Friday September 7 2018
Have faith in Fede

Federico Chiesa was born to play for Italy and is undeniably the spark Roberto Mancini needs to revitalise the Azzurri, writes Giancarlo Rinaldi.

It took 70 minutes or so for the penny to drop. Up until then Italy were heading for a sad old start to this new Nations League competition. But then Roberto Mancini played his last card - a little purple ace - and Federico Chiesa came up trumps once again. Some players look born to play for their country, and the boy appears as if he’s been wearing Azzurri blue since his father Enrico first held him in his arms.

It was not that he did a huge amount in his 20 minutes or so - although he did win the penalty that salvaged a point - but more about his attitude. The team had look flatter than a freshly cooked piadina until his enterprise and adventure spiced things up. In his present form, he is knocking on the Nazionale door with the all the subtlety of a battering ram. Ignore him at your peril.

The first half of the clash in Bologna was a particularly dispiriting one. The hosts looked bereft of ideas to break down a solid Poland side, while more brittle than an overbaked breadstick in defence. The visitors were slick enough on the break to create the better chances with Gigio Donnarumma brilliantly thwarting one opportunity, but he could do nothing about Piotr Zielinski’s crisp opener. With so many Serie A players in their squad, it was odds on one of them would hurt his adoptive homeland.

This was the peak of Italian confusion. A midfield of Jorginho, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Roberto Gagliardini sent too many passes astray, as the action was too frenetic for much composure to break out. It left the old double act of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci exposed a bit too often for comfort. There were flashes from Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne up front - more from the Juve man - but not enough to construct much hope from. And in between them was the desperate void left by Mario Balotelli.

Only Mancini will know how precarious the hitman’s physical condition was before kick-off, but he was about as involved as a butcher at a vegan birthday party. The whole team did not play well, but he struggled throughout his hour or so on the pitch. It felt like merciful relief for player and supporters when he departed to allow the more bullish Andrea Belotti to come on. He, like Chiesa, helped in livening up what had largely been a dirge to that point.

Who knows, of course, if the Azzurri had started the personnel they finished with how different things might have been? That can only be pure speculation, but they still look a bit stretched by trying to play an aggressive, attacking 4-3-3. The demands it places on the midfield in particular look just too great for the players currently available.

It’s nice to think Italy can go out and impose themselves on every side they encounter, but the reality looks quite different. A splash of pragmatism - traditionally a fine quality of their football - would go a long way.

The boys in blue go again on Monday in Portugal and Mancini will no doubt be running his fingers through those flowing locks in contemplation of who to play. His midfield struggled, the defence looked breachable with neither Davide Zappacosta nor Cristiano Biraghi providing the attacking thrust hoped for on the flanks either. The shots on target total could be counted on one hand with fingers to spare.

But, despite his protestations to the contrary at full-time, he must have the pride of Florence at the heart of his thoughts. Perhaps he does not want to heap too much expectation on such a young talent, but those of us who write about the game are allowed to do so.

At the moment, he looks about the most exciting, enterprising and energetic option at the disposal of a team trying to rebuild its international reputation. For now, they surely can’t afford to leave him kicking his heels on the sidelines for an hour or more.

Chiesa is the spark this team needs to get its engine running. There are more where he came from, but he looks one of those most ready to revive the Azzurri’s fortunes. Be bold, Mancio, and have faith in Fede.

Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports.

Have your say...
Look everyone, get use to this, there is no quality with this national team. They still have to hit rock bottom,
They have no midfield , they are horrible , quite embarrassing. Cannot score because no one can provide quality balls to the strikers. Time to move from Balotelli, he cannot be trusted....sad find him a great striker, but no head, no desire.

