In the ever-evolving nature of international football, Italy hold an ace up their sleeve in the shape of their manager, Roberto Mancini, who is a strong contender in the conversation surrounding who has been the best manager at this summer’s Euro 2020.
Having lifted a nation in shock off the canvas following the humiliation of missing out altogether at the 2018 World Cup, the former Manchester City and Inter Milan boss has inspired a remarkable 33-game unbeaten streak that stretches all the way back to 2018 and a 1-0 Nations League defeat to Portugal.
Yet to dispense with the old guard entirely, Mancini has instead smoothly integrated the bright young talent at his disposal, including Alessandro Bastoni, Nico Barella and Federico Chiesa, all of whom have now established themselves as key parts for the Azzurri and have featured during this summer’s competition - Barella in particular being a must-start cog in midfield.
Predominantly set up in a 4-3-3, Italy are equally comfortable imposing their style and personality on opponents - as they did in the formidable evisceration of Turkey on the opening night - or providing regular reminders of their ability to lean on their tactical discipline out of possession, such as in the semi-final win over Spain.
Retaining that defensive nous means they haven’t conceded more than once in any fixture at the tournament, while first-choice goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has yet to concede more than once in any game he has ever played for the senior national team.
Mancini has praised his players for their efforts so far, but is clear that Italy came to Euro 2020 with only winning in mind and wants his squad to stay as fresh as possible for the clash with England. “Now we still have one more game to go and we wanted to do exactly that if possible,” he said. “I thank the players because they believed right from day one that we could create something incredible. We haven’t done everything we need to. There’s still one step to go. Now we have to rest up because this really was very challenging.”
European champions in 1968, as well as runners-up in 2000 and 2012, Mancini will be desperate to continue restoring pride to this great footballing nation, who have not won a major men’s tournament since the 2006 World Cup.
Results at Euro 2020
11 June - Turkey 0-3 Italy - Stadio Olimpico, Rome - Group stage
16 June - Italy 3-0 Switzerland - Stadio Olimpico, Rome - Group stage
20 June - Italy 1-0 Wales - Stadio Olimpico, Rome - Group stage
26 June - Italy 2-1 Austria (after extra time) - Wembley, London - Round of 16
2 July - Belgium 1-2 Italy - Allianz Arena, Munich - Quarter-final
6 July - Italy 1-1 Spain (4-2 on pens) - Wembley, London - Semi-final
11 July, 8pm BST - Italy vs England - Wembley, London - Euro 2020 final
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 (PSG), Leonardo Spinazzola* (Roma), Rafael Tolói (Atalanta).
Midfielders: Nicolò Barella (Inter), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Gaetano Castrovilli (Fiorentina), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Jorginho (Chelsea), Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo), Mattia Pessina (Atalanta), Marco Verratti (PSG).
Forwards: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo).
Ones to watch
Star man: Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)
The veteran leader, the war horse of the team and the inspirational figure at the back. Chiellini has excelled in the centre of defence and his display of jovial confidence in the build-up to the penalty shootout win over Spain left few in any doubt as to who he expected to emerge triumphant. A warrior of the Azzurri.
Breakout talent: Federico Chiesa (Juventus)
He might have started the tournament on the bench, but the son of former Italy international Enrico Chiesa has grown in stature the longer Euro 2020 has gone on. Netted a brilliant goal against Spain in the semi-final and with his blend of power and ability to carry the ball, he’s a threat both on the counter-attack and in sustained spells of pressure.
Italy to win Euro 2020: EVS
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