Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Frank Lopapa On March - 22 - 2012

Player Profile: Angelo Ogbonna

One of Europe’s most promising defenders doesn’t play for a powerhouse like Manchester United or Milan or Real Madrid, nor does he play for a club more known for unearthing (or producing) gems like Porto or Udinese; rather, he plays in Serie B for a team who hasn’t won a major trophy in nearly twenty years. He plays for Torino. Ogbonna would certainly be more widely known if he left the Piemontese side in the past couple seasons; however, he is viewed as an extremely important part of their push for promotion to Serie A. As of today, Torino are top of Italy’s second division, two points ahead of Pescara. The granata have conceded a league-low 22 goals in 31 matches, with Ogbonna a huge reason behind their defensive stinginess.

Angelo Ogbonna was born on May 23, 1988 in Cassino, a small town in the southeastern corner of Lazio to Nigerian parents. Ogbonna signed for Torino’s youth academy in 2002, and save for a loan spell with Crotone in the 2007/08 season, has spent his entire career at the club. On February 11, 2007, Ogbonna made his senior debut for Torino a few months shy of his 19th birthday, starting in a 2-1 loss at home to Reggina as the defender would make three more appearances for the Torinese club that season. The next season would see him sent out on loan to Serie C1 side Crotone, where he would play in 24 of the club’s matches, helping them reach the promotion playoffs. After his fairly successful time in Calabria, Ogbonna would return north to rejoin Torino in the top flight.

Upon returning to Torino for the 2008/09 season, Ogbonna’s career took a potentially tragic turn when on the morning of December 22, Ogbonna lost control of his car on a road outside of Turin, driving off a bridge and into the Sangone River. Ogobnna was lucky to survive as he was only briefly hospitalized for some minor chest injuries. He recovered fairly quickly from his injuries and was cleared to play by early January. Ogbonna would go on and play 23 times for il Toro that season; unfortunately, Torino finished in 18th place and were relegated having missed out on survival by only three points.

Although Torino have spent the past three seasons in Serie B, Ogbonna has continued to grow as a player, constantly improving on his appearance totals each season. As Ogbonna has increased his presence on the team, so has the amount of responsibility been placed upon him, having been named vice-captain this season.

As a player, Ogbonna has all the tools to be one of Europe’s best center backs for years to come; he possesses size and strength, quickness, and an outstanding left foot coupled with excellent technical ability. His best position is in the center of defense, but is able to play as a left back, most recently in Torino’s 1-1 draw with Juve Stabia and with the Italian national team in their most recent friendly against the United States. In the event Torino do gain promotion to Serie A this season, look for Ogbonna to play mostly in the center next season where he can play to the best of his abilities.

On the international front, Ogbonna compiled 10 caps for the Italian Under-21s, debuting in 2009 against the Russian Under-21s. Before the 2010 World Cup, Nigeria had offered him the chance to play for their national side, calling him up for friendly matches against Ireland and France; however, he refused, holding out for the full Italian national side. His patience would be rewarded as Cesare Prandelli called him up in June 2011 to replace Alberto Aquilani and would continue to receive call-ups despite not featuring. Ogobnna finally made his Azzurri debut in a friendly against Poland this past November, coming on as a substitute in the 77th minute. Ogbonna would start and play the full ninety minutes in a 1-0 loss to the United States in February, featuring at both center back and left back.

Provided he continues to receive call-ups, Ogbonna has a chance to make history this summer by becoming the first player from a Serie B squad to represent the Azzurri in a major international tournament. If he in fact does play and play well in Poland this June, he may be faced with the decision of either leaving Torino for a more prestigious side or leading the team he has been with for ten years back into Serie A.

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