Italy, Poland Ends 1-1 in 2018 UEFA Nations League After Jorginho Penalty

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist ISeptember 7, 2018

Italy's midfielder Jorginho celebrates after scoring with his teammates during the UEFA Nations League football match between Italy and Poland at Renato Dall'Ara Stadium in Bologna on September 7, 2018. (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)

Italy came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw with Poland in both teams' opening match of the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League in Bologna on Friday.

Napoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski volleyed home the opener for Poland from a cross by Robert Lewandowski five minutes before half-time.

Italy levelled with a little over 10 minutes of normal time remaining, as Jakub Blaszczykowski slid in on substitute Federico Chiesa and conceded a penalty.

Jorginho sent goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski the wrong way with his spot-kick to salvage a point in Roberto Mancini's first competitive game in charge of the Azzurri.


Italy Lacking in Attack as Balotelli Struggles on Return

Mancini recalled Mario Balotelli to the national team, and the striker made his first appearance for Italy since 2014.

However, it was not a happy return for the 28-year-old who struggled against Poland. The striker was starved of service and lacked composure when he did receive the ball in dangerous areas.

Opta noted how peripheral he was in the first half:

OptaPaolo @OptaPaolo

10 - Mario #Balotelli made only 10 touches in the first half vs Poland, no Azzurri's player made less touches in the first 45 minutes of play. Missing. #ItalyPoland https://t.co/Q2rtdRNBUt

Balotelli became increasingly frustrated as the game wore on, and it was little surprise when he was substituted on the hour mark for Andrea Belotti.

The Torino striker also made little impression. While Italy had the better of the second half they struggled to create goalscoring chances.

Goal's Carlo Garganese offered his view:

Carlo Garganese @carlogarganese

As for Italy’s offensive play, it is truly painful to watch. The worst set of attackers in Italy’s history. 8 goals in 11 and a half matches. Get Chiesa on and let’s at least see what he’s made of after his performance v France #ITAPOL

Substitute Chiesa had the biggest impact of all of Italy's attackers. The 20-year-old looked lively in his brief cameo and was too quick for Blaszczykowski who conceded the penalty.


Zielinski Outshines Jorginho In Midfield

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho started the game, but it was his former Napoli team-mate Zielinski who really impressed in Bologna.

BOLOGNA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 07:  Piotr Zielinski of Poland celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Nations League A group three match between Italy and Poland at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara on September 7, 2018 in Bologna, Italy.  (Photo by Al
Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Previous manager Gian Piero Ventura was criticised for his failure to make Jorginho a key part of his side as the Azzurri failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

However, the 26-year-old was badly at fault for Poland's goal. The midfielder lost the ball twice in the build-up and could only watch as Lewandowski crossed for Zielinski to hammer a shot past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Football writer David Amoyal shared his view:

David Amoyal @DavidAmoyal

Zielinski has become such a complete midfielder, wouldn’t surprise me if we talk of him as one of the very best at his position in all of @SerieA by season’s end

Zielinski looked the most dangerous player in the first half, as Poland took the lead and looked threatening on the attack.

In contrast, Jorginho was struggling to have any influence on the match at all. Garganese offered an explanation:

Carlo Garganese @carlogarganese

Jorginho will get the criticism for Poland goal but bigger issue is he is too good for this Italy team. He is completely on another level. Jorginho needs to play in a team comfortable with the ball and dominating territory. Without those players he will concede chances #ITAPOL

Jorginho did manage to make amends, as he grabbed the equaliser from the penalty spot. However, Italy need to find the right mix in midfield to enable them to get the best out of the Chelsea man.


Mancini Has His Work Cut Out To Restore Italy To Former Glory

Friday's defeat was Mancini's first competitive game in charge and showed he has his work cut out to restore them to their former glory.

Poland came into the game off a disappointing World Cup. They failed to make it out of the group after defeats to Senegal and Colombia, and star striker Robert Lewandowski failed to score in the three matches.

However, for the majority of the match they were largely comfortable and managed to hold Italy at bay. They will view this game as an opportunity wasted to take all three points after inviting Italy back into the game in the second half.

Poland seemed happy to sit back and were penalised when Blaszczykowski conceded a penalty and the hosts rescued a point.

ESPN Janusz Michallik said they will be happy with the result:

Janusz Michallik @JanuszMichallik

Good result for Poland under their new manager. Little too pragmatic for me, but played to their strengths. Italy million miles away from being Italy.

As for Italy, the lack of quality in the team is evident. There are issues in defence, as the team have now conceded at least one goal in their last six games, per Opta.

Going forwards the lack of invention and cutting edge was obvious to see. It was a disappointing start to Mancini's tenure, and there were few positives for Italy from this performance.


What's Next?

Italy play their second Nations League match on Monday in Portugal at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon. Poland are in action a day later, as they host Republic of Ireland in an international friendly.


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