Three Players Who Could Solve Italy’s Center Forward Problem

Italy triumphed in the Euro, so complaining about the roster or strategic moves is merely nitpicking. The Azzurri were thoroughly deserving, as they always appeared in control. Even in the Final, despite going down in the score early. The only game that gave them trouble was the Spain one, where they risked a lot in extra time.

Yet, there is a problem Roberto Mancini needs to fix: The center-forward. Given how much Italy create, their path would have been easier with better production from such position. Instead, they had to rely on the exceptional shot-making of their midfielders and wingers. Pretty much every goal was very good-looking. Ironically enough, the only really cheap one came in the final, by a defender.

Ciro Immobile can certainly score but Lazio play a completely different style than the national team. He does not have many opportunities to attack the offside trap with Italy. He is out of his element when he has to go man-to-man with physical defenders and cannot simply try to slip behind them repeatedly. Also, he is not a great passer.

Instead, Andrea Belotti came in with little confidence after a subpar season at Torino, and it showed as he was not his usual fiery self. He has less nose for the goal than Immobile, but he should combine better with his teammates and tirelessly press center-backs. He did not do that in Euro, although the limited playing time did not help gain momentum.

Can Italy get better in the pivotal role in time for the 2022 World Cup? The competition is basically tomorrow, so there is little room for out-of-the-blue revelations. The solution will have to come from the pool of players that are already on Mancini’s radar. A small hope comes from Belotti himself, who could move to a bigger club this summer and raise the level of this game. But some younger options could make strides in the next season and a half.

Moise Kean

The fact that he was among the final cuts was stunning because he has always been a regular, at least as a super sub. His ability to come off the bench and play in every position would have been helpful in hindsight. Moreover, he can play the central role without giving reference points to the opponents, and Italy did well in the short spurts with a false-nine. His next move is key for his development. Despite the glamor, is going back to PSG to back up a star-studded front-line really the best route? Kean is still pretty raw and needs regular playing time.

Giacomo Raspadori

He was actually in the Euro roster, even if nobody noticed. He was on the stands for most of the games. Ciro Immobile got off to a promising start, which made moving on from him difficult to do. It would have been unfair to ask the Sassuolo starlet to carry the attack like in the Semi Final. He has the potential to grow exponentially in a short amount of time. The Neroverdi are adamant about keeping him this summer, but it would be hard to do it next year if everything goes well. In December of 2022, he might as well be a big-ticket name and a starter for a top team. He lacks size, but he makes up for it with his technique and electrifying moves.

Gianluca Scamacca

He finished strong his first Serie A campaign, even though the coach somehow forgot about him for months. On paper, he has the total package given his physical, shooting, and acrobatic skills. He does not lack confidence and brazenness, but the camaraderie within the Azzurri would keep it in check. The question is, can Sassuolo really showcase both him and Raspadori? Without forgetting Francesco Caputo, who would have probably made the team if it was not for an injury-riddled campaign. And obviously Domenico Berardi, plus all their other talented forwards. They will probably change the scheme with the new coach, but there are only so many minutes and touches to go around. After being a hot commodity in January, everything has been quiet thus far. Perhaps a transfer elsewhere would help everybody involved, including Italy.

Are there some long-shot candidates? Sebastiano Esposito did not impress last season in Serie B, and he is years away. Patrick Cutrone and Pietro Pellegri are still young, but it does not look like it is going to happen for them. Andrea Pinamonti was hurt by a year as a deep reserve for Inter, he will likely leave this summer, but a year and change may not be enough time for him to fully hone his craft and reach the required level.