Emanuele Giaccherini repaying Cesare Prandelli's faith at the Confederations Cup

Ronald Martinez

...with presents from the North Poll! There are plenty of extras for an elf to steal, right?

When word first became public that Emanuele Giaccherini would be a starter in Italy's Confederations Cup against Mexico this past Sunday, I didn't really know what to think. Well, I take that back. I did have one thought: Write something that went along the lines of, "Trying to figure out Cesare Prandelli's obsession with Emanuele Giaccherini."

It was tough to understand at first. There are better players than Giaccherini on the Italy roster. They may not be in all that good of form, but when it comes to overall skill levels, the 28-year-old attacking midfielder probably isn't toward the top of any kinds of rankings.

What has Giaccherini done? Well, for one, he's made his coach look like one smart fella.

Giaccherini has played a key role in both of Italy's wins thus far in the Confederations Cup. And to be completely honest, I didn't think I would be writing that last sentence about a week or two ago. I didn't expect Giaccherini to make such an impact, let alone be one of Italy's more productive players in the tournament. But that's the situation we find ourselves in.

This is what Michael Cox of Zonal Marking fame said about Giaccherini's impact in Italy's 2-1 win over Mexicio:

Giaccherini performed considerably better than Marchisio, however, primarily because there was more variety and unpredictability in his movement. Whereas Marchisio remained centrally and found it difficult to receive forward passes, Giaccherini went wandering out towards the flank, often collecting the ball in behind Mexico right-back Gerardo Flores. His combinations with Montolivo were good throughout the game - an early chance they created for Balotelli showed that promise.

I think we could all agree on pretty much everything that is stated above. But it also states that while Prandelli continues to play at least one central midfielder out of position from the very beginning, Giaccherini is one of the few who actually fits in the role behind Mario Balotelli. Maybe it has to do with his certain skill set and more flexibility to adapt to a new-ish role in the squad. I dunno.

But here's the main thing: Giaccherini wasn't expected to be a starter. He's now starting and doing a good job along the way. His assist to Balotelli won it in Italy's opener, his hard work on the goal line resulted in a goal against Japan. In between, he's been solid, yet unspectacular with a bust-your-ass kind of work rate you;d expect from a player who has Antonio Conte as his manager nine months out of the year. Then again, that's the Giaccherini way — nothing out of this world, nothing that makes completely hate him.

And that way seems to be working, so why change it now?

While Prandelli searches for one of the '2' in his 4-3-2-1 to play behind Balotelli, Giaccherini continues to thrive in that role. Need to be a starter for your club to start for your country? I guess not.

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