Published On: Thu, Nov 17th, 2016

Giampiero Ventura kick-starts integration of Italy’s next generation

The Azzurri opted for a change in system in their recent match with Liechtenstein, which also a range of new faces take their place in the squad as Ventura began his Italy evolution

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It is difficult to take too much from Italy’s performances this international break, which saw them thump Liechtenstein 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier, before claiming a respectable draw in a high-profile friendly with Germany.

One lesson we have learned, however, is that new coach Giampiero Ventura is willing and able to be the man to usher in the Azzurri’s new generation of upcoming talent.

The most obvious example of a new arrival to the national team making an instant impact is in-form forward Andrea Belotti. Torino’s Rooster carried his club form over to the Azzurri, where he hit the ground running by netting twice in the first half against Liechtenstein.

Il Gallo is far from the most elegant striker around, but he has a real knack and know-how when it comes to sniffing out chances and putting the ball in the net. Despite being just 22, the former Palermo striker has a positional sense beyond his years, and regularly finds himself in the right place at the right time.

With Belotti on-song, Ventura can continue to overlook the excluded pair of Sebastian Giovinco and Mario Balotelli safe in the knowledge that his No.9 of choice knows how to score.

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The 68-year-old tactician’s decision to opt for a tactical shift against the Group G minnows saw Belotti reunited with Ciro Immobile to spearhead the Italy attack.

It would be easy to read too much into a performance against a lesser nation, but Belotti and Immobile have combined will at every opportunity, for both Torino and now the Azzurri, too.

The two combined to devastating effect, showing the relationship they developed under Ventura’s guidance at Il Toro during the 2015-16 campaign remains intact. By all means, it seems as though the days of Eder and Graziano Pellè’s partnership have been consigned to the past, and Immobile and Belotti are the future.

Further back, AC Milan starlet Gianluigi Donnarumma looks to be a ready-made replacement for Gianluigi Buffon. The Milan first-choice goalkeeper has proven his credentials with the Rossoneri this season and at just 17, could find himself guarding the Azzurri’s goal for the best part of the next 20 years.

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In the backline, Alessio Romagnoli’s good performances for the Rossoneri have also been rewarded, and the former Roma and Sampdoria defender is set to become a regular in Ventura’s starting XI.

Alongside Romagnoli, Juventus’ Daniele Rugani found himself included. Despite his status as a backup squad member with the Bianconeri, Ventura is right to call the 22-year-old defender up in order to acclimatise himself with the setup at the national team and to further develop his relationship with Romagnoli, which prospered at Under-21 level with the Azzurrini.

Sassuolo’s Matteo Politano has impressed in Serie A this year, earning him a call-up to the squad, while full-back Andrea Conti has been in fine form for both Atalanta and the U21 side, meaning a first team spot might open up for him in the not too distant future.

With Federico Bernardeschi and Roberto Gagliardini also being included in Ventura’s squad, Ventura’s willingness to integrate youth is evident, and with Davide Zappacosta also featuring, as well as Marco Benassi and Daniele Baselli still part of the U21 setup, the Torino-theme within the Italy camp looks as though it could continue for some time yet.

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