Francesco Totti: The Italian Magician Who Lit Up Euro 2000

?Francesco Totti is an undisputed legend. A genius of the game; a maverick who feared no one and was willing to push football to its absolute limits. 

Totti had been tearing up Serie A since 1993, when he made his debut aged 16. But he burst onto the international scene during Euro 2000, putting in his best performances for Italy at a major competition, and providing one of the moments of the tournament in the semi-final against the Netherlands. 

Francesco Totti

There was so much to love about Totti at that tournament. The bouncing, flowing, curly locks. The headband. The iconic Italian shirt. And of course, the magic in the Roman’s boots. 

The Roma captain lit up the tournament with some dazzling displays, starring in the final against France, which Italy ultimately lost to a dramatic golden goal.

But until that strike from David Trezeguet broke Italian hearts, there was only one man who was in line to become the tournament’s star player. He did earn the Man of the Match award against the French (his second of the tournament), but that would come as little comfort to the maestro. 

Totti was a man possessed in that final. The ball was magnetised to his feet, his weight of pass was exceptional, and his ability to see around corners and through walls was typically incomparable. 

The Giallorossi star spent plenty of the game dropping into midfield, dancing between challenges and then releasing killer passes over the top and through the French defence. 

The number 20’s outrageous back-heel provided the ‘pre-assist’ to Italy’s goal in that final, taking out three players with one majestic touch of the ball. Totti put several more chances on a plate for his teammates, who somehow squandered these incredible gifts to wrap up a match that Italy had no right to lose. 

EUR2000-FRA-ITA

Totti’s display of grace, technique and tenacity in that final was one of the finest individual displays in European Cup history. If anyone merited holding aloft the Euro 2000 trophy in the Netherlands, it was Francè, not France. 

And yet, due to Italy’s eventual downfall, he is much more fondly-remembered for one dink of a football in the round prior. 

The myth that surrounds Totti’s ‘cucchiaio’ (chip) penalty sums up everything that was special about the great forward. The stones of the man to attempt it, and the technique to pull off something so audacious. 

Italy were in the semi-final of Euro 2000, and with a place in the final at stake, the match had gone to penalties. Italy had lost the 1994 World Cup final and crashed out of the 1998 edition via shootouts, so tensions around the team were high. 

In goal for the Netherlands was the giant, intimidating figure of Edwin van Der Sar, one of the world’s greatest shot-stoppers. The legend goes, that as the players were waiting their turn to face the giant goalkeeper, Italian teammate Luigi Di Biagio confessed to Totti that he was scared to take his penalty. 

[embedded content]

Totti replied, “Tell me about it, have you seen the size of him?” 

“Is that supposed to encourage me?” responded a further panicked Di Biagio. 

But Totti had a trick up his sleeve. In his thick Roman accent, the superstar uttered the immortal line: “Nun te preoccupà, mo je faccio er cucchiaio.” 

“Don’t worry, I’m gonna chip him.” 

At this point, Paolo Maldini, an authoritative and soothing presence within the camp, spoke up. 

“Are you mad? We’re in the semi-final of the Euros!” 

To which Totti answered with a smirk, “Yeah, yeah… I’m gonna chip him.”

And the rest, as they say, is history. 

Grazie, Francè. 

Let’

Euro 2020: Looking at Italy’s Group Stage Opponents

Italy booked their place at next summer’s European Championships in style, winning all ten matches in Group J to finish in top spot. 

Roberto Mancini’s men were hugely impressive, scoring 37 times in those games, while also only conceding four goals. 

As a result, they will go into Euro 2020 full of confidence – and will be considered as dark horses to potentially win the competition. The Azzurri ?have been drawn with Turkey, Wales and Switzerland in Group A and so, ahead of the competition, we have taken a look into their group stage opponents…


Turkey 

FBL-2020-EURO-QUALIFIER-TUR-FRA

Turkey finished second in Group H, just the two points behind World Cup winners France. In fact, in their third group game, Turkey swept aside a full strength French side, winning 2-0. Kaan Ayhan and Roma forward Cengiz Ünder’s goals were enough for them to overcome Didier Deschamps’ men. 

