With a hop and skip, Jorginho fired Italy into the EURO 2020 final by scoring the winning penalty in their shootout win over Spain at Wembley.
The composure and the guts was frankly absurd from Chelsea’s mercurial midfielder, who is enjoying a superb tournament but also, a brilliant 2021 (aside from his egregious error that led to Emile Smith Rowe’s winner for Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in May).
Spain keeper Unai Simon clapped as he was completely flummoxed by the Italian. There aren’t many better penalty takers in world football than Jorginho, who netted seven of them for Chelsea last season to end the campaign as the club’s top Premier League scorer.
That says a lot about the Blues forward line and why they are in the market for a frontman in the transfer window. But anyway, back to Jorginho and what was a fabulous semi final that would have been fitting of a final.
It was proper tournament football. Roberto Mancini’s side had to suffer a near constant barrage from Spain, the excellent Dani Olmo at the forefront. But it was another breakout star in Federico Chiesa who gave the Azzurri the lead, curling home delightfully after a lightning quick counter attack that started with Gianluigi Donarrumma rolling the ball out from his own box.
Former Chelsea man Alvaro Morata netted a fine equaliser, exchanging a clever one-two with Olmo before placing the ball into the net to overtake another former Blue, Fernando Torres, as La Roja’s top Euro goalscorer.
Morata would then miss in the penalty shootout, as would Olmo, as Spain succumbed to defeat and Mancini’s men extended their unbeaten run to 33 games.
For Jorginho, he is on the verge of being a double European champion within the space of a little under two months. Chelsea’s conductor was instrumental in the Blues’ run to Champions League glory alongside N’Golo Kante, while he has been equally as vital to Mancini.
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No player has made more appearances for Mancini since he took the Azzurri reins three years ago and has turned them into a machine. While the 29-year-old hadn’t convinced at Stamford Bridge under Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard, he’s indispensable to Mancini and, arguably, Thomas Tuchel at club level.
Critics will often point to a lack of pace for the “Regista” which is why he has been targeted in the Premier League. If you pressure Jorginho, he is susceptible.
While the claims that Jorginho should be in the conversation for the Ballon D’Or have been sniffed at, the impact the Italian has made in the past six months for club and country cannot be underestimated.
Jorginho had a pass success rate of 83% at Wembley, only Giorgio Chiellini had better with 84% for the winners. Spain passed Italy off the park, 934-404 throughout the 120 minutes.
Interestingly, Jorginho’s favoured target for the game was Leonardo Bonucci, who he passed to seven times throughout the game. The Juventus defender returned the favour five times to get Italy on the move.
Also, Jorginho’s importance to Italy can be underlined by his teammates passing to him 29 times throughout the game to get him on the ball. Only Bonucci with 39 had more.
Italy were not at their free-flowing best that we have seen throughout the tournament so far against Spain and that was down to the excellent tactics of Luis Enrique, who drew Italy’s players in and passed around them through Sergio Busquets and the precocious Pedri.
Yet it was Jorginho who once again remained a presence of clam in a midfield that was getting overrun somewhat. Bonucci and Chiellini battened down the hatches after Italy went ahead but Morata still managed to breach them.
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But when the Chelsea midfielder stepped up in the shootout with the weight of a nation on his shoulders, you just knew he would deliver.
His rise in 2021 to a non-negotiable for Tuchel isn’t quite over yet, with the Euro 2020 final on Sunday at Wembley set to be another pinnacle of Jorginho’s career, the second in just a couple of months following the biggest trophy of them all at club level.
While he might not get the plaudits on these shores, not always helped by his agent constantly stoking talk of a move, Mancini knows his worth and so does Tuchel.