The sublime objective of the Verona midfielder was labeled “Zaccagnata”. How long will it be before he seeks a larger club again?
Series A was back, and the targets were back: eight of them alone at lunch break.
Inter was already the highest-scoring team in this season’s highest-scoring of Europe’s top five leagues, but if anyone had forgotten what their soccer was like during the 10-day winter break, Crotone’s win offered an excellent refreshment.
The Nerazzurri conceded a cheap opening goal against an opponent at the bottom of the table, battled their way back into the lead, and then gave away a meaningless penalty – all in the 36th minute.
They scored four goals in a row in the second half after losing so badly in the first half to win 6-2 and create a great metaphor for a season in which they appeared to make things tough for themselves, but now have won seven games in a row.
It was a day that would see many of the leaders of Serie A pursue their scoring methods. In their wins over Cagliari and Udinese, Napoli and Juventus scored four goals each, while Atalanta scored five against Sassuolo. Torino got in on the action even at the other end of the table with a 3-0 victory over Parma.
But, in a very different match between Spezia and Verona, the target of the round – and maybe of the season so far – came. The game was a dreary stalemate until the 74th minute, with each goalkeeper making only one appearance.
And then Mattia Zaccagni came on.
Perhaps giving him all the credit is incorrect. Until starting their own run forward, Marco Faraoni played Ebrima Colley free on the right.
Within, Colley passed to Adrien Tameze, who handed the ball over to Miguel Veloso. The Portuguese midfielder rounded the defense with one touch. His pass was volleyed into the far corner by Faraoni.
However, if Zaccagni had not contributed to his tally, it would have all been for naught.
The Verona midfielder perfectly spotted the trajectory of the cross, took a step back and controlled the ball with his chest while turning to look away from goal, despite a defender coming up in front of him.
When the ball returned, with a bicycle kick, he jumped up to send it to the bottom left corner of the net.
Newspapers were already talking by Monday morning about a “zaccagnata” – a “zaccagni-ism” – his very own signature pass. This is the language of household names and star stars, not that of a 25-year-old playing for a midfield team.
It was another small indication of how rapidly the star of Zaccagni is growing. He was elected Serie A Player of the Month by his teammates in November, and he was connected with a move to almost every club in the top half of Serie A in the last two weeks. He was also called up for the first time in November to the Italian national team, but sustained an injury before he could make his debut.
Ironically, it was his very lack of standout moves that would have stopped him from having a chance like that earlier. Zaccagni is a player whose results in the observable statistics of goals and assists do not always turn up.
First and foremost, the players he cites as his soccer role models – Luka Modric and Miralem Pjanic – are facilitators, players whose subtle contributions allow others to shine around them. In the words of his mentor, Ivan Juric, who called Zaccagni “one of the most intelligent footballers I’ve ever coached because he makes his teammates play well.” the attitude is evident.
It was Juric who motivated him to do more before the goal. Before the Croatian took over from Verona in the summer of 2019, Zaccagni had mainly played as a box-to-box midfielder. He now lines up as one of two Trequartists, between the midfield and the 3-4-2-1 attack on the left flank.
Juric predicted back in June that Zaccagni would be able to obtain a call to Italy: “If only he learns to become more decisive in the last 20-25 meters.”
Results of Series A Short Summary
Inter 6-2 Crotone, Atalanta 5-1 Sassuolo, Cagliari 1-4 Napoli, Fiorentina 1-4 Napoli, Fiorentina 0-0 Bologna, Genoa 1-1 Lazio, Parma 0-3 Torino, Roma 1-0 Sampdoria, Spezia 0-1 Verona, Benevento 0-2 Milan, Juventus 4-1 Udinese
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There were signals even before this weekend that he was on his way there. In 15 games this season, Zaccagni has four goals and two assists – enough to make him the top scorer on a team that, contrary to the