They once again caused Les Bleus all sorts of problems in the reverse fixture at Stade de France, holding them to a 1-1 draw. Chelsea striker ?Olivier Giroud had given them the lead, but Ayhan levelled the score just five minutes later. In total, ?enol Güne?’ side lost just one of their ten group games and only conceded three goals during that time – the joint-best record in the group stages. 

This is a team filled with quality. The defensive pairing of ?Juventus’ Merih Demiral and ?Leicester City’s Ça?lar Söyüncü make them exceptionally hard to break down (as proven by their defensive record), while they pose a threat going forward through ?Milan’s Hakan Çalhano?lu, Roma’s Ünder and Be?ikta?’ Burak Yilmaz. 

Turkey’s standard formation and lineup:

(4-3-3): Gunok; Celik, Soyuncu, Demiral, Meras; Yokuslu, Tekdemir, Tufan; Çalhano?lu, Yilmaz, Under.


Wales 

Wales V Hungary - UEFA Euro 2020 Group E Qualifier

Wales overcame Hungary 2-0 in their final group game to book their place at next summer’s tournament, with star man ?Gareth Bale sparking controversy with his ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid – In That Order’ flag. 

Ryan Giggs’ men finished second in Group E, having picked up four wins, while they also drew and lost two games. Wales weren’t exactly prolific in front of goal during the qualifiers, finding the net just ten times in eight games, also conceding eight goals. 

However, their spirit and fight, mixed with the talent in the team, helped them to pip Slovakia to second place in the group. As previously mentioned, Real Madrid’s Bale is the obvious star name, with the forward an integral member of this Welsh side. 

Juventus’ ?Aaron Ramsey is, of course, another outstanding talent, with the midfielder scoring a vital brace to help give his side the all-important win over Hungary in the final group game. Elsewhere, ?Manchester United’s Daniel James has also excelled under Giggs and poses a real threat on the wing with his electrifying speed. This is a team with creativity, pace and a mixture of youth and experience – they can certainly cause problems.

Wales’ standard formation and lineup:

(4-2-3-1): Hennessey; Roberts, Rodon, Lockyer, Davies; Allen, Morrell; Bale, Ramsey, James; Moore.


Switzerland

Granit Xhaka

Switzerland qualified for next summer’s tournament, having finished top of Group D. They picked up 17 points from their eight group games, losing just once. The defeat came at the hands of second placed Denmark, with RB Leipzig’s Yussuf Poulsen scoring a late winner on that occasion. 

Vladimir Petkovic’s men found the back of the net 19 times during the group stages, with the Swiss easing past Gibraltar 6-1 in their final game. Moreover, they also took on England in a third and fourth place play-off in the Nations League, with the Three Lions edging it on penalties. 

Switzerland are a tough side to break down, while they also pose a threat going forward. Milan’s Ricardo Rodriguez is a regular starter, while ?Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka dictates the tempo in midfield and ?Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri takes up his place in the team when fit. Elsewhere, other notable names include Borussia Mönchengladbach trio Yann Sommer, Breel Embolo and Denis Zakaria. 

Switzerland’s standard formation and lineup:

(3-5-2): Sommer; Schar, Akanji, Rodriguez; Mbabu, Freuler, Xhaka, Zakaria, Zuber; Shaqiri, Seferovic.


Let’

Napoli Confirm Arrival of Matteo Politano on Loan From Inter

?Inter winger Matteo Politano has completed a move to Napoli on loan for the remainder of the season, in a deal which includes an obligation to buy.

The 26-year-old has struggled to make an impact at San Siro and was tipped to join Roma this month, even posing for pictures with a Giallorossi scarf before the deal collapsed.

Napoli only recently emerged as a potential destination for Politano, but the club have already confirmed the arrival of the Italy international on an initial 18-month loan.

FBL-EUR-C1-INTER-TRAINING

Politano will become a permanent player at the Stadio San Paolo at the end of next season, with Napoli expected to pay in the region of €19m for his signature.

The former Inter winger is among a host of players who have been moved on since Antonio Conte’s arrival at the club, while others are also looking for a transfer before the January window closes later this week.

