Sassuolo: An unlikely source for Italy's Euro 2020 stars

Berardi and Locatelli impressed in their opener, and Raspadori is still to make his tournament bow

Posted Saturday, June 12, 2021 by

Sassuolo: An unlikely source for Italy's Euro 2020 stars

Italy started Euro 2020 in the best way imaginable by hitting Turkey with a 3-0 hammering on Friday night, with Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and a Merih Demiral own goal seeing the Azzurri past their opponents.

'Fun' would be appropriate adjective to describe the show that Italy put on in the second half, and that won't have come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the side Roberto Mancini has built there.

What might have, though, was that his XI chosen to start Italy's first International tournament included two players from Sassuolo.

Sassuolo are a club who play their games in Reggio Emilia - known as the 'citta del tricolore' for being where the Italian flag was drawn up in 1797 - and are one that too few outside of the country have even heard of. They are from, however, and carry the name of an even smaller town in Emilia-Romagna of just 40,000 people.

Both Domenico Berardi and Manuel Locatelli played, and each impressed.

Berardi was heavily involved in the first half, although not everything he tried to do came off. Much like Lorenzo Insigne, he frustrated on occasion as a deep and compact Turkey defence limited his options. In the second, though, he shone.

The De Zerbi influence

Much like he has throughout his Sassuolo career, and more specifically during the time he spent working under - now departed - coach Roberto De Zerbi, Berardi just kept coming at Turkey, not letting his head drop with a failed pass or poor decision.

It was Berardi who forced the opening goal, wrong-footing a defender with some nice footwork before smashing across goal and leaving former Sassuolo teammate Merih Demiral helplessly turning into his own goal.

He then provided the pass for Leonardo Spinazzola's shot, which Immobile scored on the rebound of, and he intercepted a poor Turkish pass to play the pass before the assist on Insigne's goal as well. Just as he has been for the Neroverdi, Berardi was key for the Azzurri.

Behind him in midfield, Locatelli was one of three perfect Italian midfielders. Jorginho, Nicolo Barella and he barely put a foot wrong or a pass out of place from the first to the last minute, and he staked a claim for his place in the XI in Marco Verratti's absence.

More to come

The Sassuolo ties don't end there, though. Young forward Giacomo Raspadori was Mancini's most surprising inclusion in his squad for the tournament, and he could yet feature as the group continues to play out.

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