Marco Verratti’s absence tonight in the midfield for Italy versus Sweden means all eyes turn to Azzurri debutant Jorginho.
Friday’s 1-0 defeat to Sweden in the first leg of the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Play-Off exposed the many flaws that have been in existence for years with the Italian National Team, but have for one reason or another, fell by the waist side.
Manager Gian Piero Ventura’s midfield five showed it’s true colors in the first leg; predictable, devoid of ideas to break down the opposition, and a winning drive, most of which can be attributed to the man in charge. At the base, Roma’s fierce destroyer Daniele De Rossi proved to us all through his performance that his days for the Italian National Team are numbered – regardless of today’s outcome. Paris Saint-Germain star Marco Verratti, who Italy will be without tonight due to his suspension, cant’t seem to replicate his fine form at the club level for his country.
Since Andrea Pirlo’s heyday of string-pulling as the regista, the Azzurri have longed for someone in the middle of the park to carry the torch forward, and be the play-making ‘protagonista’ this nation so desperately needs. Unfortunately for the 25-year old Verratti, he will look on from the stands, as his compatriots battle in front of 80,000-plus at the San Siro, and strive to stave off elimination and avoid capitulation.
Marco Parolo and Alessandro Florenzi are pegged to get the starting nods tonight for Italy, but neither possess the technical means to fill the boots of Verratti as the midfield’s creator. After months of Twitter propaganda and constant begging from the Azzurri faithful, finally, Jorginho will be given his first ever start in azzurro.
The 25-year old has been at the heart of Maurizio Sarri’s first-place Napoli side for a while now, controlling play and flying under the radar as one of Europe’s best tempo midfielders. Now, his rangey skill set goes beyond being the methodical dictator and executing the simple passes. Steady in possession and difficult to dispossess, Jorginho is also a midfielder who can quickly transition from the defensive to attacking phase, something of which we will keep a close eye on tonight as Italy must ramp up their play if they are to catch a physical and well-structured Sweden side on the counter, and open windows to exploit.
Many Serie A apologists and European football fans have voiced their support of Jorginho’s call-up for a while now; the main concern was whether or not it would come in time from Ventura to avoid losing the methodical playmaker to Tite and his birth country of Brazil. The Seleção already secured their spot at next summer’s World Cup and would have loved nothing more to add the former Hellas Verona man to their national team selection pool next summer. Luckily, Ventura’s stubbornness didn’t cost Italy and he was finally selected.
Back in July 2014, Jorginho told Corriere Dello Sport that as a child, his idol was Kaka. “I tried playing in his role,” revealed the midfielder, “but it didn’t suit me.” The Napoli star continued to explain how he began taking comfort in a role further away from goal, and grew to love operating in front of the defence – a similar positional transition to that of the former 2006 World Cup winner, Andrea Pirlo:
“I took inspiration from Andrea Pirlo, the best in that role. He makes even the most complicated scenarios seem simple.”
The 80,000 screaming fans, the blue shirt and Fratelli D’Italia – all symbolic of Italian hope tonight. Verratti’s suspension and De Rossi’s ageing legs means the door now opens for Jorginho tonight to step up for his country, slide into a role Pirlo handled with the utmost confidence and care, and help guide his team to Russia.
With Italy in need of a composer in the midfield, all eyes turn to Jorginho.