Three goals against Switzerland, three key scenes that help decipher the secret of the Squadra Azzurra's success.
Manuel Locatelli, 23-year-old midfield director at US Sassuolo Calcio, prepares his first goal himself: He plays Domenico Berardi, his teammate at the provincial club in Emilia-Romagna, with a fine pass on the right wing position, Berardi runs again with the Ball to the baseline in the penalty area, fits sharply and flat in front of the goal, where Locatelli sprinted from close range.
With the second goal, a low shot from a central position from the edge of the penalty area, Locatelli demonstrates what technically savvy talents like him seem to translate effortlessly from the soccer textbook onto the lawn. And after the third goal, already in stoppage time, shooter Ciro Immobile (Lazio Rome) runs to the bench to fervently heart his previously substituted strike partner Lorenzo Insigne (SSC Napoli) on the sidelines.
And "national magician" Roberto Mancini has achieved all of this since he took over the Azzurri after the disgrace of missing the World Cup final qualification in 2018: He has young players like Locatelli, the attacking midfielders Nicolò Barella (Inter Milan) and Federico Chiesa (Juventus Turin) drawn to regular staff in the Nazionale; in addition, he gave late-callers like the six Jorginho (Chelsea FC), the grandiose left-back Leonardo Spinazzola (AS Roma) and the striker Andrea Belotti (Turin FC) a second or third chance; In addition, he made permanent staff such as Immobile and Insignia im Sturm and the defensive line Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci (both Juventus Turin) responsible as fundamental forces. You wear them just as effortlessly as the goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was already extremely experienced at the age of 22,who in the future may replace Manuel Neuer as the world's best man between the posts.
You can tell that the chemistry of this national team is right when you sing it, no shouting out the hymn from the "Brothers of Italy" before each game. There are no stars with airs here, but a collective in which every substitute on the bench knows about his central importance for the team and for coach Mancini.
There is no imbalance here between the players from the Croesus clubs from Turin, Milan and Rome or from Paris and London on the one hand and the players from “provincial clubs” such as Sassuolo or FC Turin on the other. It is no coincidence that Locatelli and Berardi from Sassuolo got along as blindly when they scored the first goal against Switzerland, as the Juve pros Bonucci and Chiellini have always been doing as a defensive wall in front of Donnarumma. After all, there is harmony in this team between experience and talent, between physical strength and inspired enthusiasm.
And there is a new game system under Mancini, which is ages away from the old Catenaccio and lives above all from attack. The 4-3-3 system of high counter-pressing transforms itself into a 2-3-5 phalanx with practically double winger positions in the switching game after capturing the ball. Certainly, for 965 minutes of play, “il muro” has not allowed a goal in defense against Donnarumma, there are now ten straight wins without conceding goals. But in those ten games, the Squadra Azurra also averaged 3.1 goals per game. Good prospects for Italy at this EM. The trip may lead to London, to the final.