GENK, Belgium (AP) Italian teenager Sandro Tonali could become the first player born in the millennium to play for the Azzurri on Tuesday in a friendly against the United States.
The hype around Tonal has labeled the 18-year-old midfielder the next Andrea Pirlo.
Tonali has never played in the Italian top flight, and made his professional debut only 14 months ago for Serie B side Brescia, but has impressed sufficiently to be summoned by the national side.
He didn’t feature on Saturday in the 0-0 draw against Portugal in the UEFA Nations League but he and other young players will likely get their chance against the U.S.
“We’re here to look at players like Tonali,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini said on Monday. “And I’m curious to see them, too.
“If the players from Saturday have recovered and are well they’ll play. But then of course there will be space for others since it’s a test. We’re curious to see Tonali at work, as well as the other youngsters.”
Five of the players who started at San Siro on Saturday are unavailable: Giorgio Chiellini, Alessandro Florenzi, Lorenzo Inisgne, Ciro Immobile and Jorginho have been allowed to return to their clubs, as well as Lorenzo Pellegrini.
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Sassuolo midfielder Stefano Sensi and Hoffenheim forward Vincenzo Grifo could also be in line for their debuts.
Mancini will be hoping whoever he picks will find the back of the net against the U.S., and end Italy’s struggles.
Defender Chiellini, who made his 100th appearance for Italy on Saturday, was the top goalscorer among those called up for the two matches, having netted eight times for the team.
“It’s a problem because if you don’t score you don’t win,” Mancini said. “But in the matches against Ukraine, Poland, and Portugal we created more than 20 chances.
“It’s just a question of bad luck. Let’s hope the wheel will turn soon. What’s important is to continue creating chances and playing in attack.”