U21 European Championship 2019: Federico Chiesa is Italy's biggest hope
When Federico Chiesa entered the mixed zone, more than an hour had passed since the final whistle. And yet Italy's new football hero was actually too early. Italy's Under-21 coach Luigi Di Biagio did not sit 50 meters away in a container, waiting for his analysis to be translated as part of the press conference for the few Italian-speaking journalists.
So while Di Biagio looked around, as if to make sure that his words had arrived, it was all around him with calm. One journalist stood up, a second followed, even a third - it was necessary to pay homage to Chiesa, the man who had provided with his two goals for the 3-1 defeat against Spain in the Under-21 European Championship and had shown a great game.
Well, homage is a big word, one that does not fit a sport like football. But you can hardly name anything that happened on that evening.
"Un santo" - a saint
In the container, the translator translated against the unrest, outside stood Chiesa, freshly showered, the Gucci bag tucked under his arm, looking as if he did not know exactly what he should be here. A journalist stepped forward to shake hands with Chiesa. Mobile phones were pulled out and selfies were shot, and one quietly said something that sounded suspiciously like "Un santo," a saint.
Shortly after the press conference with coach Di Biagio had ended and Chiesa was asked to make a statement, he said: "I did not shoot the game with my goals, we were a team."
Perhaps it had already indicated well before the kick-off that this evening would not be quite normal. The stadium booklet featured a photo of Chiesa on the front page, by whom else; including the line: "dreams big." And they are dreaming, they are doing that in Italy, which is organizing the U21 European Championship together with San Marino. Italy has already won a European championship five times, but the last title is 15 years ago. Perhaps that's why the Italian federation has decided to place six players who had been in the national squad for the tournament in the U21.
Defender Gianluca Mancini of Atalanta Bergamo has only completed an A international match, he is the unknown from this sextet. Nicolò Barella (Cagliari) has played 90 minutes in five of the last seven A internationals, Juventus striker Moise Kean scored twice in three international matches, and Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma) has played ten times for the Squadra Azzurra. And then there's Nicolò Zaniolo, also from the Roma, 19, and something like the Italian counterpart to the German shooting star Kai Havertz. Missing yet another, the most experienced returnee: Federico Chiesa, 21 years old, offensive player at the AC Florence, 13 A-internationals.
Estimated market value: 60 million euros
Chiesa is considered in Italy as a great, perhaps the greatest talent. In the season with Florence, the son of former international Enrico Chiesa scored six goals in 37 league games and prepared seven goals. He is very fast, can play right and left. His estimated market value is currently 60 million euros. Former national striker Luca Toni recently named Chiesa as the best young player in his home country. Numerous clubs should be interested in a commitment - also the Bayern was called.
But in the game against the Spaniards you saw little of Chiesa and the other five new heroes at first - great attacks showed especially the opponents. Chiesa, Zaniolo, and Kean, storming side by side, looked perplexed. However, the fans of the Italians were not deterred by this, they initiated "Italia-Italia" - Chants and waved their paper flags in the national colors.
It could have been the beginning of a wonderful party right now, but Italy's players were playing as if they were more like TV and herbal tea. At the latest when Spain's Dani Ceballos, he also with eight A-internationals, with a dreamlike Schlenzer the lead scored, also the Italian appendix seemed to be nagging (9).
In the run-up had often been said that this game could actually have been the final match; But at least that was of tremendous importance: only the top three of the group moved into the semi-finals and the best runner-up. A defeat at the start, and the dream of the title would have quickly taken on the traits of a nightmare.
The fact that the Italians are allowed to dream on, then lay mainly on two actions of Chiesa, in which one was allowed to admire the range of his skills. The 1: 1 equalizer fell to a wonderful pass from Barella, Chiesa took the ball from the air. Then he sprinted down the left side, opponent Martin Aguirregabiria did not follow, and Spain keeper Unai Simón could not prevent the ball in the short corner landed (36).
Marco Luzzani / Getty Images
Looked in: Lorenzo Pellegrini scores from the penalty spot for a 3-1 final score
Before the 2: 1 landed a failed attempt shot at the feet of Chiesa, who only needed to push (64.). The third goal for Italy then scored Pellegrini by penalty kick, he also one from the new, old sextet.
When Spain coach Luis de la Fuente was told that his side had lost the game lightly in this crucial game, he said: "After the equalizer, Italy showed what a great team it is and what a wonderful player it is. "