The midfield duo has heavily impressed for the Azzurri in the continental tournament. 

Italy advanced to the Euro 2020 semi-finals after beating Belgium 2-1 in a closely contested fixture on Friday. The victory also extended Italy’s unbeaten run to 32 games in international football and 15 at the European Championships. Roberto Mancini’s men are also now on a 13-match winning streak ahead of the semi-final clash against Spain. A crucial part of this run have been Italy’s midfield duo of Jorginho and Marco Verratti.

The pair displayed inspiring performance and controlled the game from the deep. Their crisp passing and ball retaining abilities helped Italy dominate the possession and exert their control right from the start.

Let us take a look at why Marco Verratti and Jorginho are key to Italy’s success at Euro 2020.

Marco Verratti: the relentless worker

Marco Verratti dominated the midfield against Belgium (Courtesy: Uefa.com)

The 28-year-old led from the front against Belgium. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder had a passing accuracy of 94% and completed 83 of his 88 passes in the match. He made the most number of successful passes among players from both teams and also made three key passes (joint-most) in the game. 

Verratti’s work rate on the field was also heavily impressive. He won nine out of 16 duels, which was the second-most among the Italian ranks. He was eventually substituted for Bryan Cristante with 16 minutes remaining. While Verratti has only played three games at the Euros but has already made four key passes per game.

Jorginho: the orchestrator

Jorginho misplaced just one of his 72 attempted passes against Belgium (Courtesy: Sipa USA)

Jorginho was also sensational against Belgium. He performed his duties efficiently and recorded a whopping passing accuracy of 99%, completing 70 of his 71 passes. He also won five out of nine duels, thereby helping the team snatch possession in the heart of the pitch on several occasions.

The midfield three of Italy shift to a two-man system with Jorginho and Verratti dropping back to distribute the ball smoothly. Their work rate off the ball and pressing makes it tough for the opposition to conjure up their own moves. Jorginho is deadly with his passing, which ensures the tempo remains high when the Italians are on the attack.

The importance of the duo

A misfiring Ciro Immobile has not been the secret to Italy’s success in the Euros. It is rather the combination of Verratti and Jorginho. The pair is key to Italy’s domination on the ball and their gameplay. Roberto Mancini prefers the ball be distributed towards the channels where attacking full-backs like Leonardo Spinazzola and Giovani Di Lorenzo wait. The full-backs go forth and deliver crosses into the box and are a constant threat.

The Azzurri are able to create attacking moves relentlessly due to the efficient ball distribution from Verratti and Jorginho. Their off-the-ball work rate in winning the ball back is another asset. Their combination has worked exceptionally well until now and this partnership could guide Italy to the Euro 2020 title.

The upcoming contest

Italy’s next opponents are Spain, who love to play a possession-based game with intricate passing among themselves. The winner of the midfield battle will surely have an upper hand in the match. The Italians are heavy favourites to come out on top with more experience and energy in comparison to Spain. Pedri is talented but young, Sergio Busquets is experienced but lacks the physical prowess and Koke could be outnumbered easily. 

Italy has an average possession of 57.4% across the five games. They like to keep the tempo high instead of making sideways passes for the sake of keeping possession. In contrast, Spain had over 86% possession against Sweden and 77% possession against Poland but failed to win either game. Furthermore, Italians have a 83% passing accuracy in the opposition’s half, which keeps their opponents under pressure.

The semi-final clash will be a contest of tactics. Both outfits have a similar sort of a setup but the Italians are in a rich vein of form, while Spain are going through an inconsistent phase. Their quarterfinal victory over Switzerland in a penalty shootout was the second successive game Spain went into extra time. This would be something that might not be to Spain’s advantage going into the semifinal – while might help Italy immensely.

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