Italy’s young stars hint at brighter future

By Marco Selci
Italy won the World Cup in Germany in 2006

Italy won the World Cup in Germany in 2006

Since being crowned World Champions in 2006, Italy have been far from spectacular, a team hardly worthy of the title itself. If anything, they still appear to be suffering from a World Cup hangover. But by looking at the bright young talent now emerging in Italy, they have a promising future ahead.

Ever since the World Cup in Germany, Italy – in my personal opinion – have been a complete letdown. For a team that is renowned for its rich history and its famous defensive play that often leads to counter-attacks, they appear to be lacking the fundamental elements needed to live up to their reputation.

Most recently, they only just qualified for Euro 2008 – with slim wins against teams where double-figures or thrashings would have been more fitting. At the actual tournament, we watched Italy endure a 3-0 schooling from Holland; a very lucky 2-0 win against a 10-man France with goals from De Rossi’s deflected free-kick and a penalty from Pirlo; and a lucky draw against Romania. Even now, with their current qualification group for World Cup 2010, the modest score lines are telling the same story.

However, in a few years time they can expect things to change. Recently in Italy’s domestic league, we have seen some exceptional promising young talent bring start to sparkle and dominate the headlines of the Italian sports dailies.

With talented strikers full of potential such as Mario Balotelli and Giuseppe Rossi, Italy’s attacking force looks set to improve. Balotelli, Inter Milan’s 18-year-old striker has already grabbed the attention of Italian nation by helping Inter win the Italian Super Cup final against Roma. He came on late in the second half as a replacement for Luis Figo, scoring in the 83rd minute. Putting aside his renowned attitude problem and the recent disagreements he’s had with Inter boss Jose Mourinho, he is a tall, powerful and agile striker with great technical ability.

And Villarreal’s little striker, Giuseppe Rossi, has already impressed, in particular Marcello Lippi who has given Rossi a couple of call-ups already, including one for this weekend’s World Cup qualifier against Montenegro. Despite the fact that Italy only made it to the quarter-finals of the 2008 Summer Olympics, Rossi, 22, was the top goal scorer in Beijing. And from only six appearances in the Champions league, he has bagged three goals to help Villarreal to reach the quarter-finals where they will face Arsenal.

Another promising talent who stands out is Juventus’ own young superstar Sebastian Giovinco. Giovinco, 22, has been affectionately nicked-named ‘la Formica atomica’ (the atomic ant). Even though he is pretty much at the beginning of his footballing career, he has been recognised as one of Italy’s most promising footballers. Giovinco is an attacking midfielder who so far this season has been quite magnificent, considering the goals and assists he has provided for Juve so far this season. With an attacking playmaker like Giovinco, the ball can be delivered up and down the pitch, and with the attributes of the young Juventino, he will almost guarantee goals and assists.

This is only a little taste of what Italy has in the pipeline. There are, of course, other young emerging talents such as Juventus’ 23-year-old Claudio Marchisio. With names like these added to more experienced players such as Cassano, De Rossi, Aquilani and Chiellieni, Italy has the potential to improve and maintain their reputation as a squad that is up there with the top teams in International Football.

Also, with players that have been mentioned, it is possible to question whether Italian football is moving in a new direction, from being defensive to more offensive and attacking. If so, it is possible that they may follow in the footsteps of South American nations that play with a famously quick, flowing pace. We must, however, not get carried away: on paper it may seem as if Italy will be a powerful footballing nation in years to come, but can these names actually play together on the same pitch? Only time will tell.

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