Azzurri doomed as Conte fails history

on June 2016 | in Sports | by Dario Passarelli | @PapaDart | with No Comments

It is such a feeling of helplessness (or you get used to it living in the 6ix) that when things seem to be too good to be true, something bad happens. We are still a little hung over by the buzz the Toronto Raptors have given us. We are still dreamlike in knowing the Toronto Maple Leafs have the number one pick and studs such as Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine are ours to be taken. Even the Blue Jays after their rough start are climbing back up the AL East and did so by beating both the NY Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Take it one step further and one of the best soccer tournaments is about to start and… what?

What do you mean TFC’s Sebastian Giovinco has been left out of the Italian National team for the upcoming Euro2016 tournament? Now it’s safe to say that the Atomic Ant isn’t on the same level as a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Lionel Messi, but then again, no one in Italy is either. With no surprise to anyone, Italian soccer has never regaled itself as a scoring powerhouse but instead is more famous for its defensive and apparently boring style of play. So how could you leave one of the most imaginative players off the team?

Now, any national squad coach has every right to believe a player is or is not suited for his team. They may not fit with the style of play the coach is looking for, they may have a personality clash with other members of the team or quite simply, there is someone better at that position. But I have never seen a player disregarded because of the league he plays in. The MLS isn’t on par with many of the leagues in Europe or South America, but they have made strides to get better. There are at least 4 players that will play in EURO2016, one of which, Belgium’s Laurent Cimon will face Italy on June 13th.

Now I am certainly not as knowledgeable when it comes to soccer as someone like Antonio Conte is or those of his staff. I am positive they have valid reasons for omitting someone like Seba. But what I do know is history and in this case specifically, Italian soccer history. For Italy to fare well in European and World Cup competitions, they need two things 1) great defence (and in the case of 2006, spectacular defence as they only allowed an own goal and a penalty shot the whole tournament) and 2) they need an enigmatic striker that takes over a tournament.

Italy has never had a striker to rival the best in history. There is no one that could even come close to matching the careers of Messi, Ronaldo or the stratospheric status of Pele or Maradona. What Italy can and has produced are forwards that rise to the occasion out of some obscurity. Think of Paolo Rossi’s 6 goals in Italy’s 1982 World Cup win. Rossi had just come off a two year ban for match fixing. Think of Salvatore (Toto) Schillaci who in 1990 led the Azzurri to a 3rd place finish by also scoring 6 goals even though he barely played for the national team before that. At the EURO2012, Mario Balotelli helped lead Italy to the finals. Unfortunately before and after the tournament his dominance as a striker was always overshadowed by his immaturity. But all of these Italian National team successes combine solid, structured defence with a little something out of the ordinary up front.

Conte has his solid defence as he selected Juventus’ back four of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and legendary goalie Gianluigi (Gigi) Buffon. Who better to fill that ‘something out of the ordinary’ up front other than the 5’4′ Atomic Ant who plays on the other side of the world? I strongly believe that Conte has made a huge mistake in leaving Giovinco out of the Azzurri team and so does Red Card’s Anthony Totera. More importantly, history says it too.

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