Were it not for the AS Roma strike force of Pablo Osvaldo and Mattia Destro, the Italian national team would have had even more of a lackluster start to its World Cup qualifying campaign.
Osvaldo’s brace saved Italy from a potentially embarrassing result against Bulgaria, helping the Azzurri to a 2-2 draw in Sofia last Friday. On Tuesday night, Destro scored the opening goal in a 2-0 win against Malta, a David and Goliath type match that was expected to be a multi-goal drubbing by the Italians.
Destro, acquired from Siena during the off-season, has yet to make an appearance for Roma. Meanwhile, Osvaldo’s two goals against Bulgaria are the continuation of his strong start to the Serie A season with Roma.
Osvaldo scored a spectacular bicycle kick goal in the season-opener against Catania and then tallied the game-winning goal in a crucial match against Inter in Milan the following week.
"I usually score beautiful goals and [against Bulgaria] they were somewhat scruffy, but they are worth just as much,” Osvaldo said. “I want to dedicate these goals to my daughter, Victoria, who every time she goes to church says a prayer for me and lights a candle, so they are for her."
Victoria may need to say an extra prayer or light a second candle for the Italian national team. After reaching the final of the European Championship earlier this summer, the Italians started World Cup qualification unceremoniously. Yes, Italy was without some of its starters. But the players coach Cesare Prandelli called for in the first two qualifiers were capable of snatching a victory in Bulgaria and putting together a more emphatic performance against Malta.
On Sunday, Osvaldo will re-join Roma and play host to Bologna at the Stadio Olimpico. After two games, Osvaldo is tied for second-most goals in the league. If he keeps his scoring streak alive this weekend and retains that form, he will likely earn a call for Italy’s next qualification matches in October against Armenia and Denmark.
There has been a revolving door of forwards with the Italian national team the last few years. Luca Toni and Alberto Gilardino faded soon after the 2006 World Cup. Fabio Quagliarella never quite panned out at the international level. Giuseppe Rossi has been doomed by injuries.
Italy is looking for someone to come in and score the goals. Once the younger, more fluid, Destro gets going, he may be the one to take over the scoring reigns with both Roma and the national team. But, for now, all eyes are on Osvaldo and whether he will keep producing goals.
In Roma’s first two games, Osvaldo missed what should have been easy chances before finally putting the ball in the net. With any striker, there needs to be more scoring and less missing.
Will Victoria’s prayers continue to be answered?
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