Before Locatelli was Manuel, in my imagination Locatelli was Roberto.
He wasn’t a footballer, he wasn’t an intelligent, complete, good midfielder playmaker, good in positioning, yes he was a motorcyclist, Roberto Locatelli, champion of the former 125cc category in 2000, today he must be a boy for his forties and there is no evidence that the two are related. But yes, it is only a short time ago that, for me, Locatelli stopped being Roberto and became Manuel.
And I imagine that after tonight, even the most hardened two-wheeler will have Locatelli as Manuel, who was previously Roberto.
Because he was the man who tried to translate into goals the intense domination with which Italy trampled a Switzerland that came to this Euro unrecognizable, passive, without ideas, which with the 3-0 defeat at the Olympic of Rome is now forced to win in the last round to still think about qualifying.
Italy came to this European by plane. After the national commotion, a scandal of biblical proportions that was failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, in 2021 the transalpine team are a different team, where Sassuolo people may have more prominence than a Juventus player, with midfielders able to guide the game as It’s good for them, whether it’s Jorginho, Barella or Locatelli – and it seems to be Mancini’s gold mine for years to come.
It was there that the game was made, in accordance with the will of those men, who took the game early on, did not let Switzerland progress more than necessary and made Italy’s attack flow, which in a day of greatest inspiration for Insigne or Immobile, it could have massacred.
But with the strikers not there, Locatelli was there. On 26′, and already after Italy saw a goal disallowed to Chiellini, in a quick move, the Sassuolo midfielder, well inside his defensive midfield, saw Berardi flee on the right. The ball was first and foremost, it reached his teammate in Italy, who then saw Locatelli running again, like a motorcycle, like Roberto, up the field to go do what Berardi’s cross asked: a small tap to enter the goal.
Until the end of the 1st part, Italy continued in great rotation, at a frantic pace when it had to be, more paused when the game asked for it, and only at the beginning of the 2nd part did there come a faint sign of change in attitude from Switzerland, which would be quickly stopped again by Locatelli.
With the Swiss defense missing all the marks, the 23-year-old midfielder appeared alone at the edge of the area, just in front of the firing range, and from his left foot came a perfect shot to which Yann Sommer had no reaction.
After the goal, Italy, confident in their defence, holding the middle line, gave Switzerland the initiative again, then took the opportunity to come out fast, simple. But there was always a lack of assertiveness on the last pass, with Immobile with a poorly tuned aim and Insigne bumbling – even so, Immobile would make it 3-0, in another medium-distance shot, already close to 90′.
From Switzerland little or nothing was seen. The only opportunity worthy of the name came at 64′, in a good move from the Swiss attack that ended with Zuber’s shot, which Donnarumma, almost always another spectator at Olímpico, defended well with his feet.
With this result, Italy quickly dealt with its life and is the first qualified for the round of 16 of the Euro 2020. And playing like this, it is possible that it will go much further than that.