Can Mancini’s men do the Italian job? Assessing Azzurri’s squad for Euro 2020
Since the arrival of former Manchester City and Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini, the Italy national football team has transfigured from a motley crew of aged players to a youthful squad with the right balance of experience that has a definite answer to the question - is Italy a good football team?
Mancini’s men are unbeaten in 27 games and have lost just twice under the tutelage of the 56-year-old. In the European qualifiers, gli Azzurri won 10 consecutive games, breaking Vittorio Pozzo’s record of most consecutive wins as head coach of Italy (nine wins).
Furthermore, Italy registered 11 straight wins (10 Euro qualifying wins and one international friendly win against the USA). Thus, while they finished the qualifying campaign with a 100 percent record, Italy had comfortably qualified for Euro 2020 with three matches to spare.
Seven players from the last edition of the Euros - including skipper Giorgio Chiellini - make up Italy’s final 26-man squad. With an average age of 27.3 years and a surfeit of midfielders still in the prime of their careers, the Italians are pegged as winners of Group A, which includes Switzerland, Turkey, and Wales.
Italy squad for Euro 2020
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alex Meret, Salvatore Sirigu
Defenders: Francesco Acerbi, Alessandro Bastoni, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Emerson Palmieri, Alessandro Florenzi, Leonardo Spinazzola, Rafael Toloi
Midfielders: Nicolo Barella, Bryan Cristante, Jorginho, Manuel Locatelli, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Stefano Sensi, Marco Verratti
Forwards: Andrea Belotti, Domenico Berardi, Federico Bernardeschi, Federico Chiesa, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Giacomo Raspadori
SWOT analysis of Italy’s Euro 2020 squad
Italy’s biggest strength going into the Euro 2020 is their rich reserve of young talents, who have clocked approximately 5,300 minutes of football action while in the under-25 bracket. The likes of Gianluigi Donnarumma, Federico Chiesa, and Nicolo Barella are the future of Italian football and can anchor gli Azzurri’s Euro 2020 campaign.
Secondly, the Roberto Mancini-coached Italy have a midfield unit that could outmuscle their way through the group stages and possibly the knockouts. The versatility of Jorginho and Marco Verratti will enable Lorenzo Pellegrini and Barella to express themselves from the Italian engine room in midfield.
Defence has been Italy’s biggest strength at major tournaments, and one will be eager to see how Mancini uses his defenders in Euro 2020. The 56-year-old’s 4-3-3 system requires fluidity between the defence and midfield, and a significant chunk of work will be dependent on the wingbacks - Alessandro Florenzi and Leonardo Spinazzola.
If one has to point out a major weakness in the current Italian squad, it is their big-match experience. Barring Netherlands (1-0 in Nations League), Gli Azzurri lost 1-3 and 0-1 to France and Portugal, thus raising possible questions regarding their ability to tackle major teams in Euro 2020. The average caps for Italy’s Euro 2020 squad is 25.8 while their average age is 27.3.
With their defence line-up including as many as five 30-plus defenders, Roberto Mancini’s Italy will hope the veteran pairing of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci doesn’t slow down the tempo. However, given age is catching up to the veterans, Italy’s centre-back position will be under constant threat in their campaign.
If anything, Italy will enter the rescheduled Euro 2020 as the dark horses. Mancini inherited a team that appeared wounded after missing out on a World Cup berth and seemingly revitalized them as a unit that is now on a 27-game unbeaten run.
Since taking charge of Italy, Mancini has recorded a goal ratio of 73:14 in 30 matches, and that’s one the reasons why onlookers believe that they can go on a goalscoring spree and perhaps even all the way to the title.
The emergence of Domenico Berardi adds some freshness to the Italian forward line. The 26-year-old, who plies his trade with Sassuolo in the Serie A, has been in prolific form over the last 12 months and can create goal-scoring opportunities for clubmate Giacomo Raspadori.
21-year-old Raspadori earned his first cap for Italy in the 4-0 win against the Czech Republic, on the back of a late burst of form towards the end of the 2021 Serie A campaign. Italy have long struggled for a prolific number nine, with Ciro Immobile failing to replicate his exploits for Lazio at the international level. However, Berardi and Raspadori will both be eager to rewrite Italy’s recent misfortunes up front at major tournaments by having an impact at Euro 2020.
Featured photo: Twitter / Italy football team