The stage was set for a hero to step up and win the hearts of their nation at Wembley stadium.
Saturday evening saw new Euro 2020 favourites Italy take on underdogs Austria, in a game which should have been routine for the swashbuckling Azzurri.
It was far from straight-forward, however. After 90 minutes, Italy and Austria were deadlocked. 0-0. Roberto Mancini dipped his hand into his bag of tricks, and pulled out the joker of the pack: Federico Chiesa.
The Juventus star is electric, a live-wire, a lit fuse, and subsequently, incredibly unpredictable and erratic. Those traits make him both a manager’s dream, and their nightmare. Can you trust him to fit into a system? Or will he unsteady the whole ship?
It’s a risk that must be taken, at some stage. On 84 minutes, Mancini turned to his joker and asked for some magic.
On 95 minutes, he delivered.
It was a moment of pure brilliance, worthy of breaking the firmest of deadlocks.
Leonardo Spinazzola, another of Italy’s heroes, floated a lovely ball out from the left to the right, just begging for someone to bring it down and take advantage. Chiesa sensed it was his moment, controlling the ball with his forehead, chopping inside a defender and placing his head over the ball.
The winger smashed a shot with all his might, and sure enough, it careered past Daniel Bachmann and into the back of the net.
Chiesa wheeled away, celebrating with all the passion and desire that you’d expect from a full-blooded, committed Italian.
It was a goal that sent the game bursting into life. Matteo Pessina put Italy 2-0 ahead, and Sasa Kalajdzic then got Austria back within one.
Chiesa later showed his more frustrating side, racing clean through with the ball and demonstrating some naivety, losing possession instead of retaining it, and allowing their opponents one more bite at the cherry in injury-time.
Ultimately, it wasn’t to be for Austria, and Chiesa ended the night as the hero. His goal sent a significant message to his coach, and sent a thunderbolt through Italian hearts everywhere. He may be unpredictable, but he is box office.