It has been something of a roller-coaster couple of weeks for Sassuolo striker Giacomo Raspadori.
From the joy of getting his first call-up by Italy to the disappointment of the junior Azzurri side losing on penalties in the Under-21 European Championship quarterfinals, to getting included in Roberto Mancini’s squad for Euro 2020 and ultimately making his senior debut on Friday — in a 4-0 victory over the Czech Republic.
“It’s a crazy emotion, I have no words. All of the moments of my short career flashed before me — the good moments and the bad,” the 21-year-old Raspadori said.
“I still can’t get my head around the fact that I’ve been called up for the Euros. I thank Mancini for the opportunity.”
Making matters even more emotional was the fact that Friday’s friendly took place at the Stadio Dall’Ara in Bologna, near Raspadori’s hometown.
“It was really hard to sleep,” he added on Saturday. “It was certainly a huge emotion, made even stronger especially because it happened in my city, in front of my family who luckily were there to see me, it was really something incredible.”
Raspadori was a surprise inclusion in Mancini’s 26-man squad for the delayed Euro 2020 finals, which kick off in Rome on Friday with Italy playing Turkey in the opening match.
He received his first call-up ahead of the warmup game against San Marino but did not feature in the 7-0 victory on May 28.
“I don’t know why Mancini included me,” Raspadori admitted. “Maybe it’s because I have different physical and technical characteristics to the others that are there.
“I will never stop thanking him.”
Raspadori is different to main strikers Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti. He is smaller in stature, making him quick and agile. That allows him to create space with his runs, but he is also capable of dropping deep and linking up with the midfielders.
It is that talent and physique that saw Mancini compare him to Italy great Paolo Rossi, who led the Azzurri to the World Cup crown in 1982, scoring six goals to win the Golden Boot as top goalscorer, and the Golden Ball as the player of the tournament.
“That makes me very proud and honestly speechless,” Raspadori said.
In three years, Italy has gone from failing to qualify for the World Cup to one of the teams to look out for at Euro 2020.
The Azzurri are on a 27-match unbeaten run and that includes a perfect qualifying campaign for the European Championship.
Italy has also won its past eight matches without conceding a goal and has 20 clean sheets in 32 matches since Mancini took charge.
“If we’ve only conceded one goal in the last 12 games, it’s not just down to the defenders, but to the whole team as we help each other,” Atalanta defender Rafael Tolói said.
“We’re ready to take on a competition of this magnitude. The excitement and passion that’s been created around the national team is normal because the team is playing well, we’re winning and convincing others what we’re made of. We’re doing well and we have to continue on this path, working with composure, focused to achieve a great goal.”
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