Italy battled Poland to a 0-0 draw last night in Gdańsk, despite having the better of play for most of the match. The draw still keeps the Azzurri atop Group A1 in the Nations League, but more importantly, it also provided a playing opportunity and morale boost for one Emerson Palmieri.
At Chelsea, he may be just one of several backup left backs, but for the national team, he’s a frequent contributor, earning his 9th cap last night and his 7th since last summer.
“When you play for the National Team, you always have to be ready. We are due to play three games in 10 days, when I knew I had to play I was happy but it came as no surprise. When I play with this shirt I have to give my best.”
“When I arrive here I change my head. I feel important and part of the group. At Chelsea things are not going as I wish in this part of the season. I just have to work.”
Emerson was close to finding an exit strategy at Chelsea this summer, but nothing materialized in the end. Now he find himself second-choice at best, which is far from ideal, especially with the European Championships coming up next summer.
But, what’s done is done and this is the hand he’s been dealt. There’s nothing left to do but to work hard, be ready for his opportunities, and grab them with both hands if and when they come — just like he did last night for Italy, where he shone on both the defensive and offensive ends of the pitch.
An extremely well-timed tackle in the box on Bayern centre forward Robert Lewandowski in the first half and a couple scoring opportunities in the second half (albeit both missed) are testament to what Emerson can bring to the game.
“We are defenders, when we face players of this level, that tackle was almost like a goal. I am also happy for the defensive department, it was very important to stop someone like Lewandowski. We did not concede any goal and we must give value to it.”
“I couldn’t score, it’s part of the game but I think there was a penalty on me. The defender moved me a little bit and I tried to stand and shoot. I did not see the images, but my feeling is that it could have been a penalty.”
-Emerson Palmieri; source: Football Italia
It would be great to have that version of Emerson more often in a Chelsea shirt, running up and down the pitch full of confidence in himself and his teammates. Given Ben Chilwell’s excellent start to life at the club, that may not be in the cards for Emerson, but you never know what the future holds.