From Suarez’s bite to Wembley glory: five defining moments of Chiellini’s Italy career

Giorgio Chiellini Euro 2020 crown

Giorgio Chiellini will play his final game with the Azzurri tonight. Lorenzo Bettoni looks at the five defining moments in his Italy career.

Tonight’s game will be Giorgio Chiellini’s 117th appearance for Italy. The 37-year-old is ready to say goodbye to the Azzurri in the Finalissima against Argentina at Wembley Stadium tonight, the same place where he won Euro 2020 one year ago. These are the five defining moments of his career with La Nazionale.

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Debut against Finland

Chiellini made his senior debut in November 2004 under Marcello Lippi. At that time, the Azzurri had won the World Cup only three times and Chiellini was barely 20.

He was introduced during the break with Italy 1-0 up thanks to a free-kick goal from Fabrizio Miccoli, who had netted the eventual winner. It was a friendly encounter against Finland at Messina’s Stadio San Filippo.

The starting line-up was: Pelizzoli; Zaccardo, Barzagli, Materazzi, Parisi; Esposito, De Rossi, Blasi, Mauri; Toni, Miccoli.

Chiellini was a left-back at that time and replaced Messina’s Alessandro Parisi. He made his second appearance a few months later in another friendly encounter against Russia. That time, he replaced Pippo Pancaro. His first start was in March 2005 against Scotland.

First time captain

Aside from Lippi, Chiellini has worked under five more Azzurri coaches: Roberto Donadoni, Cesare Prandelli, Antonio Conte, Gian Piero Ventura and Roberto Mancini. It was a journey full of joys and disappointments.

The first time he wore the captain’s armband was in a friendly match against France at the Ennio Tardini in Parma in November 2012. Prandelli was in charge of the Azzurri and Chiellini had already moved into central defence.

He started the game along with Andrea Barazagli, Christian Maggio (right-back) and Federico Balzaretti (left-back). Salvatore Sirigu was the goalkeeper and Italy lost 2-1. Stephan El Shaarawy had given Italy the lead, but Les Blues won the match with goals from Mathieu Valbuena and Bafentimbi Gomis.

Suarez’s bite

Two years later, he played in the second and last edition of the World Cup in his career. The final group stage game against Uruguay, on June 24, 2014, was characterised by one of the most incredible scenes in the competition’s history.

Uruguay striker Luis Suarez bit him on the arm inside Italy’s penalty area in the second half. There was no VAR at that time, so even though the media showed the images on TV very quickly, the referee could not take action against the Liverpool striker, who would join Barcelona a few weeks later. Chiellini protested, but the referee didn’t realise his opponent had bitten him.

Chiellini has no hard feelings towards the Uruguay star. “I had marked Edinson Cavani for most of the game, but at some point, I noticed that Suarez had bitten my shoulder,” the defender wrote in his biography.

“It happened and it’s his way of facing direct encounters. If I can say so, it’s also mine. Suarez and I are similar, I like to face challenges like this. I admire his malice, if he lost it, he’d become a normal striker.”

Chiellini explains Italy’s World Cup fiasco and reveals half-time speech during Euro 2020 Final

Wembley glory

Chiellini reached the peak of his Azzurri career one year ago when he captained Italy to win Euro 2020 after a Final against England at Wembley Stadium.

It was an incredible summer that saw La Nazionale beat Austria, Belgium, Spain and England in the knock-out phase. Chiellini had missed two games (against Wales and Austria) due to calf issues but returned in time for the final three matches.

Italy’s triumph wasn’t enough for him to be named in the Team Of The Tournament, where Leonardo Bonucci and Harry Maguire featured as the best centre-backs. Surely, the England defender would give that personal award back to lift the cup in front of his fans.

North Macedonia shock

When Italy won the Euros last summer, Chiellini was out of his contract with Juventus and extended it by two more seasons a few days later. The 37-year-old expected to play in Qatar, like the rest of the country.

However, the two draws against Switzerland in the qualification group and the defeat against North Macedonia in the semi-final play-off saw the Azzurri miss out on the second successive World Cup.

Chiellini had just recovered from an injury and was introduced in the 89th minute at the Stadio Renzo Barbera in Palermo. Two minutes later, the visitors scored the winner through Aleksandar Trajkovski, so there was no extra time and, more dramatically, no World Cup for the Azzurri.

Chiellini: ‘You can’t say Italy were presumptuous’

“It’s difficult to explain, I think we again had a good game and just didn’t score the goal. I don’t think anyone can say we were presumptuous,” Chiellini told RAI Sport after the match.

“We made mistakes from September to now and paid for them. I am proud of my teammates and this group, clearly we are distraught, we have to get restart.

“A large void is now within us and we hope it can give us the strength to go forward in future. I hope it will still be with this coach, who has given so much to the Nazionale.”

The legendary centre-back has never played in a World Cup knock-out stage game at a senior level despite being one of the best defenders in the history of La Nazionale.

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