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Meet the new wave of Italians taking the game by storm

Sunday 18th June 2017
The last seven years haven't been terribly good for the Azzurri. One major tournament final, but a disgraceful performance in said match, coupled with three very limp campaigns across the World Cup and European Championships, has resulted in Italy having to shake up the pack.

Many moons ago, the Italian national side was a formidable force having won four World Cups, joint second best with Germany. They also won one European championship. Five major international tournament wins make them historically one of the best sides in the world - and continental football.

11 years ago Marcello Lippi showed us all in Germany that Italy is still one of the top national teams in the world, by leaving the Olympiastadion in Berlin with the Jules Rtrophytropy. Triumphant victors, Buffon, Pirlo, Totti, Toni and De Rossi had replicated their heroes in Zoff, Tardelli and Altobelli who had won the same accolade 24 years ago – ensuring that the legacy of Italian football was extended.
Italy's last major triumph, that win in Berlin, 2006.

The problem is that the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio, (the Italian football federation), have failed to produce or expose a future generation worthy of winning any major tournaments, after the class of 2006. Both World Cup squads for team Italia in 2010 and 2014 featured ageing superstars, and both ended in tears before Italian bedtimes. They exited both tournaments at the group stage, leaving a sour taste in their mouths.

The time has come for a new generation of Italian footballers to lead this warship of football to pastures new. This bunch all made the squad last time out against Liechtenstein and have less than 30 caps between them, but are certainly the crux of Italy's future.

Lorenzo Insigne



It's bizarre to think that the Neapolitan man is 26, but has just 16 international senior caps to his name. Although upon further inspection it's really only the last two years that attacker has justified consistent selection for the national side.

He scored eighteen goals in Serie A last season; ensured that he was selected by Gian Piero Ventura. Given his age and experiences with his club side, Insigne could serve a leadership role for a lot of the younger Azzurri squad members. He scored the opening goal against Liechtenstein last weekend, which initially proved elusive. Insigne, however, kept piling on the pressure and essentially opened the gates for victory as they then put five past their opposition. Lorenzo's effort was needed as the longer the game went on without a goal, the more the minnow side believed they could get something out of the match. Insigne will serve as a real leader and impassioned player for the Azzurri if given more chances in the famous blue shirt.

Andrea Belotti



Nicknamed the Rooster, this young Italian ruled the roost as he clucked his way to 26 goals in the 16/17 Serie A season. That turned out to be the third best in the league and the best domestic goal scorer. These attributes made him a transfer target for both top Italian sides as well other foreign sides, who want to take him away from Torino. Interested parties include AC Milan and Chelsea.
Highlights of Belotti's season with Torino, which has got a lot of clubs after his signature this summer.

Belotti opened his account in the national colours during the contemporary qualification campaign, scoring his first three goals away from home. His first in Macedonia and a brace in Vaduz against Liechtenstein. His first on home soil came last weekend, meaning he's got four goals in just nine international caps. This striker is clearly destined for great things and firing Italy forward is certainly part of that.

Federico Bernardeschi



Hailing from the region of Tuscany, Bernadeschi, is another exciting prospect which clubs are lining up to try to secure his services. Juventus, Barcelona and Manchester United are all reportedly interested in the 23-year-old. He's enjoyed a breakthrough season at Fiorentina, scoring 11 goals and making four assists from the Viola wings in the league.

He was however on the national radar before, having been part of Conte's Euro 2016 squad, but just made the lone appearance in France, which was a losing effort to the Republic of Ireland. However after Conte's reign, under Venture, Bernardeschi has made a further eight appearances for the side and enjoyed success within them and made a good reputation for himself. Praised for his versatility, he can play on the right-wing, right-mid, attacking mid or even as a second striker. The Tuscan man is also reported for his elegant style of play and picked up a nickname referring to the famous Florentine architect, Brunelleschi, because of his graceful demeanour of football.
He got involved with the scoring in the 5-0 rout of Liechtenstein, by scoring the fourth goal. Should his big money transfer go through and/or his form continue there's no doubt he'll be in an Azzurri shirt again, helping the team prosper.

Manolo Gabbiadini



In the same boat as Insigne, Gabbiadini, has seemingly been around for a long time but made little impact in the national side. He's done the rounds in Serie A, having been on the books for Atalanta, Juventus, Sampdoria a lastly Napoli but now finds himself at Southampton. He made a flying start to his Saints career in January, before getting injured and missing most of the remaining season.

He's made just eight senior Italian appearances in the last five years, again, this has been hampered by injuries – having to be subbed off in his first ever international appearance back in 2012. In his last outing, he showed Venture his worth – coming off the bench and scoring the fifth against Liechtenstein.
Gabbiandini's last goal in an Italian shirt.

At this juncture, it seems like his club and country careers are aligned, he's undoubtedly a talent – but he needs to stay off the injury list. The Italian Daniel Sturridge if you will. The problem he has, the more injured he gets the more isolated he becomes and the less likely he'll be selected for future national squads. If he can keep fit though, there's no doubt he'll make major contributions to the national side for years to come.
Warren Smith

Yokohama F•Marinos supporter. Seen it all in the J.League, relegation fights and being crowned champions. Play five-a-side, pretty good too. Once scored an overhead kick.


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