Radio Jorginho gets the Italy party started
Wednesday, 7 July 2021
Jorginho's feet and mouth do the talking in equal measure on the pitch, but he has rarely grabbed headlines – until he converted the Azzurri's winning penalty against Spain in the EURO 2020 semi-finals.
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Arguably the key player of the Italy team which has reached the UEFA EURO 2020 final, Jorginho rarely makes the headlines. The tasks he performs every game are quiet, cumulative, crucial; not loud or in your face like beautiful goals or great saves. This time, however, the spotlight was on him as the Chelsea player stepped up to take the decisive penalty in the semi-fnal shoot-out against Spain. As with everything he does, he made it look easy.
"Well, after you kick the ball, you feel like… a weight has been lifted from your shoulders," he told me afterwards. "But there, in that moment, I tried to forget what was going on around me, to do what I'd trained to do. I breathed as I do to be more focused and then I did what I had to do." Spain goalkeeper Unai Simón remained rooted to the spot, wrong-footed as the ball slid slowly and purposefully to his left. It sparked delirious Italian celebrations at Wembley.
The Azzurri struggled to play their usual game against a Spain side determined to make it very difficult to build from the back; La Roja dominated possession. Still, Italy took the lead through Federico Chiesa before momentum switched following Álvaro Morata's equaliser. Jorginho & Co hunkered down, rolled up their sleeves and suffered together to bring the result home. "Italy never give up. We always believe," Jorginho explained. "This is a wonderful squad. We deserve it all.
"We suffer, play, laugh, have fun, and sometimes we even fight. Like a family," added the 29-year-old, still in line to become only the tenth player to win the EURO trophy and UEFA Champions League in the same season.
His team-mates calls him 'Il Professore' or 'Radio Jorginho' for the way he directs the team and continuously talks during games. His midfield duel with Sergio Busquets – another fantastic football brain – was one for the ages. "We suffered a bit against a great team that put us in trouble, made us run a lot. We took it to the end; we always believed. And we deserved to win, I think."
There is something special about this Azzurri side. They looked so incredibly relaxed as the game went to penalties. Giorgio Chiellini set the tone, joking with Jordi Alba at the coin toss to decide at which end the penalties would be taken – Italy's, as it happened. Gianluigi Donnarumma gave Spain counterpart Unai Simón a big smile and a hug just ahead of the shoot-out. Nerves? What nerves?
"To be honest, we didn't know who to choose for penalties because a lot of players wanted to take one," said Leonardo Bonucci, who missed from the spot when Italy lost to Germany in the 2016 quarter-finals. "The five players who took one were all confident." Even after Manuel Locatelli had missed the opening penalty! "In the end, we were lucky that Manuel missed; it put some pressure on Spain."
It is precisely this spirit that could lead Roberto Mancini's men to EURO glory on Sunday.