EURO2020.com’s Italy reporter Paolo Menicucci discusses how 22-year-old ‘veteran’ Gianluigi Donnarumma has filled Italy’s goalkeeping void, as well as losing star man Leonardo Spinazzola through injury.
Italy can do it all
The Azzurri play attacking possession-based football with three technically skilled midfielders like Marco Verratti, Jorginho (the real brain of the team) and Nicolò Barella constantly moving the ball quickly. Their three attackers combine well and can always score great goals, as Federico Chiesa demonstrated against Austria and Lorenzo Insigne against Belgium, to mention a couple.
However, when required the Azzurri have also proved that they can form a solid blockade to protect Gianluigi Donnarumma with veteran centre-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci transforming into gladiators, capable of disposing of every ball that comes near the Azzurri box. The perfect combination of youth and age.
The best goalkeeper?
I think that Kevin De Bruyne will still be thinking about his first-half shot against Italy in the quarter-finals. The Manchester City midfielder had directed the ball perfectly towards the far post with a powerful, curled effort. He was primed to celebrate when, all of a sudden, the big hand of a diving Donnarumma appeared to turn his effort away.
At only 22 years old, the ‘veteran’ goalkeeper has already earned 31 caps for Italy and played in 215 Serie A games with AC Milan. Is it possible to fill the void left by a certain Gianluigi Buffon? Yes, when you are Gianluigi 2.0.
The strength of the group
From day one, every single player in the squad has stressed how united this group is. “We don’t have players like Ronaldo or Lukaku,” says Bonucci. “Our star is the group.” The centre-back added that this is probably the best Italy squad he has been in – some claim considering he’s earned over 100 caps.
It’s obvious that Mancini has done a terrific job. The players seem to enjoy every minute together and this is reflected on the pitch; every player is ready to help their team-mates, and those starting on the bench are always ready to contribute. “We’re never scared of making mistakes because we can always rely on our team-mates to give 100% and rescue us,” says Federico Acerbi. “This makes the difference.” It does.
On the other hand…
Losing Spinazzola was a terrible blow for Mancini. The Roma left-back has been one of the tournament’s best surprises; he has twice been named Star of the Match. He seemed to be everywhere in the last-eight contest with Belgium until sustaining an Achilles injury which is likely to rule him out for a long time.
In that match, within a few crucial second-half minutes, Spinazzola made a goal-line block from a close-range Romelu Lukaku effort and went close to volleying in at the other end. His incredible energy will be sorely missed by Italy. Will the Azzurri be the same without super Spinazzola?