Why Italy Must Turn to Torino Striker Ciro Immobile for World Cup

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Why Italy Must Turn to Torino Striker Ciro Immobile for World Cup
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This is all a journey for Ciro Immobile. Brazil is next up.

Immobile had scored lots of goals before. He was the top scorer in Serie B while playing with Pescara, the free-flowing side that racked up 90 goals during the 2011-12 season. Immobile had 28 of them in 37 appearances, but never a hat-trick.

After going four games without a win or a goal—he was even benched for a home game against Napoli—he promised his coach Giampiero Ventura, according to La Reppublica, that he would get a goal and end the drought. He got three.

He earned his first hat-trick against Livorno on Saturday and took home the match ball, saying it was a symbol of his sacrifice, per Goal.com.

Immobile said, per La Stampa, that he wants to prove his worth on the pitch. The 24-year-old is soft-spoken and takes advantage of his opportunities. He is not outrageous or experienced like his contemporaries. This is the first time he has had any success at this level. 

He has done his apprenticeship. He played for Italy in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship this past summer, and he scored in the final. He was a substitute for Alessandro Del Piero when he made his debut in 2009, and he went on loan to teams in Serie B.

He still seems younger than he actually is. He is even a few months older than Mario Balotelli. Immobile is only starting his career in earnest, but he is not new to the scene.

Cesare Prandelli was watching the game at Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday between Torino and Roma. Immobile scored again. The strike was so Dutch. A teammate launched the ball from midfield, and Immobile hit it on the volley, looking a lot like Marco van Basten or Robin van Persie. It was his 17th goal.

Immobile now leads Serie A ahead of accomplished players like Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez.

Claudio Villa/Getty Images

But Immobile does not do it alone. Rarely does he score by himself, unassisted. Torino play through him. His partner Alessio Cerci sets him up.

Cerci is 26 as well, and he makes up the other half of the best partnership in Serie A. He and Immobile have created 35 of the 43 goals scored by Torino. That’s 81 percent.

Cerci was frustrated when he came off the field on the day Immobile scored that first hat-trick because he wanted a goal himself, but Immobile isn't trying to steal all the glory. He often repays the favour.

Once, he forced a penalty, a handball in the box, and Cerci took it instead. Immobile doesn’t do penalties. All 17 of his goals came from open play. There is a certain purity to that.

Balotelli scores a good chunk of his goals from set-pieces, and he doesn’t get the credit. Immobile is more inventive. He can score inside the box and out, on the run and off his head. But he almost always needs the service.

He is versatile in the way he scores. No one goal is the same. He is also deadly, and he doesn’t take a chance for granted. He converts 22.6 percent of shots, a great percentage and one of the best in the league. He pounces on every loose play, and he is swift on the counter. When a defender from Catania bungled the ball, Immobile was right there, chasing it down and running to score.

The chance to play for Italy in the World Cup is very real.

“Prandelli knows me,” Immobile said, per FourFourTwo, “he knows how hard I work.”

The problem is that he plays best with a support system, and he doesn’t do well as a substitute. Giuseppe Rossi, should he recover in time, is still a last-minute decision, according to Football Italia. Balotelli and Alberto Gilardino played the games in qualifying; Immobile only played his first game for the Azzurri this month.

Immobile says it doesn’t matter if Prandelli does not call him up for this World Cup.

“Last year I wasn’t even in the top 50 players,” he told Tuttosport, per Football Italia. “I am developing little by little and that is what matters.”

Despite his humble attitude, it is impossible to ignore the numbers: just two assists, but a goal every 124 minutes, according to Sport Mediaset. The Azzurri have played a more attacking brand of football, and they need the threat up front.

Balotelli is not a pure striker. Rossi is more of a seconda punta. Immobile is truly a prima punta—the strong, traditional forward. Immobile is exactly what Italy do not have. He is not yet a world-class player, but he could do for Italy what Pippo Inzaghi and Luca Toni did when they won the World Cup in 2006.

Now there are eight games left. Immobile doesn’t do much talking. He doesn’t say much of consequence, but he is always grateful. So when he scored that hat-trick, per FourFourTwo, he thought of his team and his family.

Brazil is not the first thing on his mind. But he should be on Prandelli's.

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