Asen­sio, Belotti primed for star­ring roles in Spain- Italy show­down

Global Times - - Sports -

Spain and Italy are old foes but when they re­sume their ri­valry in Satur­day’s cru­cial World Cup qual­i­fier, all eyes will be on Marco Asen­sio and An­drea Belotti, two young­sters who have re­vi­tal­ized their teams’ at­tack­ing op­tions.

Real Madrid winger Asen­sio, 21, and Torino striker Belotti, 23, were ab­sent when Italy knocked Spain out of Euro 2016 last year but have since blos­somed into two of the most ex­cit­ing at­tack­ing play­ers in Europe.

The for­mer world cham­pi­ons are tied on 16 points at the top of Group G and the win­ners of Satur­day’s show­down will be strongly placed to top the group and au­to­mat­i­cally qual­ify for the 2018 World Cup, leav­ing the run­ners- up to fight it out in a play­off.

Cen­tral to Italy’s hopes of leav­ing the Santiago Bern­abeu vic­to­ri­ous is Belotti, nick­named the rooster, who hit 26 goals for Torino last sea­son and has scored four goals from four starts in Italy’s qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign.

He picked up where he left off last sea­son by land­ing an out­ra­geous scis­sor kick in Torino’s 3- 0 win over Sas­suolo on Sun­day, prompt­ing coach Sin­isa Mi­ha­jlovic to re­mark that the striker was worth 100 mil­lion euros ($ 120 mil­lion).

Asen­sio has demon­strated his own knack for scor­ing sen­sa­tional goals. He did so again by net­ting twice from out­side the area in a 2- 2 draw with Va­len­cia on Sun­day and has tot­ted up four goals al­ready this cam­paign.

A 10- minute cameo role in a World Cup qual­i­fier against Liecht­en­stein last year and two friendly ap­pear­ances are his only ap­pear­ances for Spain’s first team, but his ram­pant start to the sea­son make him a likely starter on his home turf.

As well as his goals against Va­len­cia, Asen­sio hit two scorch­ing strikes against Barcelona in the Span­ish Su­per Cup, ce­ment­ing his rep­u­ta­tion for de­liv­er­ing on the big­gest stage af­ter net­ting in the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal win over Ju­ven­tus.

Asen­sio has also scored in ev­ery com­pe­ti­tion de­but for Madrid, and few would bet against him con­tin­u­ing that run in his first com­pet­i­tive start for Spain.

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