Coming into this tournament, Italy had never once in its storied history scored three goals in a Euro match. That was the old Italy, the Italy of catenaccio and winning matches by defending to the death and hitting opponents on the counter. That Italy is long gone.
Roberto Mancini has ushered in a new era of calcio. It’s a new look Azzurri that can still defend with the best of them, but also one that looks to punish opponents with an impressive attack. With another 3-0 victory, this time over Switzerland, Italy has scored six goals without conceding in Group A.
It was the Azzurri’s tenth straight clean sheet in all competitions—a streak that now spans more than 900 minutes. Mancini’s men are also now unbeaten in 29 straight matches and could tie the nation’s all-time record with a result against Wales on Sunday.
So, what does it all mean? Simple. It means we’re handing out plenty of halos, as the Azzurri clinched their place in the Round of 16 with a match left to play.
There was no bigger saint in this one than the obvious pick for man of the match, Manuel Locatelli. The 23-year-old Sassuolo midfielder stole the show against the Swiss with his two-goal performance. And in the process, he showed that he can score in a variety of ways.
On the first goal, Locatelli sprang Neroverdi teammate Domenico Berardi with a great first time ball before continuing his run from past midfield all the way into the Swiss penalty area. In the process, Berardi returned the favor, playing a lovely low cross onto the onrushing Locatelli, who tapped it home from close range.
Locatelli followed that up with a lovely, low shot that he buried at the far post from the top of the 18. Even with Marco Verratti’s impending return, it’s going to be difficult for Mancini to remove Locatelli from the starting XI after this performance—his first ever brace for club or country.
Berardi may not have found the back of the net yet, but for the second straight match, he made a decisive cross on a goal. He’s been a danger man on Italy’s right-wing by staying active throughout and putting himself in good positions. His vision and pass to pick out Locatelli’s run were key to getting the Azzurri on the board. Meanwhile, Berardi’s four interceptions also led his side.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo
The Napoli man won the starting right-back spot in this match over Rafael Toloi and didn’t disappoint. Di Lorenzo had the second-most touches on the team with 71 and completed 90.4% of his 52 passes. He also led the Azzurri with three tackles and three clearances. With this kind of performance, it may be difficult for Alessandro Florenzi to reclaim the right-back spot when he returns from injury.
Jorginho may not jump out at you, but he does so many little things well to help the team. In this one, the Chelsea man led the team with 84 touches, while also completing 90% of his team-high 70 passes. He also drew five fouls and intercepted three passes. He’s the metronome that makes the Azzurri tick.
Stuck in Between
Overall, it was a rather pedestrian performance from the Lazio man at the Olimpico. Immobile was quiet for the majority of the match before missing two great opportunities to increase the Azzurri lead midway through the second half. However, he salvaged his night with a lovely goal to cap Italy’s 3-0 victory late. If Ciro is scoring, Italy will be hard to stop.
In the end, there were no sinners in yet another superb performance from Mancini’s Azzurri. And a case could be made to coronate plenty of others in the Azzurro shirts tonight, so let us know your thoughts and if you would’ve included anyone else.