07:12 | 05/06/2021 Print
|Italy Euro 2020: Best players, manager, tactics, form and chance of winning|
Italy face Turkey in the opening game of the tournament at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on June 11 before hosting Switzerland and Wales in the Italian capital to complete their Group A fixtures at Euro 2020.
Friday 11th June
Game 1 – Group A: Turkey v Italy (8pm)
Wednesday 16th June
Game 2 – Group A: Italy v Switzerland (8pm)
Sunday 20th June
Game 3 – Group A: Italy v Wales (5pm)
Italy manager Mancini cut his preliminary group of 33 players down to 28 on Sunday, when Paris St Germain striker Moise Kean was the highest-profile casualty. Gianluca Mancini, Politano and Pessina were then left out of the final squad as Raspadori was re-called from the Under-21 setup.
Brazil-born Atalanta defender Rafael Toloi, who made his Italy debut in March, was preferred to Mancini in defence, while Inter Milan midfielder Stefano Sensi was picked despite concerns over his fitness after sustaining a thigh injury on the final day of the season.
Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini will captain the side, one of seven survivors from Euro 2016 along with Alessandro Florenzi, Immobile, Salvatore Sirigu, Leonardo Bonucci, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi.
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino)
Defenders: Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Emerson Palmieri (Chelsea), Alessandro Florenzi (Paris), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta)
Midfielders: Nicolò Barella (Inter), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Jorginho (Chelsea), Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Stefano Sensi (Inter), Marco Verratti (Paris)
Forwards: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo).
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Donnarumma
After Gianluigi Buffon monopolised the No. 1 berth for just over two decades, during which time he accumulated 176 caps (a national record) and lifted the 2006 World Cup, the comedown was always going to be felt and the void almost impossible to fill. How do you replace someone who is irreplaceable?
Fortunately for Mancini, he has a burgeoning shot-stopper ready to consolidate his grip on the position for a similar length of time to Buffon. In Donnarumma, Gli Azzurri truly have a ‘keeper chiselled from the same dextrous mould as Buffon, and someone who, at just 22, is a world-class ‘keeper already.
The AC Milan vice-captain has already made over 200 appearances for his boyhood club, and in fitting homage to his predecessor, Buffon, he recently became the youngest player to reach 200 appearances in Serie A (in the era of three points for a win), beating the Juventus ‘keeper’s previous record.
Defence: Leonardo Bonucci
Unlike Joachim Low, who heralded the start of a new era for Germany by axing a panoply of his ‘old guard’, Mancini took a more holistic approach following Italy’s own football catastrophe. He has brought in young stars like Alessandro Bastoni, but also kept the spine of Italy from the 2010s.
Giorgio Chiellini, at 36, remains skipper of the nation, but his game has perhaps dulled slightly this season owing to continual spells on the sidelines. However, Leonardo Bonucci remains as important as ever for Juventus and Italy, and is arguably Mancini’s most relied-upon centre-back.
Midfield: Nicolo Barella
The days of Andrea Pirlo setting the tempo, Daniele De Rossi oozing midfield class, and Gennaro Gattuso, in typical hatchet-man style, snapping at heels with relish, are long gone, but the emergence of Nicolo Barella has just facilitated a change in mood in Southern Europe, one redolent of the noughties.
Barella has been the cornerstone of Inter’s rise to the Serie A summit this season and is now (arguably) Mancini’s most important player across the entire squad. The magnificent mezzala is the complete package, bringing bundles of creativity, vision, a world-class passing range, and a ball-carrying drive that has been likened to Steven Gerrard.
Attack: Federico Chiesa
It’s been a testing transition for Pirlo in the Old Lady dugout, but the loan signing of Federico Chiesa has proved an inspired move from the club. With seven goals and eight assists for Juve this term (Serie A), the Fiorentina loanee has proven a prolific utility man, slotting in on either flank, and is taking the Chiesa dynasty to the next level.
His father, Enrico, donned the colours of Italy on 22 occasions, which Federico has already beaten (24 caps). Federico’s versatility will be key for Mancini, but his attacking intelligence, movement and ability to pick a pass could prove devastating in full motion as he dovetails alongside one of either Andrea Belotti, Ciro Immobile or even Moise Kean, a collection of goalscoring fiends unparalleled in recent years for Italy.
Mancini was appointed Italy head coach in 2018 after replacing Gian Piero Ventura on a permanent basis. The boss was tasked with recuperating Italy’s losses after their failed 2018 World Cup qualification campaign. And so far he’s done well. He’s lifted the team to the top of the UEFA Nations League and restored faith amongst Azzurri fans.
Mancini famously delivered Manchester City their first ever Premier League title back in 2012 and since then has managed Galatasaray, Inter and Zenit. He made his debut for Italy as a player in 1984 and spent most of his playing career at Sampdoria.
