The Italian national soccer team has two elite players of Brazilian ethnicity playing on their roster. This state of affairs seems to deliberately contradict what soccer experts would expect, considering the historical rivalry between Italy and Brazil. In typical Brazilian fashion, they’re one monikered players, simply known as Emerson and Jorginho. The former, a solid left-defender and the latter, a tireless center-midfielder. Ironically, while both perform at world-class levels for the Azzurri, they play together on the English Premier League’s club team, Chelsea F.C.. Fresh-off of Italy’s 2nd Euro Championship trophy (1968, 2020), this intricate detail of two team members is of significance considering the history between the two powerhouse nations. When it comes to accolades and championship pedigree, Italy is 2nd to none (except when it comes to Brazil). The pendulum of a rivalry swings both the way of victor and vanquished. Brazilian forces on the pitch have always vanquished the Italians under the spotlight, therefore, nullifying a supposed rivalry, since Brazil has been the victor on two tremendous counts. The Azzurri have faced the Selecao in two World Cup Final matches and were defeated in both games. Once at FIFA World Cup Mexico 1970 (with an embarrassing 4-1 score) and a second at FIFA World Cup USA 1994; where International superstar Roberto Baggio missed the infamous penalty-kick over the cross-bar in the shootout after extra-time (with a pulled hamstring amid 100+ degree Fahrenheit heat in L.A.).
Just one year shy of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Italy has been crowned as Champions of Europe. Considering the average age of their booming roster is 28, this places them as strong favorites headed into next year’s tournament. Italy is a squad capped-out with testosterone and chip on their shoulder; a dangerous team filled with top-tier talent. Without a shadow of doubt, they’re a force to be reckoned with for several years to come. In history, Italy was usually dealt the favorite hand against fellow powerhouses, such as Germany, England and Spain. The only time the Azzurri felt their nerves pulsating were when they faced Brazil; the green & yellow golden warriors who always seemed to have Italy’s number. The queen bee’s of the Amazon jungle always stung Italy with a venomous taint that would last for ages. The subconscious of a nation that loves the game of calcio more than superior domestic affairs became tarnished; they always came up short against Brazil.
A case can be made that Italy loves the sport of soccer more than any nation on Earth. One could argue that Brazil loves Jiu-Jitsu and Martial Arts more than futebol. Other soccer loving nations, such as Mexico, arguably take more pride in their efforts at boxing than they do the game of futbol. The nation of Iran (who’ve qualified for 5 World Cups and are former Asian Cup Champions) seem to display a greater affinity for Olympic sports (weightlifting, wrestling, Tae-kwon do). Sports like Rugby, Tennis and Cricket hold greater prominence on a national level in the U.K., more so than the English Premier League of football. It’s only the Bel Paese that exemplify the greatest love for the game of calcio. And rightfully so, considering their accomplishments. Where other countries have become a jack of all trades in sports, Italy’s focus on calcio makes them a master of one. Look at every arena and you’ll rarely find an Italian boxer (Rocky Balboa doesn’t count) or tennis star or elite NBA baller. The Brits “fancy” their Wimbledon more than soccer. Italians don’t compete for gold in body-building competitions, or desire to flaunt pseudo-masculinities in contact sports. They’re not interested in hitting, throwing or swinging. They’d rather sit at the bottom of numerous sports rankings, in exchange for continuous glory at the top-shelf of the soccer ethos. With the rest of the world sporadically exerting their energies through various sports (the USA with Football, Baseball and Basketball), Italy preserves that energy with a tremendous channeling of exertion toward one sport that they’ve mastered above all else. And the trophies they’ve accumulated serve as sufficient evidence for the claim that Italy loves soccer more than any other country.
The Serie A is the Division 1 League in Italy. It houses the world’s greatest talent. Even the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) have brought the spotlight back on the Italian club teams. A non-exhaustive list of elite Italian players in an uber-competitive league are turned away for national duty (simply because there’s no room). Italy has been able to win two Euro Championships and four World Cup’s (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006) because they’ve consistently produced world-class talent with almost every generation. Next year’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 serves as a promising time for Italy to regain their honor on the global stage, further enhancing their current renaissance after displaying tragic results at major tournaments since 2006. The golden glory they brought back home to Rome from defeating France in the final at Berlin served as a great relief for a team who was on a decade-long mission to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy. They’d come so close with Baggio’s heartbreaking conquest and catastrophe at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in 1994. And losing to Brazil for a 2nd time on the grand stage would further haunt the Italian pathos of not being able to sincerely claim their title as the world’s best. An embedded disdain grew for Brazilian soccer; a non-malicious wince at a team who always got the best of Italy, akin to Pete Sampras versus Andre Agassi (the former beating the latter when it counted the most).
It’s an eye-opening statistic to fathom in 2021: Italy has the aid of two Brazilian nationals on their squad while pursuing another journey to lift the Jules Rimet. Emerson Palmieri dos Santos was born and raised in Brazil. After 30 appearances with the club team Santos, Emerson was transferred on a loan to the Serie A to play for Palermo, and thereafter playing for famed club, A.S. Roma. Emerson played for the U-17 Brazilian national team, but when he was granted Italian citizenship, he preferred to represent Italy over his native nation. This is a jaw-dropping loss for Brazil, and a sly move from Italy. Jorge Luiz Frello Filho (Jorginho) was born and raised in Brazil, immigrating to Italy at age 15. After a stint with Verona’s youth team, he performed in 133 games for southern club, Napoli. And now, he joins his fellow compatriot, Emerson, on the English Premiere League’s Chelsea F.C. (fresh-off of a Champions League Title). Their current positions on the Azzurri roster are vital to the team’s success. Italy has become a Brazil-hybrid, unmatched and unbeatable by Neymar and co..
With the injury of Roma’s Leonardo Spinazzola at the Euro 2020, Chelsea’s Emerson was able to display his defending prowess. Jorginho delegated the ball from the center-mid (an important position equivalent to that of a Quarterback in the NFL). Considering Brazil’s recent lackluster performance on home soil against Argentina in the Copa America Final, it seems neither Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar of Brazil or Barcelona’s Messi of Argentina can perform the miracles necessary to stop the rebel force that is the Azzurri. Winning the Euro 2020 has only added to the impetus generated by Italy’s unbeaten 34-match streak (28 wins, 6 draws). Historically, Brazil holds the reign with winning the most World Cup trophies (totaling 5). Italy, now equipped with two elite Brazilian/Italian players, are on the verge of tying Brazil with that #1 ranking, come Qatar 2022. The soccer gods might grant Italy an avenging shot at redemption next summer by facing Brazil in the final, supported by two of their very own.
written by ardalan pourvali