Mateo Pesina’s goal-scoring celebration – diving with a face on the grass with almost flat hands next to him – has become a real sensation at home in Italy. Rightfully.
The 24-year-old midfielder, who joined his national team for the European Championship after another player was injured, scored what turned out to be the winning goal in overtime against Austria in the round of 16.
“It was the most spontaneous thing in the world. It didn’t seem real to me that it really happened and I did the stupidest thing I could think of, “Pesina said. “I get a lot of videos of people imitating him, even on the beach. It’s really wonderful. “
Not bad for someone who played in Italy’s third division a little over four years ago – and at times even tried to make the team.
“There was a time when I was in Serie C and I didn’t play, I even thought of leaving. But I continued because of my love for this sport, “Pesina said on Monday. “Football is my job, but for me it’s something I love to do.”
Pesina’s goal at Wembley Stadium in London in the 2-1 victory was his second at Euro 2020. He also scored in the previous match, a 1-0 victory over Wales in the group stage.
“When I scored against Wales, my grandparents were waiting to go to Sardinia and watch the match at the bar,” Pesina said. “My grandfather told everyone that I was his grandson and they offered him drinks.”
Pesina, who plays for the Italian club Atalanta with high results, was initially missed by the 26-member Italian team, but was later called up after an injury to Stefano Sensei. He won the place by scoring his first two goals for the national team in a Euro 2020 warm-up match against San Marino.
“I started as the 27th man, but I didn’t think so much because I always felt part of that group, even as the 27th man,” Pesina said. “The coach asked me to do him a favor to stay with the group for the first few days and see how things went. Then, as you know, Stefano got injured and I was included in the team. But I’ve always felt part of this band since the first call. The good thing about this group is that the coach manages to make everyone feel important. “
Pesina started in a much changed line-up against Wales, with Italy already in the knockout phase of the tournament and it was taken as a reserve against Austria. His two goals in his last two Euro 2020 matches may have brought him a lot in the starting lineup for Friday’s quarter-final against top-ranked Belgium, which beat Portugal on Sunday.
“It will be a really really difficult match against Belgium, maybe even more. Not so much because of their physical shape, but also because of their quality, “Pesina said. “If we want to continue, if we want to get to the end, we have to face the strongest teams. And at this moment there are only the strongest teams. “