England vs Italy: Federico Chiesa keeping it in the family as he targets a hat-trick at Wembley in Euros final

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 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

After scoring the goal that helped Italy book a place in the final of Euro 2020, Federico Chiesa was, understandably, lost for words.

Italy ultimately beat Spain on penalties to secure a showdown with England, but Chiesa’s goal in normal time played a pivotal role in getting them there.

It was a goal of real quality, too, worthy of winning the game before Alvaro Morata equalised, as Chiesa curled the ball into the far corner after shimmying past a defender.

“I cannot describe my emotion by words,” he said, holding the man-of-the-match trophy in his hands.

Pressed, though, if it was the best night of his career, Chiesa replied: “Yes, without a doubt. Playing for my country in matches likes these, representing 60 million Italians out there, it’s an unbelievable dream and I don’t think I ever would have imagined it.”

The idea that Chiesa could not picture himself starring for Italy seems strange, given the fact football is very much in his blood.

The 23-year-old’s father, Enrico, was one of the great strikers of the 1990s and even scored for Italy at Euro 96.

Enrico played alongside the current Italy boss, Roberto Mancini, at Sampdoria, but it was at Parma and Fiorentina where he made his name. He was a two-footed striker, blessed with an eye for a pass, too, and, unsurprisingly, he became a fan favourite wherever he went.

Federico wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, often watching highlights of his goals on YouTube, but as a teenager there came a point where the chances of that looked slim. He considered becoming a physicist one day, while he later studied sports science at university.

“For two or three years, I struggled to get any playing time, as my physique wasn’t as well developed as others my age,” Chiesa told Undici magazine.

“When you are 14 or 15 years old, it feels like this desperate disappointment. I thought many times about giving up, but my family always believed and, ultimately, so did I.

“Working hard in training really paid off, it’s the push that got me to Serie A and now has me trying to improve week by week.

“It’s the same attitude as Cristiano Ronaldo. He doesn’t have the talent of Messi, but has won the same number of Ballon d’Ors.”

The hard work has paid off and now people are starting to see similarities between Federico and his father. The way he bent the ball past Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon on Tuesday night has certainly added to that, but Mancini believes there are differences.

“Physically, Federico is different from his father,” he said. “Enrico was a striker, Federico is a winger, he runs more than his father.”

Federico’s physicality is, perhaps, what stands out most about him. He is blisteringly quick and direct, making him the kind of winger that defenders hate to play against.

The obvious comparison people have made is with Ronaldo in his youth, not least because the pair are team-mates at Juventus, but he perhaps bears a closer resemblance to a young Gareth Bale.

During Bale’s early days at Tottenham, he had the ability to burst past defenders and leave them in his wake — and Chiesa is able to do the same.

“He is a player who sparks fear in his opponents, who always has two men sent to mark him,” said Mancini.

England will be wary about the threat Chiesa could pose on Sunday, not least because he seems to relish playing at Wembley.

Twice he has played at the national stadium during Euro 2020 and on both occasions he has scored — his other goal coming in the 2-1 victory over

Austria in the last 16. Now, he has his set sights on making it a hat-trick on Sunday.

“We all want to play, to show our qualities, to go on the pitch and do our best for the national team,” he said “This is our childhood dream.”

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