Italian coach Roberto Mancini took over the Nazionale after the fiasco of non-qualification for the 2018 World Cup. Three years later, Italy is preparing to face Spain on Saturday in the semi-finals of the Euro, with an invincibility that has lasted for 32 games and a game that seduces the football planet.
From outsider to current favorite of bookmakers, this is Italy’s journey in this Euro-2021. After a perfect group stage, a controlled round of 16 against Austria and above all a demonstration against Belgium, the Nazionale comes with his head held high at Wembley for their semi-final against Spain on Tuesday, July 6.
The road traveled is immense for the “Squadra Azzura” since the trauma of the failed qualification for the 2018 World Cup, a first for 60 years. Roberto Mancini then took the reins of the team and built a machine to win and to shine.
How not to be seduced by this very beautiful Italian team, always strong defensively but become so offensive and playful with Mancini. A heart, an energy, a rebirth.
– Bixente Lizarazu (@BixeLizarazu) July 4, 2021
Invincible for 32 matches
A figure says the current omnipotence of the Italians under the baton of Professor Mancini: 32. Since September 2018 and 32 games, Italy has not lost. She has aligned 27 wins and 5 shares and scored 78 times, for only 9 conceded goals and 21 clean sheets (a game without a goal conceded).
With its five consecutive victories in the tournament, the Squadra Azzurra equal the best series of the continental tournament, already achieved by France (1984), the Netherlands (1988-1992) and the Czech Republic (2000-2004).
When he had the “dream of a final at Wembley”, Roberto Mancini mostly collected polite smiles before the Euro. From now on, nobody mittens.
For the supporters, seeing the “Nazionale” win again was already a first satisfaction, during qualifying without false note for the Euro (ten victories in ten games), a feat that Italy was the only one to succeed outside of Belgium .
Added to this was the surprise of seeing her play well, run everywhere and score goal after goal during a first round overflight against Turkey (3-0), Switzerland (3-0) and Wales ( 1-0).
But with the knockout matches, they discover that this team without much international experience can also withstand the tension of cut-outs (2-1 after extra time in 8th against Austria). And even give the lesson, in envy and play, to Belgium, among the favorites after leaving the road in France.
“We are not the strongest, but this Euro is not for the strongest,” said Corriere dello Sport in his editorial on Saturday, initially welcoming the “unity” of the team built by Mancini.
“Mancini does not have phenomena but, united, they become it”, abounds the Gazzetta dello Sport. “A principle, simple, modern and yet very complicated to implement, especially in Italy.”
A young team without superstars
This team without big stars is based on a perfect balance between a solid defense – experience of the Chiellini-Bonucci duo and vigilance of the intractable goalkeeper Donnarumma – and a protean attack, capable of breaking through in full axis with Barella and Insigne, like s ‘fly on the wings with Chiesa and Spinazzola. In the middle, the Marco Verratti-Jorginho duo is combing and is crucial for the development of the game.
Roberto Mancini on Gianluigi Donnarumma
“He is for me the best goalkeeper in the world. Or else, one of the two best”
– Telefoot pic.twitter.com/ENyq2J9O9r
– ULTRA PARISIEN (@ULTRAPARIISIEN) July 4, 2021
Italy, above all, kept its strength and enthusiasm, even against the first in the world rankings, which silenced the last reservations of those who pointed to the relative weakness of the opponents so far.
Roberto Mancini especially likes to build his teams based on young talents. Since his resumption of the team, he has aligned 63 different players and started 33. Among them, we can count the now almost irremovable holder Nicolò Barella, the Parisian Moise Kean or even Domenico Berardi, Stefano Sensi, Alessandro Bastoni, Manuel Locatelli and Emerson Palmieri. Sometimes, Mancini takes them to the cradle, without even the young nuggets having played in Serie A matches, like Nicolò Zaniolo or Sandro Tonali who were called up at 19 and 20 years old respectively.
The former striker also likes to rotate his workforce. He is the only manager to have used 25 of the 26 players at his disposal, even going so far as to bring in his second goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigue against Wales late in the game. A symbolic playing time offered which can be explained by his personal story: Mancini had always experienced as a tear the fact of not having played a single minute of the World Cup-1990 organized by Italy, third in this competition.
Renewed until 2026
Proof of the satisfaction offered by the coach, the Italian federation renewed his contract until 2026 even before the start of the Euro.
At Wembley, this “temple of football”, as the Italian coach describes it with respect, he hopes to relive victory: in 2011, he won an FA Cup as Manchester City coach.
But he also experienced one of his biggest disappointments as a player, losing with Sampdoria a Champions League final against FC Barcelona (1-0) in 1992. A defeat also experienced by several of the members of the supervision of the Azzurri, starting with his “twin” in the attack in Genoa, Gianluca Vialli, now head of the Italian delegation. After the eighth-final won at Wembley – already – against Austria, they fell into each other’s arms with a rage rarely seen. As if they felt they had exorcised this common bad memory a little.
During the semi-final, Roberto Mancini and his men have the opportunity to turn another painful page: the humiliation of 2012 when Italy sank against Spain in the Euro final (0-4) . Nine years later, the context has changed. It is Italy which seduces and wins with style.