds Lothar Matthäus of better days, was, along with Chiesa, one of the youngest of the Italian team that ascended to “The throne of European football at Wembley in 2021” . Barella also went through performance vouchers afterwards. Now, against North Macedonia, the 26-year-old was involved in almost every successful Italian offensive action, including two assists. “A leader”bowed to “Gazzetta dello Sport”.
Barella’s Inter teammate Federico Dimarco (26) also found his place in Spalletti’s newly classified “Squadra Azzurra”. The dynamic man, with his formidable shooting technique, perfectly continued his impressive performances on the left wing of the league during weeks in the national team.
Giacomo Raspadori (23), from Spalletti’s former club SSC Napoli, is also part of the restart. The small and frail, but technically strong center forward, kept Italy’s offensive game fluid against North Macedonia and even scored a goal.
Age does not protect against appointment
Otherwise, Spalletti is less reliant on a generational change than a face change when it comes to personnel. Whoever performs well in the championship will have a chance at the national team. Like Fiorentina’s Giacomo Bonaventura, 34 years old. The attacking midfielder, brought back after many years away from the national team, had a standout performance against North Macedonia.
So did Inter Milan’s 33-year-old Matteo Darmian. Ignored for five years under Mancini, the defender proved reliable in defense and opened the lead in attack with his opening goal.
Spalletti’s best-known returnee is Jorginho. After the soon-to-be 32-year-old player returned to Arsenal, he can now manage the national team again. Accompanied by a declaration of football love from his coach.
Until the national team meeting last week, Spalletti admitted, he only knew Jorginho on television. In the first training sessions, the coach revealed, Jorginho was on top of him “made an incredible impression. How he immediately took the team by the hand. What footballing intelligence he has. What joy he exudes to be part of this group.”
Jorginho again unsuccessful from the penalty spot
Like Chiesa, Jorginho was inspired by the praise of his coach (for whom his kickers’ strong speeches have been part of his toolbox for decades). The European champion impressed in his recovery as a center puller. However, Jorginho also cultivated his new peculiarity, unpopular with the fans: for the fourth time in a row, the supposed specialist was unsuccessful with a penalty in the national team. Jorginho’s poor shot against Switzerland was one of the reasons why Italy lost the World Cup in Qatar.
However, Spalletti’s enthusiasm for his new acquaintance means he does not want to undermine his ability as a penalty taker. If there is a penalty for Italy against Ukraine on Monday night, the Arsenal player could get the ball again.
“Jorginho continues to be a special penalty taker”, announced Spalletti, regardless of empirical experience from previous experiments. He told Jorginho after the game against North Macedonia that he should also take the next penalty – “and he said yes”. An announcement that greatly worries the Tifosi.