Roughly one week since watching his Italy fail to qualify for the World Cup from the bench, Lorenzo Insigne’s wonder-strike Tuesday night at the San Paolo further proved Gian Piero Ventura got it all completely wrong.
As Italian football continues mourning last Monday’s disastrous failure to qualify for the World Cup, there has been no shortage of reactions from across the spectrum.
The first domino to fall in the aftermath came last week when manager Gian Piero Ventura was sacked, prompting sarcastic cheers from the entire Azzurri fanbase who wished he would have stepped down immediately following the defeat to Sweden. Then, it was FIGC President Carlo Tavecchio’s resignation on Monday that grabbed headlines, for his grandstanding and bizarre statements reeked of desperation to salvage what remained of his scarred reputation. In between all of this chaos within the Italian football hierarchy, however, was the restart of the Serie A and the excitement in the race at the top of the table – a much needed distraction to take minds off the reality of missing out on Russia.
Roma’s defeat of Lazio in the Derby della Capitale to resume play in the top-flight, along with Sampdoria’s maintenance of a perfect home record by beating Juventus at the Marassi, certainly made for a interesting weekend. Yet, many eyes seemed focused on Napoli’s hosting of Milan at the San Paolo, for there was plenty of intrigue with how Lorenzo Insigne would respond on the pitch after being snubbed from making an appearance in the second leg.
Insigne’s stellar form for league leaders Napoli promised so much entering the World Cup play-off. Even with a start in both legs unlikely due to Ventura’s 3-5-2 formation using wingbacks, and of course, his stubbornness to see the bigger picture, it was of paramount importance to Italy’s dwindling hopes that their most creative talent saw as much of the pitch as possible.
The Napoli star came off the bench for Marco Verratti to play 14 minutes of regular time in the first leg, and was not shy in showing his disgust with Ventura’s decision to slot him in as central midfielder versus playing in a more advanced role up front where he could have a fighter’s chance of leaving his mark on the tie. When needing a goal to force extra-time at the San Siro last Monday and stave off elimination in the second leg, it came as a surprise to many to see the 26-year old Neapolitan not be utilised – most notably Daniele De Rossi who pleaded his for Insigne’s entrance that never came.
Inexcusably, Insigne did not receive the opportunity become a hero for his country, and sadly, was forced to watch his team fail to qualify from the bench.
Though upset about missing out on the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, and not having the chance to have a say in that, Insigne told Sky (h/t Goal.com) that he “always accepted the coach’s decisions” and had “no regrets” at all.
Since last Monday, Lorenzo has continued on his scintillating form for the Partenopei, putting behind him the shortcomings of the nation in favour of helping Napoli’s run towards their first Scudetto title since the 1989-90 season with Diego Armando Maradona.
On Saturday, Napoli returned to league play in winning fashion, defeating the Rossoneri 2-1 at the San Paolo. Undeniably, Insigne stole the show, demonstrating the creativity and imagination we’ve all come to know of the small-statured playmaker. After an initial offside ruling by the main official waved off Insigne’s goal, VAR overturned it, giving Napoli the lead in the first half and Italy supporters the chance to take a much warranted dig at Ventura.
Last night, in a must-win scenario to stay alive in the quest for the Champions League’s knockout stage, Napoli hosted a Shakhtar side at home who bested them 2-1 in Ukraine two months ago. This time, Insigne ensured the Ukraine outfit didn’t enjoy a repeat affair.
Once again, Napoli profited off the individual brilliance of Insigne who broke the internet with an awe-inspiring strike to open the scoring.
— Everything Napoli (@NaplesAndNapoli) November 21, 2017
Dries Mertens and Piotr Zielinski added goals of their own to put the visitors to bed 3-0, keeping hopes alive entering the final match-day in Group F against Feyenoord where they will need a win and help from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the form of victory.
Lorenzo Insigne for Napoli since being left on the bench vs Sweden in the second leg:
2 matches (1 Serie A, 1 UCL)
155/180 minutes played
79/95 completed passes (83%)
6 shots (5 on target)
4 key passes
Sparkplug. 💥 pic.twitter.com/hV3e5Q7Sjx
— Matthew Santangelo (@Matt_Santangelo) November 22, 2017
Lorenzo Insigne’s numbers over the previous two matches for Napoli (above, via Who Scored) clearly show a man on a mission, and one mission only: laying it all out on the pitch for his club, the supporters, the city who birthed him and the glory that comes with lifting a Serie A trophy for Napoli.
Insigne was the lone man on the Italy roster capable of changing the tide of the match versus Sweden with one stroke of genius; to create the magical moment out of nowhere that his country was desperate for. Tuesday’s golazo further proved what we all know to be true: Ventura, like so many times throughout his tenure as Italy boss, got it all wrong.