The Nerazzurri confirmed the arrival of Christian Eriksen on Tuesday, while Ashley Young and Victor Moses also joined Inter earlier this month. The club also signed 12 new players during the summer transfer window.

As well as Politano’s move away from San Siro, Brazil international Gabriel Barbosa has returned to Flamengo in a €17m deal.

The 23-year-old has spent the last 12 months on loan in Rio de Janeiro, where he’s scored 34 goals and claimed 11 assists across all competitions.


For Napoli, Politano has become their fourth signing on the January transfer window. Stanislav Lobotka, Diego Demme and Amir Rrahmani have all completed permanent moves to the Stadio San Paolo this month, although the latter has returned to Hellas Verona on loan for the remainder of the season.

The Partenopei are currently 12 points outside the Champions League qualification places in Serie A, but they’re coming off the back of a 2-1 win over reigning champions Juventus.


For more from Ben Carter, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

Euro 2020: How Italy Booked Their Place at This Summer’s Tournament

?Having embarrassingly failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Italy felt humiliated. The once-proud giant had completely fallen.

Roberto Mancini was brought in to be the saviour and fire Italy back to a major competition, and that’s exactly what he did – and then some.

Ousting some of the team’s ageing talent in favour of younger, hungrier stars, Mancini’s Italy looked a completely different side to the team who had flopped in the build-up to the World Cup. There was excitement, flair and a bucketload of talent.

Roberto Mancini

Italy booked their place at Euro 2020 in emphatic fashion, winning every single one of their ten games. Only six teams had ever managed that, but Mancini’s side added themselves to the list with ease.

They netted 37 goals and conceded just four, which is exactly what fans wanted to see. This Italy side are good again, and they will now deservedly be seen as one of the pre-tournament favourites heading into the summer.


Italy’s Group Stage Journey

Moise Kean

Italy kicked things off at home against Finland back in March 2019, and this game was the perfect introduction to Mancini’s side. Nicolò Barella opened the scoring. before teenager Moise Kean grabbed his first international goal?.

It was only the second time in a run of 18 games in which Italy had scored more than once, which speaks volumes of what they had been lacking.

Next up was a meeting with minnows Liechtenstein, and this went as you would expect it to. Italy were far too good for the team ranked 181st in the world at the time, and ran out 6-0 winners…because of course they did. 

Leonardo Pavoletti,Marco Verratti

A trip to Greece for matchday three looked to be a tough test, but yet again, Mancini’s men were too good. Barella bagged another goal, followed by both Lorenzo Insigne and Leonardo Bonucci. 11 goals in three games, and no goals conceded. Decent.

Bosnia and Herzegovina were next, and it looked like Italy’s perfect start was set to end after Edin Džeko opened the scoring. Insigne’s stunning volley looked to have earned Gli Azzurri a point, but Marco Verratti’s late winner saw Mancini’s side take home all three points once more.

The final team in the group were Armenia. This game shouldn’t have been too hard, but Italy made hard work of it and had to come back from a goal down again. They went on to win 3-1, meaning they were unbeaten at the halfway mark.

Leonardo Bonucci

Time for the return legs. Finland put up a real fight, but goals from Ciro Immobile and Jorginho saw Italy pick up a 2-1 win.

A win over Greece in the next game was all Italy needed to book their place at Euro 2020, but that didn’t look like happening. Italy were booed off at half time after failing to have a shot on target, but second-half strikes from Jorginho and Federico Bernardeschi got the job done in the end.

Jorginho

With three games to spare, Italy were relaxed. Playing with freedom, they stormed to a 5-0 win over Liechtenstein, before picking up a convincing 3-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

They saved the best for last, dismantling Armenia en-route to a 9-1 win in the final qualifier. Immobile, Barella and Jorginho were all on the score sheet again, as were Nicolò Zaniolo, Alessio Romagnoli, Riccardo Orsolini and Federico Chiesa.


Final Group J Standings

?Nation

Points?

?Italy 30?
?Finland 18?
?Greece 14?
?Bosnia and Herzegovina 13?
?Armenia 10?
?Liechtenstein 2?

