Atalanta defender Mattia Caldara put in an impressive shift on hostile ground for the visitors in the Europa League.
Caldara was taken off shortly before Dortmund’s winner, but while he was on the pitch the Italian managed to hold his own in a wide-open game.
At times, it was like neither side’s midfield existed, it was box-to-box and back again the the majority of the match. A real spectacle in the Europa League was on hand at the Westfalenstadion, the famous home of Borussia Dortmund, where Italians in particular have risen to the occasion.
|Mattia Caldara vs Dortmund|
|Aeriel Duels won||2|
The Italy man would have been slightly over 11 years old when the Azzurri took down the Germans in the World Cup semis in 2006. That night in particular, Fabio Cannavaro stole the show late in the game with a stunning interception and counter-attack to dash the German’s dreams of winning a World Cup on home soil.
Since that hallowed generation, there’s been little to talk about for the Italians. It’s been a long, painful 12 years since the sizzling summer of ’06.
Caldara stands out in a class of pretenders, where in the last several years we’ve seen prospects come and go but fail to live up to the hype. Last season, he signed a deal with Juventus join the club in the summer of 2018 along with wide midfielder Leonardo Spinazzola.
He’s been calm and strong this season, even though there is a lot of speculation and comparisons on his shoulders. Speaking last week to Italian radio station Radio Anch’io Sport, Caldara showed no signs of changing his attitude.
“I am very determined to adapt and to help Juventus do well. I am aware of how hard and rough this path will be be but I have to remain calm and embark on this path with the right determination.”
While he’s preparing to join Juventus and pushing to get Atalanta back into Europe this season, there’s already a direct challenger at Juventus, Daniele Rugani.
The big question is what will happen after Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini retire in the not-so-distant future. Will Rugani finally make the leap to being a strong defender? Will Caldara successfully make the transition to the Old Lady?
Those are serious questions with major implications not just for club, but for country. Italy needs the next wave of defenders to be champions in order to push them back as contenders on the world’s stage. For starters, it’s vastly important for them to be playing in Europe, something Caldara and to a lesser degree Rugani are doing.
The Europa League may not be the most glamorous of stages, but Dortmund vs Atalanta was a classic, and next week we’ll see the encore at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia to see who continues on to the next round.