The Italy orchestra is back. And he played the Netherlands at home, dominating for almost an hour, then activating the counterattack and, finally, suffering for the final ten minutes, when the energies failed and the Azzurri couldn’t hold even a ball. A victory that is worth a lot (first place in group A with four points, ahead of Holland and Poland with three) and that – I fear – costs a lot: Nicolò Zaniolo has been hurt again, again his knee, this time the left. For him the worst is feared, which would mean another problem with the cruciate ligament and, therefore, a new operation. So Italy wins, but both the boy and Roma risk paying off when Serie A is less than two weeks away. Were it not for this, it would have been a beautiful evening with Barella’s goal, he was so small, but so skilled in the insertions, who arrived too late (46 ‘of the first half) compared to the opportunities created and the excellence of the game expressed.
Just to understand, and to be clearer, the Azzurri suffered only one shot in the first half (31 ‘, Wijnaldum, save in two halves by Donnarumma) and one in the second half (54’ van de Beek with a sure shot, miracle of the Milan goalkeeper ). For the rest, that is, from the middle of the second half onwards, Holland pushed harder and Italy backed away too much, but the restarts were bread for our teeth. Of course, we should have bitten better, at least once with Insigne (good his part) and on the two occasions procured by Kean, substitute for Zaniolo, but nothing can be blamed on a team that played with humility and courage, safety and serenity , only getting lost at the end, when he no longer had any.
Yet the opponents were not granted chances, only some frantic scrum, a couple of high balls and a series of side encirclements. Honestly, the equalizer could have come without someone shouting scandal, but just as frankly Italy had done more and another goal, like the one Kean missed in the recovery, would have been legitimate. In short, until the 80 ‘, the Netherlands were us for the ease in the dribble, the systematic aggressiveness of the pressing and the punctual game changes that opened us the left lane where Spinazzola and Insigne ridiculed Hateboer and produced a’ infinity of favorable situations. Another feature was the position of Immobile who did not just occupy the area centrally, but very often went to receive the ball from the side. And in fact, Barella’s goal, in his preparation, contained all this. The pressing with ball recovery of Spinazzola and Jorginho, the unmarking of Insigne, the support for Immobile who first escaped the marking and then crossed right to Barella all alone and, therefore, free to hit his head.
But Italy could have passed earlier if Barella himself, instead of shooting, had served Immobile on the first favorable occasion or Zaniolo had guessed the overhead kick from Spinazzola’s cross. Or even before Immobile and then Insigne had not widened their rights a bit too far. Manuel Locatelli, twenty-fifth rookie of Mancini management and fifty-fifth player employed by the coach, played very well staying on the same tactical and quality line as Jorginho, extremely positive in all his initiatives. The defense against the outside was good (including D’Ambrosio, as well as Spinazzola) and the two central defenses (the veteran Chiellini and his alter ego Bonucci) very well, which is also consoling for the respective club teams. Insigne was also on high levels (his was the conclusion at the start of the second half for Cillesen’s most difficult save), while Immobile did not score, but he sacrificed a lot by serving assists to his teammates (one also to Kean). Zaniolo was doing what is expected of him, on the right of a three-man attack, but bad luck got him out of the way, hopefully not for too long.
So Italy canceled the bad performance of Florence with Bosnia (beaten at home by Poland), flies to the top of the group and is a candidate as an authoritative contender for the final four to which the best four access. The light is back and promises to stay on until the end. Whether it is the Nations League or whether we are thinking of the European Championship. The word victory is certainly not taboo.