For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

Euro 2020: Italy’s Star Player – Profiling Gli Azzurri Striker Ciro Immobile

?Ciro Immobile is yet to make his FIFA World Cup debut after Italy’s failure to qualify in 2018, but he’ll be taking part in his second European Championships campaign next summer.

The 29-year-old was still at Sevilla during the last tournament in France. Since then, he’s enjoyed a brief return to former side Torino, before completing a €9.5m switch Lazio, where he currently plies his trade.

Ciro Immobile

Anyone who’s familiar with ?Serie A will be all too aware of Immobile’s deadly talents up top. He’s already scored 26 goals in his 27 matches for Le Aquile this term, and there’s no sign of a let up anytime soon.

Switzerland, Wales and Turkey are the countries who’ll have to keep a watchful eye on this poacher, or else they could be hit with a sucker punch in the group stages of Euro 2020.

Here, 90min takes a closer look at the man Lazio fans have dubbed ‘Ciruzzo’.


Clubs He’s Represented

Ciro Immobile

?Juventus 2009 – 2012?
?Siena (loan) ?2010 – 2011
?Grosseto (loan) ?2011
?Pascara (loan) ?2011 – 2012
?Genoa ?2012 – 2013
?Torino ?2013 – 2014
?Borussia Dortmund ?2014 – 2015
?Sevilla ?2015
?Sevilla ?2015 – 2016
?Torino (loan) ?2016
?Lazio ?2016 –

That’s right, Immobile has been around the block a few times. 

He’s represented seven different clubs from his home country, as well as two from outside, racking up the goals all the while.

The striker has made full use of his exquisite skill-set wherever he’s laid his hat, first gaining notoriety during his loan spells in Serie B. After impressing with Pescara, Immobile earned a permanent transfer to first-division Genoa.

Though his first year in Serie A brought new challenges, Ciruzzo quickly adjusted, and returned to his rampant best the following year after agreeing a switch to Torino.

Dangerous with either foot, as well as in the air, Immobile continued his development with ?Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla, yet it was at Lazio when he truly came into his own.

112 goals in 161 appearances for the Olimpico side has turned him into a cult hero in the Italian capital. He’s always been clinical and had superb physical prowess, but it’s the forward’s intelligent off-ball runs and sharp decision-making that have taken him to the next level.


Achievements

Ciro Immobile

?Serie A Top Scorer 2013/14, 2017/18?
?Serie A Team of the Season 2013/14?, 2017/18
?DFL-Supercup ?2014/15
?Supercoppa Italiana 2017/18, 2019/20
?UEFA Europa League Top Scorer ?2017/18
?UEFA Europa League Team of the Season ?2017/18
?Coppa Italia ?2018/19

A league title is missing from Immobile’s list of honours. Personal accolades certainly aren’t.

He’s produced several remarkable seasons, though 2013/14 and 2017/18 stand out amongst the rest, with the frontman hitting a combined 64 goals in 81 games across those two campaigns.

Perhaps it should be no surprise that he won the Serie A Golden Boot both years, while also collecting the Europa League top scorer award in the latter.


It should be patently obvious why Immobile is one of the favourites to leave Euro 2020 as the competition’s leading goalscorer, especially in light of Italy’s dominance during the qualifying phase.

His blistering form in 2019/20 has ensured Lazio stay in the Serie A title race, with Le Aquile trailing leaders ?Juventus by just five points. This is a player who can carry a team towards glory, and that will be music to the ears of Gli Azzurri supporters.


Performance During Euro 2020 Qualification

Ciro Immobile

Torino striker Andrea Belotti was frequently selected ahead of Immobile during Italy’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, the latter scoring three times in four appearances for Roberto Mancini’s side.

Ciruzzo reached that tally from only 13 attempts, leaving the hitman with a healthy conversion rate of 23%. 

Immobile suits the brand of football Mancini wants to bring to the table, and he linked well with the likes of Jorginho, Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne in qualifying. This quartet could be leading the way for Italy come June.


For more from Ed Alexander, follow him on Twitter

Let’