Be hopeful we can qualify for WC2026.
on the 12th September, 2018 at 12:56am
In response to the person who bashed Chiellini & Bonucci - pace isn't the only characteristic that can win or lose a match. Did you see the moment when the Polish player had a free route to goal? Chiellini refused to give him the pass to Lewandowski & let him take his chances with the shot on goal which he missed. How many defenders would have left their mark to close him down allowing a pass to Lewandowski to score. That kind of intelligence is rare. Caldara & Romagnoli will get their chance.
on the 9th September, 2018 at 3:46am
Adding Chiesa will do nothing. You can't polish a turd. The football yesterday was atrocious. The defense is poor, the midfield is shocking and the attack mediocre. Italy will probably get relegated from this group.
on the 8th September, 2018 at 7:15pm
I did not understand Gagliridini role yesterday, was invisible most of game. WhenBonaventura was coming on I thought for sure for him. Does anyone have answer for what he can bring to midfield?
on the 8th September, 2018 at 6:47pm
People talk about all these stars mbappe, messi, etc. But the trith is look at ronaldo in serie a he will fail miserably as would any of these pther players so yhe foundation ia there we need the structure to be redone and reinforced. Its simple but yet difficult because it corrupted.
on the 8th September, 2018 at 6:35pm
Italy need to being back all their players playing outside of italy. I agree with what Mancini said u need to play ur homegrown player and strengthen the youth league. Forget what happened when he was at Inter now he is on other side and can see the damage it has caused. The problem is club presidents control and write rules for FIGC. The coeruption starts at top of government and has infected all aspects of Italy. The fish smells from the head.
on the 8th September, 2018 at 6:33pm
There are mentality problems in the squad. Strikers feed off of confidence. Doesn't matter which strikers start for Italy, they won't be productive until the mental hex is broken.
on the 8th September, 2018 at 5:13pm
It drove me crazy when Balotelli was shunned during what was arguably the most effective & consistent period of his career. Now I find it equally frustrating when he is being called up after not having a proper pre-season & where his head, once again, doesn't seem to be in the right place. You might be able to get away with an unfit forward if you're playing 2 up top, but expecting Balotelli to hold the line (& make runs) by himself is just ridiculous - very poor from Mancini!!
on the 8th September, 2018 at 3:11pm
I wasn't expecting much given some of the personnel & that there were many new elements to the team: you're not going to find chemistry in one international break. Ont the other hand, I was disappointed by the lack of drive, zest & composure. I don't know whether this nerves, poor attitudes, or just a lack of fight.
on the 8th September, 2018 at 3:03pm
Very odd choice for Mancini to start Balotelli, a player not only lacking match fitness having missed pre-season, but also carrying an injury. I mean, why bother? Unless you're setting him up for a fall.
I don't think this team are lacking in talent: what they need is more grit and determination. Think back to Gattuso, even Giachiarini at the last Euro's - players that naturally chase and drive a team on. It's a bit sad that Chiellini is having to do that in the middle of the pitch now!
on the 8th September, 2018 at 2:53pm

Poor effort from FIGC for choosing the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara. All the other nations in Pot A are playing at large stadiums packed full - Germany v France, even Wales in pot B filled a 70k seater!

The game wasn't worthy of 80,000 at the San Siro nor the Olimpico but could it have filled Juve's stadium with 40k fans or Luigi Ferraris 36k where the atmospheres are electric.

And yet Portugal is at the San Siro - in the same tournament?

