Mancini’s Azzurri have hit on a winning formula
EURO 2020 GROUP A
HOW you respond to adversity is the measure of a good side and there’s no doubt that Italy are a different beast from the team who failed to qualify for the last World Cup. Many heads rolled following that devastating national catastrophe, from boardroom level down to playing staff, with Roberto Mancini drafted in to replace the hapless Gian Piero Ventura and ensure no mishaps on the road to Euro 2020. Far from any mistakes, the former Manchester City title-winning manager has transformed the Azzurri into a winning machine and the 1968 winners certainly have good grounds for optimism. If the formbook is your guide, then Italy are serious contenders. The scars of their failed qualification for Russia may still have been raw but there was very little evidence of that in a qualifying campaign for these finals that yielded a perfect ten wins out of ten. To prove that was no fluke they duly topped their Nations League group in the autumn – unbeaten again – and have kickstarted their quest for World Cup redemption with a trio of 2-0 wins to put them nicely on their way to Qatar. Mancini hasn’t done anything radical in terms of personnel – old warriors such as Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Marco Verratti and Ciro Immobile remain central to his plans – and they still play a classic possession-based game with a 4-3-3 set-up. The one young superstar they do rely upon is Milan’s 22-year-old keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and if the Chiellini-bonucci axis is broken up at some point Alessandro Bastoni, another 22-year-old, is ready to step in after a stellar season with Inter. Goals have never been guaranteed at this level from Immobile or Lorenzo Insigne so the likes of Andrea Bellotti, and Federico Chiesa will get have to step up over the next few weeks.