Italy did not stand a chance Tuesday night at Borussia Park in Mönchengladbach as Germany dismantled the Azzurri, 5-2, in UEFA Nations League play.
The Italians didn’t look like a side that would lose by three in the early going, but as soon as the opening goal was scored, Roberto Mancini’s side collapsed. Germany were dominant in all the areas of the pitch, especially in the defense were they didn’t concede much to the guests. Joshua Kimmich scored in the 10th minute and a penalty scored by lkay Gündoğan in the final moments of the first half gave the Germans a comfortable 2-0 halftime lead, and they never looked back.
The second half saw Italy attacking in the early stages, but then it was all Germany with a goal scored by Thomas Muller and a two-minute brace from Chelsea striker Timo Werner. Italy’s 18-year-old rising star Wilfried Gnonto managed to score his first goal with the Azzurri and became the youngest scorer in the history of the Italian national team. Alessandro Bastoni’s last-minute header cut the deficit to three before the final whistle.
As things stand, Hungary lead the group (7 points) after a 4-0 thrashing of England, while Germany (6 points) have overtaken Italy with the win. Italy (5 points) and England (2 points) are at the bottom.
Germany are back on track
After three draws in a row, Germany were finally able to secure their first victory in the UEFA Nations League group stage against Italy and showed some good improvements. The defensive setting was incredibly solid thanks to the comeback of new Real Madrid player Toni Rudiger. Italy didn’t do much in the first half to find a breakthrough, but Hansi Flick’s defense was especially strong and showed an improvement compared to the other three previous matches. Hoffenheim left back David Raum put together another standout performance and was definitely one of the best players so far during Flick’s regime.
It is no coincidence that the two goals of the first half came from the two midfielders: Gündoğan and Kimmich. The two fit together really well and they give Flick no choice but to play them on a consistent basis — not just because of their experience, but also because of the way they connect the defense with the strikers. All in all, while there were some negative aspects in the first three matches of this group stage that raised some doubts about this side, this match against Italy showed that Germany are still one of the teams to watch out for the 2022 World Cup.
Italy’s new era needs more time
Mancini has embarked on a new cycle after failing to qualify for the World Cup. There are many signs that confirm this cycle is still in its nascent stages. The Italian tactician is trying to get some new faces into the squad, especially with young prospects that are even struggling to find minutes in Serie A.
It all starts with Gnonto, who got the starting nod Tuesday after the solid performances out of the bench in the previous games. He lived up to Mancini’s intuition and managed to score his first career international goal at the senior level while breaking a record for youngest scorer in the history of the program in the process. Gnonto (born in 2003) decided to leave Inter Milan’s youth team to join Zurich where he played in the past season. He gambled on himself and as a result he’s now in talks with several Bundesliga and Serie A clubs. Mancini was brave enough to consider him for the national team, alongside other young players like Giorgio Scalvini of Atalanta and Giacomo Raspadori of Sassuolo.
With that said, the 5-2 thrashing showed that this is not enough to guarantee an immediate winning future for Italy. For sure these players need more time, patience and more games in their legs. It’s a long-term project that may test the patience of Azzurri fans, especially after failing to qualify for two consecutive World Cups. Mancini needs to make some real improvements in a short time.