FOCUS ON ITALY
FOCUS ON ITALY
However, the results were not as convincing as that achievement seems, as the side registered three draws and three victories, dropping points against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland and the Netherlands. Undefeated throughout 2020, Italy won five of their eight fixtures during the year.
A trio of 2-0 victories means that Italy are enjoying a perfect start to World Cup qualifying having recorded victories over Northern Ireland, Bulgaria and Lithuania back in March. Impressive striker Ciro Immobile has taken his domestic form with Lazio onto the international stage, and their mean defence suggests the catenaccio traditions of Italian football are very much a part of the modern era.
“Mancini has brought a completely different mentality to the team,” explained Italian football journalist Paolo Menicucci to FC Cymru. “Italy are always trying to impose their own style against any opponents with football based on possession. The biggest example of this is Mancini’s selection in the midfield trio. Italy have always had a midfield fighter in the past, a player like Gennaro Gattuso for example. Mancini went from the beginning with three technical and quite small midfielders like Barella, Jorginho and Verratti instead. Less muscle, more skill with the ball. It was a brave move and it paid huge dividends.
“Italy have earned great results under Mancini and the confidence is certainly back. The Azzurri have not lost a game since September 2018 and have won their last six by scoring 14 goals and conceding none, just to explain it with numbers. All the players seem to enjoy Mancini's playing style and they are all happy and eager to play for the national team now. I’m quite sure the Azzurri will try to take the same approach at EURO. There are several teams capable of going all the way, Italy are among them.
“After the draw, many considered that Italy were lucky to be in this group, but I’m less convinced now. Turkey are flying right now, Switzerland have been among the European football elite for many years and have a squad with plenty of experience at a high level. As regards to Wales, nobody here has forgotten their EURO 2016 campaign. Together with Iceland they were probably everybody’s second team. Certainly nobody will underestimate Wales this time around.”