Euro 2020: Semi-finals

'Radio Jorginho' holds the beat

Brazil-born midfielder is central to Italy's chances of dominating possession today

Brazil-born midfielder Jorginho is Italy's beating heart at Euro 2020. The 29-year-old is one of only two Italian outfield players to have played all five matches at this tournament, alongside defender Leonardo Bonucci.
Brazil-born midfielder Jorginho is Italy's beating heart at Euro 2020. The 29-year-old is one of only two Italian outfield players to have played all five matches at this tournament, alongside defender Leonardo Bonucci.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • A discreet but "irreplaceable" midfield presence, Jorginho has been the cornerstone of Italy's revival from World Cup flops to Euro 2020 contenders with a semi-final against Spain awaiting at Wembley today.

One of the Azzurri's Brazil-born contingent along with Chelsea teammate, left-back Emerson Palmieri, and Atalanta defender Rafael Toloi, Jorginho has brought the technical prowess of the country of his birth to his adopted Italy.

"With Jorginho, everything seems simple. He is essential to this team, untouchable," said midfield partner Marco Verratti.

Inter Milan midfielder Nicolo Barella, who provides the steel and complements the duo's flair as Italy's central trio, continued: "Jorginho and Verratti are two phenomena and make the team turn.

"This midfield, together with that of (Serie A champions) Inter Milan, is among the strongest I've ever played in. Between us, we create rivalries that push each other to do better and win."

Against three-time European champions Spain, Italy will look to push their unbeaten run to 33 consecutive matches and move within one step of a title they last won in 1968.

La Roja have their own metronomic trio in Sergio Busquets, Koke and Pedri, acknowledged Barella.

"With Spain it will be a difficult game, we are two similar teams who both want to play the ball," he said.

But Jorginho, who qualifies for the Azzurri thanks to his grandfather who hails from the northern region of Vicenza, feels he has a certain edge.

"I feel that I've got the Brazilian technique with the ball, but the Italian mentality to always train hard and win," said the 29-year-old, who spent five seasons with Napoli before moving to Chelsea in 2018.

As at Stamford Bridge, where his partnership with France's N'Golo Kante inspired the English club to their Champions League triumph in May, Jorginho is the key cog for Italy.

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    Jorginho has covered 23.3km while in possession at this Euro tournament, ranking fifth with all four above him from Spain (Pedri, Koke, Aymeric Laporte and Jordi Alba).

Nicknamed "The Professor", or "Radio Jorginho" because of his vocal instructions on the pitch, he is one of only two Italian outfield players to have played all five matches here, alongside defender Leonardo Bonucci.

"He has a strong personality, in a team he is really the commander," former Hellas Verona sporting director Mauro Gibellini, who brought him over from Brazil to Italy as a 15-year-old.

"Jorginho has never changed, as a child, he played the way he plays today. He has a great quality, before the ball arrives, he already knows where to steer the game.

"He has no need to touch the ball more than once or twice. He plays with his head held high. He dictates the tempo including in defence, when you have to do the pressing and get the team up.

"Even if he is not powerful and not very fast, he compensates with his intelligence."

Having already won trophies with Chelsea, including the Europa League in 2019, Jorginho is now eager to experience lifting silverware with Italy, whose last major honour was the 2006 World Cup.

"I would like to feel those same emotions with the national team," he said.

"This group resembles Chelsea, it's wonderful, they are so hungry and want to prove something, from the youngest to the most experienced.

"This is also my first major competition with Italy and I really want to do well."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2021, with the headline ''Radio Jorginho' holds the beat'. Subscribe