After the unbelievable missed qualification in the 2018 World Cup, Italy is being reborn
Roberto Mancini and the millennials: these are the new formidable ingredients to revive the Italian football team, still hurting from the missed qualification in the Russia 2018 World Cup, and their poor performance in the first edition of the Uefa Nations League. But now Italy is worthy of being feared again by the national teams. And thank goodness, because football fans couldn’t believe that the “Azzurri” were viewed so poorly over the last 13 years.
After the legendary triumph in the Germany 2006 World Cup, Italy went through a period of decline, changing coaches seven times in twelve years and never finding a good enough new generation of players. It means that they no longer had players like Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta, Marco Materazzi, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero and Filippo Inzaghi. However, over the last year the millennial generation has been emerging with all its might and there are now young Italian footballers born in the 1990s, and in some cases, such as Sandro Tonali and Moise Kean, even in year 2000.
The arrival of an experienced coach like Roberto Mancini, who led Manchester City and FC Internazionale to victory, after long periods of defeat, seems to be the right move to bring new energy and drive to the Italian national team, by combining the solidity of the old guard with the freshness of the new. Starting from the goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma, born in 1999 when Gianluigi Buffon won the UEFA Cup with Parma, has all the hallmarks of becoming a future Italian star, especially given that he has been playing for AC Milan since he was 16 years old. His most threatening competitor is Alessio Cragno, a goalkeeper who plays with Cagliari, and who has been a rival of Donnarumma’s as the first-string goalkeeper since the days they played for the national under-21 teams. The national team’s defense is also rich with new players such as the captain of AC Milan Alessio Romagnoli, born in 1995, the Juventus footballers Daniele Rugani and Leonardo Spinazzola, and Gianluca Mancini, under contract with Atalanta. The presence of giants like Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci in the team’s defense is the right way to give the newcomers the best training to improve and grow as players. Italy has always had a great tradition of defenders.
Nevertheless, the Italian millennial talent seems to have found its home at midfield. Indeed, in this area, coach Roberto Mancini can count on — beside the experienced Marco Verratti and Jorginho — Stefano Sensi, midfielder of Sassuolo, who is sometimes compared to Andrea Pirlo, Nicolò Barella, born in 1997 and already a leader with Cagliari, Sandro Tonali, a gem from those born in 2000, who is currently playing in the second Italian division league in a contract with Brescia, and, Nicolò Zaniolo, the best surprise in this season, even if unfortunate for AS Roma. Zaniolo is probably the midfielder of the future, born in 1999, who is very skilled and physically powerful. He is currently the youngest Italian footballer to score twice in a Champions League match, when AS Roma beat FC Porto 2-1 last February.
The “Mancitaly,” the nickname given to the team because of their new coach, also has big and explosive news regarding the offense. Beside the oldest of the millennials — Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Fabio Quagliarella — new forwards are intended to join. We are talking about Federico Bernardeschi, often a reserve for Juventus but always a wildcard when he plays, Federico Chiesa, born in 1997 and son of the striker Enrico Chiesa (winner of the 1999 UEFA Cup for Parma together with Gianluigi Buffon), who has already played more than one hundred matches with Fiorentina and, finally there is a Juventus forward who has already made history, being the first footballer born in the new millennium to score a goal for Italy, during the match against Finland for the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying: Moise Kean. Kean, born in Vercelli to Ivorian parents in 2000, is now forced to be a reserve on the Juventus offense, due to the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa and Mario Mandzukic, but the future of the club of Turin is absolutely at his feet. Agile and fast, with great physical strength, talented with instinct, Moise Kean is what Roberto Mancini and Italy needed to get back to scoring. His only limit could be the “Mario Balotelli syndrome,” an excessive victimhood and a detrimental politization of his sporting prowess, due solely to the color of his skin. Despite the same Kean’s dad told the press to vote for the Matteo Salvini’s League Party, currently in charge of the government and eager to regulate the illegal immigration. Every insult by rival supporters in Italian stadiums risks being used for political means, based on the skin of the footballer, which could affecting his performance. It is not the first time that politicians used sportsmanship for their propaganda, but Moise Kean even at 19 years old must be above them, understanding that it is not football fans, political parties nor skin’s color that decides who is purely Italian: it is written on one’s documents and it is represented by wearing Italy’s jersey.
Anyway, the Italian millennial generation is looking to redeem the Italian national team for their recent dark years, and Roberto Mancini gets the hard job of training the new talent without external pressure, at a time when the UEFA Euro 2020 is being played for. Finally, an interesting anecdote: the only victory of the “Azzurri” in the UEFA European Championship was in 1968, when the tournament was held in Italy. The next edition will be itinerant throughout twelve countries, including Italy, and four matches will take place in Rome, at the Olimpico stadium. Right here, Italy won its only UEFA European Championship, and right here the “Mancitaly” has to get back to warm the Italian summers.