Small details count. It's not all on Mancini.
on the 8th September, 2018 at 11:45am
I am reading the comments in here and puzzled! judging so quickly on Mancini and some players! Without a proper system to introduce itself for the greater good of Italian Football, our only hope to see Italy win games with decent performance is when the players give all they can for the love of Italy, that is it nothing more!
on the 8th September, 2018 at 10:56am
I feel sorry for Mancini, everyone will hammer him if Azzurri didn't do very well. Nothing has changed! why don't we read Sacchi's “it’s too much” for Roberto Mancini “to overturn the world alone”. & “What do we need? A strong Federation, that puts values at the center: quality, a sense of the collective, a Federation that develops a school, a style, a game identity that characteristics our national team. So, I say if the Federation is weak what shall we expect more?!
on the 8th September, 2018 at 10:52am
It is obvious that mistakes happen from the 1st game after sometime, as I did not expect Azzurri to play well I was hoping for the win but the team is under construction & needs identity. Frankly speaking, even if Azzurri didn't do very good I won't blame Mancini or the players, due to the fact the foundation is shaky! Italian football needs to improve in general, not just call up players & hire a coach to expect Azzurri will do wonders!
on the 8th September, 2018 at 10:45am
I feel sorry for Mancini. Not because I rate him highly, but because nothing has changed in Italian football since failing to qualify for the World Cup. This was a perfect opportunity to revolutionise football in the country and follow a model similar to France or Germany. More needs to be done at youth level (starting by improving the coaching) and build a philosophy.
on the 8th September, 2018 at 9:33am
Could have been worse, how often do we see them grind out a result. I enjoy watching when we play with a trequartista (unless it’s Montolivo) and less reliance on the flanks. Yesterday was another example of italia’s lack of ability to cross the ball. Balotelli has zero service. Last minute of the match Biraghi failed to beat the first man three times in under 30 seconds. A alternative playmaker is required in the middle. With Jorginho marked out of the game we cannot rely on Chielini or Bonucci
on the 8th September, 2018 at 8:36am
Well said.
on the 8th September, 2018 at 7:45am
>>> of call ups should never be picked again. I know it’s very early in Mancini/rebuilding era,but we were very nearly embarrassed yet home even!
I honestly think all these players touted to be next great Ita.legend are already spoiled by the time they are 22 y/o starters,who get $50 million contract just cuz they had good season or scored 10 goals. They no longer care, have drive or passion once they get huge salary. That’s why CR7 and Messi are so special,and GOATs for a decade.
on the 8th September, 2018 at 3:25am
At their peak Chellini / Bonucci would've had to play their best to mark Mbappe (example of a world class young player) what makes anyone think they could handle his pace now at their ages with years of milage on their football clocks?

Romagnoli / Caldara on the other hand have the pace to deal with top talents.

I'm a Juve fan but being at Juve shouldn't guarantee a starting place. Juve's success is more than 2 players, Romagnoli / Caldara could start for Juve & they would still win everything
on the 8th September, 2018 at 2:31am
Well Azzurri is back to level of cant score unless they’re given a pk. Sadly even defense seems shaky. Days of Zambrotta Canna Maldini Nesta will never be matched again.That said last blog was about how Insigne needs to show his true talent. Blah enough chances. Now it’s Chiesa. Tho he does seem to show heart. And please let’s never speak of Verratti ever again. Hasn’t contributed squat. Biggest sham of player ever. Hope Mancini starts more of the bench from here on out. Some from this cycle >>>
on the 8th September, 2018 at 2:24am
Agree Mike.

Bonucci Chellini too slow for Azzurri at Juve its ok as they are part of a well drilled unit that defends in numbers with fast wingbacks, Romagnoli and Caldara should start.

Best players vs Poland: Donnarumma 19, Chiesa 20 - trust youth!

Insigne is too similar to Bernadeschi positionally and less effective, besides we can't have two wingers playing far wide and away from Balotelli where is the link up? Chiesa is direct plays closer to the CF... Insigne should be a sub at best.
on the 8th September, 2018 at 2:21am
What a motor on Cheiesa. Finally someone with a little enthusiasm . Now if we could find some replacements for the dinosaurs at the back . Speed kills and if you don't have it in this day and age in ....See WC Champions.
on the 8th September, 2018 at 12:20am
In my opinion you could have roberto baggio in his prime playing for this italy team and would still struggle to find it way.

I think the point is missed italy for a long time have been without a game plan and real options. In addition what quality players italy has have failed or been disappointing in a italy shirt. no matter how could chiesa is he is no solution to italy problems which is going a plan and time to solve and the likes of verratti insigne to step up and show their quality.
on the 7th September, 2018 at 11:30pm

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