It has not taken long for Sebastian Giovinco to come under fire. He was given a five by La Gazzetta dello Sport for their Pagelle after Italy’s 3-1 win over Armenia – only Leonardo Bonucci was rated lower for the match – and he has received a lot of individual criticism after a below-par team performance in Yerevan on Friday evening.
Cesare Prandelli has already stated he is unlikely to use the Giovinco-Pablo Osvaldo partnership from the start against Denmark, and the ankle injury that forced the former out of the game in Armenia might have given the Coach an ideal opportunity to leave him out.
Everyone had been waiting a long time for Giovinco to arrive at senior international level before he made his debut last year. He was a fixture for the Under-21s, but difficulty breaking through at Juventus delayed his progression. He was talked up, as was his potential impact on what was at the time an uninspiring Marcello Lippi Italy, but it was impossible to call him up without regular playing time.
Parma changed all that by giving him the minutes he required – and Juventus have followed suit now that he has returned this season – which gave Prandelli licence to introduce him to the set-up last year.
Initially there was the impact expected when, along with Alberto Aquilani, he came on against Germany in February and helped change the game in Italy’s favour, and then against Ukraine the following month. But what has followed has been a string of underwhelming performances and a struggle to make a difference.
Due to the long wait for his debut, this is not a young player that has been capped 13 times, but a guy who will turn 26 in January. It has resulted in less room for error – a player with 13 caps would usually be given margin for unimpressive displays, but when you are at Giovinco’s age the margins are much smaller and patience wears thinner more quickly.
Four of those caps have been from the start – against Northern Ireland, USA, Bulgaria and Armenia. There are one or two decent sides there but nothing that should stop him from showcasing his abilities. A player with his obvious talent should be making a difference against teams like this.
The question is how many chances will he get? Prandelli will continue to keep faith with him, and as long as he is playing for a club like Juventus, and importantly in the Champions League, he will rightly stay in contention within the squad – you cannot turn down players operating at that level.
But it is not as if he is playing in a position where Italy are struggling for talent. There are a glut of strikers, including a number of younger second strikers, that are more than capable of pushing Giovinco out. In that respect he is slightly unfortunate – if he was a natural Trequartista you suspect Prandelli’s patience would be unlimited given the dearth of players for that role.
As it is, the huge competition for places up-front means you have to perform when given chances. He does not have the luxury of potential to fall back on – while there is no doubt that at 25 years he can get better, and regular Champions League football will help him, the incentive to invest time and caps in him is not as great as it will be for a Stephan El Shaarawy or Lorenzo Insigne.
His best bet might be to return to his roots – at Under-21 level he spent large amounts of time playing wide, and many of his formative days in the Juventus first-team were spent here too. He has flourished at club level as a second striker and that has now become recognised as his role, but with Prandelli clearly angling for a 4-3-3 and the player himself possessing greater maturity and experience, demonstrating an ability to adapt would give him a lot more room to breathe for Italy.
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