Can boss Roberto Mancini lead Italy to Euro 2020 success? (GETTY)
For Italy, it has been a similar story (as far as results are concerned). He blitzed through Group J of the Euro 2020 qualifiers, winning all 10 games, and finished top of Group A1 in the recent Nations League, progressing to the knockouts, where they face Spain in the semi-finals this October.
The apotheosis of this early success for football’s sleeping giant has seen widespread praise flowing in from all angles, notably by World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi, who believes Mancini has ‘recovered the beautiful image of Italy’s football’.
The vastly experienced manager of Italy has swept a fresh air of assuredness and confidence in his Italian troops. Mancini has struck on a fluid and adaptable 4-3-3 formation. And judging by the impressive results during his tenure, it is getting the best out of his squad, whomever the personnel.
He has the wonderful ‘managerial selection headache’ of coaching a group of hungry players who are all on song and singing to the same hymn sheet. A group of players who can produce a strong performance and even make a positive contribution from the bench.
Mancini has largely been wedded to a 4-3-3 system, with a fluid attacking trident central to his philosophy. In World Cup qualifying in March, he regularly rotated the attack but the pattern of play remained similar, with one of Belotti or Immobile leading the line, and two of either Lorenzo Insigne, Chiesa, Federico Bernardeschi or Domenico Berardi offering support on the flanks (Nicolo Zaniolo is still injured and confirmed to miss the Euros).
The midfield three offers a nice blend of qualities, with Jorginho the preferred deep-lying playmaker, setting the pace for proceedings, while Barella is largely utilised as a No.8, pushing forward almost as a pseudo-playmaker and offering support. Manuel Locatelli is the all-action unit, offering the zest and energy in the middle of the park.
In defence, it’s a fairly commonplace back four with overlapping wing-backs. In true Italian style, the centre-backs are well-versed in the art of defending and can distribute as well as any midfield maestro. On the flanks, midfielder-turned-defender Alessandro Florenzi is indispensable at right-back and pushes high up with gusto, while Emerson remains key on the left, despite his lack of minutes at club level.
Roberto Mancini has fostered a winning mentality, with his Italian side on a fantastic run of 26 games unbeaten.
Remarkably, they are unbeaten in over 18 months with September 10, 2018, the last time gli Azzurri tasted defeat. This was a 1-0 reverse against Portugal. Since suffering the ignominy of failing to reach the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the Italians have dusted themselves off and hit the reset button.
Since the arrival of the former Manchester City manager, the Italians are a team in which Mancini has gradually moulded into a winning machine with a clear identity and philosophy as well as forging that strong mentality.
Defensively Italy are a solid unit but the question marks will be placed on their attacking prowess. Mancini has plenty of options up front, with Andrea Belotti, Domenico Berardi, Federico Bernardeschi, Federico Chiesa and Ciro Immobile all deserving of a starting place.
The issue for the boss is finding the right balance amongst all this talent. Should Italy get off to a good start against Turkey and Switzerland then they could well settle into this tournament and progress deep into July.
However, class may well tell in the latter stages and a semi-final berth is perhaps the very best the Azzurri can hope for this summer.
Prediction: Quarter-final exit
There is no question this current version of Gli Azzurri is not quite on a par with the World Cup winners of the noughties, a golden era when Lippi had a surfeit of talent, including Pirlo, Francesco Totti, De Rossi and Alessandro Nesta all in their prime. Having missed out on the chance to compete at Russia 2018 and descended into relative international obscurity, Italy naturally enter this contest with relatively high odds compared to the favourites.
Sky Bet are offering odds of 11/1 for Italy to replicate their 1968 success and win the tournament outright. They are down as eighth-favourites to clinch the coveted international silverware, with the likes of Portugal, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and England all coming in with lower odds.
The Southern European nation may have masterminded a flawless qualification campaign but in Nations League matches against more capable nations, they haven’t quite been as dominant, drawing with the Netherlands, Poland and Bosnia last autumn. They remained unbeaten but those draws certainly showed a vulnerability in Mancini’s side.
The best hope of Italy producing a Golden Boot winner lies with Ciro Immobile, who is priced at 20/1 by Sky Bet, alongside the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Serge Gnabry and Raheem Sterling.
|The Italian national side have to be in the conversation when discussing potential winners of the tournament. They have the know-how and experience to navigate their way through a championship format and have experience winning on penalties too. A case in point being their 2006 World Cup victory win on spot-kicks. They are a team for the big occasion who have been there, rode it, done it and got the champions t-shirt many times before. |
Standing in their way is an accessible group featuring Turkey, Wales and Switzerland. The Italians will fancy their chances in the form they are in. And rightly so being Europe’s best team who are enjoying an incredible purple patch, draped in Azzuri blue.
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