If you follow Italian football at all, you may have heard from everybody exactly how dire the straits in which the Azzurri find themselves are. The team missed the World Cup for the first time since 1958 after fizzling out to Sweden in a playoff and generally looks short of talent, hunger, and understanding. The new Nations League, which turns international friendlies into Euro qualifiers, looked like a chance for Italy to shape up under new boss Roberto Mancini, but they’ve been flat and uninspiring as ever. And after 92 minutes against Poland at Chorzów’s Silesian Stadium, it looked like more of the same, as the Italians had managed 17 shots, but turned just 4 of them on frame.
But that’s when Cristiano Biraghi came into play. The Fiorentina leftback (who’s no stranger to brilliant goals) attacked a Kevin Lasagna flick from the front post off a corner and arrived at the exact right moment to slide the ball past a despairing Wojciech Szczęsny to hand Mancini his first win in a competitive fixture.
Much like Germán Pezzella a few days ago with Argentina, Biraghi’s immediate reaction was to hold his fingers up with a 1 and a 3 for Davide Astori and gaze towards the sky before being mobbed by his jubilant teammates, including Federico Chiesa. It was Biraghi’s first goal in the blue shirt in just his 3rd appearance. With the current Italy setup looking wide open, the Viola stalwart—who certainly looks like a future captain at the club—has surely staked a claim to the spot ahead of the likes of Domenico Criscito and Emerson Palmieri. The 26-year-old has been steadily motoring toward cult hero status in Florence since last season; now, he’s getting there for the national team as well.