Italy’s backbone: dependable, inseparable and, at Euro 2020, unbeatable.
Italy’s run to the Euro 2020 final has, in many ways, highlighted a sea change in the country’s football culture. Roberto Mancini’s team are young, dynamic and adventurous, designed around a fluid and technical midfield and imbued with a brilliant attacking style.
If it was this vision of Italy that drove the team through the group stage and helped them rule out Austria first and then Belgium in the round of 16, the team’s victory in the semi-final against Spain was built on a more familiar iteration: ruthless and formidable in the image of the porcelain of Lorenzo Insigne and Marco Verratti but the inflexible concrete of Bonucci and Chiellini.
It is this Italy that England must defeat on Sunday evening if they want to lift the European Championship trophy: Italy which is not only proud of its defense but which treats it with real pleasure. As Bonucci once said, “As a defender you always like to win, 1-0.”
This has been the case for years in Italy, of course. Chiellini made his national team debut in 2004; Bonucci, only two years younger but a much later bloomer, joined him in 2010. Between them, they have now made 219 appearances for their country, the vast majority of them in tandem. They are so inseparable, both at club level and internationally, that one of the searches Google suggests for them is: “Are Chiellini and Bonucci related?”
They aren’t, but even they admit they might as well be. “I think I know Bonucci better than my wife,” Chiellini said.
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