Antonio Conte was jumping up and down in pure ecstasy when Graziano Pellé thumped home what would surely earn his side the full three-points. It was similar to the masterclass he pulled off against Belgium in the opening game of Euro 2016. Except, this time, Pellé’s goal came after the cross was deflected off a Spanish defender.
And still, people wonder how this team is doing it. With barely any world-class players anywhere besides the three at the back and the wall behind them, this Italy team is claimed by many to be the worst they’ve ever seen participate in a major tournament. One thing to note; that measurement is based on the metrics of talent and talent only.
If there is something else that is required in football that is equivalent or at least nearly equal to footballing talent, it is work-ethic and team chemistry. And the Azzurri have plenty in both departments.
It all starts with the goalkeeper. Gianluigi Buffon is 38 years young, and there’s not a single unit of space within one mile of the man where you cannot smell the passion reeking out of his mind and soul. This, undoubtedly, is helped by the ever-present back three slash best buddies in front of him in Barzagli, Bonucci, and Chiellini.
Those three are the best defensive pairing in this world. Bonucci even said so a few years back. Any other department of this Italian team may not boast quality as much as their defence does. Traditionally, the Italians have always had a mind for defending. Great defenders, such as the likes of Paulo Maldini, Cesare Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta and Franco Baresi have conquered the world with their defensive prowess, and in many cases, leadership. Critics, though, are claiming this is the best set of defenders ever in the country’s history if they can propel this team to winning the Euros.
This unfathomable chemistry between the backline and the goalkeeper, which, by the way, originates from them playing together at Juve, keeps the rest of the team together and following the gaffer’s gameplan. Of course, it also helps the matter seeing as Conte led Juventus to an unbeaten league title in the first of his three seasons there.
The more talented players in this Italian team, such as El Shaarawy and Insigne, are being dropped for work-horses like Giaccherini and Candreva. Conte is sending a clear message to everyone watching. You don’t need to have the most expensive squad (ahmm…Belgium) to challenge for the big honors. You just need to have a squad that’s willing to die for you.
And a manager who will do the same in return.