After the poor 2-0 qualifier victory in Georgia (Kakha Kaladze scoring two own goals) on the 5th of September, Italy, in spite of taking three points, seemed to have reached their creative nadir.
The summer was a tough time for the Azzurri. The Confederations Cup was a definite low for the reigning world champions and it didn’t really help that the summer debacle was followed by a 0-0 friendly against Switzerland. The Georgia match seemed to highlight what had become evident. As Andrea Pirlo, the spark of ingenuity for Italy for the last five years or so and perhaps the most important individual reason for their success in 2006, seems to be gradually draining out of his genius, there is a shortage of heirs to the midfield crown. Italy’s midfield stock is traditionally bolstering with industry, athleticism and consistency but few have the capacity to deliver the stroke of magnificence. Pirlo did it in Germany and Italy took the Cup home.
Marcello Lippi, despite denying any sort of creative crisis in the Italy camp, had a tough task in providing the answer to the midfield problem in time for the clash against Bulgaria. His answer had been sitting in the stands three days earlier. Claudio Marchisio made his second full appearance against Bulgaria and despite perhaps not orchestrating the performance by himself, the 23-year-old was heavily involved in the turnaround of outlook for Italy as they beat Bulgaria 2-0 in Turin, at Marchisio’s home stadium.
After the call-up to the opening line-up in the national side, the Juventus midfielder, who was already a regular last season, has flourished to full bloom. Marchisio scored the second of Juve’s two goals in the victory over Livorno with a perfectly placed lob after a surging run inside the box. In the next game at the Stadio Marrassi in Genoa, Marchisio put in a man of the match performance as he dominated the midfield especially in the second half. It’s no wonder Marco Tardelli, the Juventus and Italy legend and current Ireland assistant coach, drew parallels between the midfielder and himself and called the young Italian a great player. Graced with a superb over-all technique, dynamism and an impeccable eye for a pass, Marchisio embodies all the qualities of a modern midfielder.
Against Genoa, Marchisio started on the left side of the midfield pyramid, alongside the enforcers Christian Poulsen and Felipe Melo. In the defensive-minded Juve midfield line, Marchisio is the focal point in terms of their attacking build-up. He is the player Juventus look to provide the link between the defence and the playmaker Diego (replaced by Mauro Camoranesi against Genoa due to the Brazilian’s injury). Although perhaps most at home in the centre of the park, Marchisio can operate on the wing as well. This he showed in the first half as he stormed down the flank and provided the cross from which (with the help of Camoranesi’s delightful dummy) Vincenzo Iaquinta scored the opener.
As the generation of Pirlo, Totti and Alessandro Del Piero are gradually beginning to blow out the candles on their magnificent careers, they are leaving a huge creative deficit in the national team. Marchisio is top of the class among the young players who are taking over the huge responsibility of filling that void. Lippi could do a lot worse than trying to ensure this happening by giving the Juve player an extended run in the Azzurri shirt.