The long-awaited competition, Euro 2020 is on the horizon and is due to kick-off just over a week from now. Having failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup under Gian Piero Ventura- a feat that cost the veteran his job. Italy have a point to prove under Roberto Mancini and are bound to be one to watch at the upcoming tournament, in which they get underway next Friday against Turkey.
Italy are winless in any international tournament since they won the World Cup in 2006, an achievement perhaps most memorable for the Zinedine Zidane sending off in extra time for a headbutt on Marco Materazzi. The furthest they have gone since then was at Euro 2012, in which two Mario Balotelli goals set up a final with Spain, only to get battered 4-0 by La Roja. The Azzurri will be keen to go one better this time around, as well as making amends on their failure to qualify for the previous tournament. With a talented squad and a top head coach, there is little doubt that Euro 2020 can end in a far more successful manner than recent years suggest.
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 (Paris), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta)
Midfielders: Nicolo Barella (Inter), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Jorginho (Chelsea), Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Stefano Sensi (Inter), Marco Verratti (Paris)
Forwards: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Matteo Politano (Napoli)
Lorenzo Insigne – Agile, tricky wingers are always a joy to watch and Lorenzo Insigne is the very epitome of this. At just 5’4, the 29-year old brings this in abundance offering pace and technicality, and has been on top form for Napoli this season, with a career-best tally of 19 goals and 7 assists in 35 appearances. Insigne is one of the top 50 wingers in the world and is easily Italy’s most influential attacker, having played 305 Serie A matches since his debut as a 19-year old under Walter Mazzarri. With Ciro Immobile’s struggles in front of goal for the national team, Insigne will have to take his excellent form into the summer if Mancini’s men are to make it far.
Jorginho – The lone #6 is one of the most invaluable elements to Mancini’s system as he is the player that keeps things ticking over. Jorginho’s passing ability and vision combine to allow him to take the ball from deep and progress it up the pitch with ease, making him a fantastic option for this role. He began to show his ability to the world while at Napoli which saw him linked with a move to Manchester City before an eventual big-money move to Chelsea under Maurizio Sarri in 2018.
Jorginho has rightly or wrongly come under plenty of scrutiny since his move to the Premier League, but there is no doubt of how he fits into the Italy team in comparison to that of Frank Lampard’s and Thomas Tuchel’s (there is no coincidence that he perhaps showed his best form under Sarri). Despite this he has had a fine season with Chelsea, finishing as the club’s top goalscorer as his side won the Champions League, and he will be bursting to keep up momentum and taste glory for his country as well.
Marco Verratti – Like Jorginho, Marco Verratti’s passing ability makes him a useful cog in Italy’s system, and similarly to Insigne, his height of just 5’5 makes him particularly agile. He has a certain calmness about him when on the ball with his technical ability allowing for quick interchanges with his teammates as well as his work rate being crucial to Italy’s build-up play. There is zero doubt over his capabilities having made 346 appearances for French giants PSG since his debut as a 20-year old following a move from hometown club Pescara, and Verratti will surely have a point to prove having featured just twice in his last international tournament all the way back in 2014.
One to Watch
Federico Chiesa – After coming through the ranks at Fiorentina in 2016, Federico Chiesa became a mainstay in the Viola first team. He made 27 appearances in his debut season heavily off the bench, before becoming a firm starter the following year. A career-best tally of 10 goals and 9 assists caught the eye of giants Juventus, who took the 23-year old on a two-year loan.
Primarily a right-winger, Chiesa is technically superb, with his close control and dribbling allowing him to cut inside while he has the pace to get down the line too. He is versatile enough to play on either side and when on top form is the stuff of nightmares for any defender. His good form for Fiorentina earned him his first call-up to the senior national team in March 2018 and he has since made 24 appearances. Despite just the solitary goal, his tallies have increased over the past couple of seasons and he will be keen to keep that theme going for his country as well.
Roberto Mancini has faced plenty of success as a manager, most notably when he famously won the Premier League with Manchester City in 2012. With an FA Cup and a Community Shield to go along with it, as well as a Turkish Cup with Galatasaray, Coppa Italia’s won with Fiorentina, Lazio and Inter Milan, as well as Serie A’s and the Supercoppa Italiana, won with the latter, the 56-year old will want to recreate some of that success. Having taken over the reins from Ventura in 2018, he has restored faith among the Azzurri and built a side capable of challenging at every tournament. He is without a trophy since the Turkish Cup win, so will be keen to end his trophy drought and bring glory back to his home nation.
Style of Play
With the use of two center-backs and a lone #6, Italy aim to play out from the back and vary between patient but quick build-up among the midfielders and wide players as well as spreading the ball out to the wingers using long diagonals across the pitch. The latter allows technically sound players such as Insigne, Chiesa, Berardi, and Bernardeschi to take the ball in their stride and cut inside giving the attacking fullbacks opportunities to overlap. Additionally, the wingers often utilize quick one-touch passing triangles with the midfielders and lone striker to overcome the opposition defense and create chances, and is a theme in whatever way Italy chooses to attack.
Will Euro 2020 prove to be successful for Italy?
There should be no disputing of Italy’s chances at this summer’s tournament. Mancini has an extremely talented group of players at his disposal, and one that boasts of mix of technical players as well as plenty of hard workers. The likes of Insigne, Chiesa, Berardi and Bernardeschi bring agility and pace on the wings along with a hard working but classy midfield that includes Jorginho, Verratti, Locatelli and Barella. They also have a defence that is bound to be a solid unit as always in front of one of the top young goalkeepers in the world in Gianluigi Donnarumma, who has big shoes to fill with this being the first tournament since the 2002 World Cup that Italy will compete in without his namesake – the legendary Gianluigi Buffon– starting in goal.
It is also a big tournament for Ciro Immobile, who, despite being a shadow of the player he is at club level for his country, is expected to start up top. Immobile has shown his best form since returning to Italy on a permanent basis in 2016 with Lazio, with a goals to minutes ratio of 0.75 compared to the 0.35 he has for his country. With Andrea Belotti breathing down his neck, Immobile will need to channel his club form for his country more than ever.
Italy are grouped with Switzerland, Turkey and Wales so will surely be favourites. It will by no means be easy, with Turkey in particular being perhaps their biggest rivals for the top spot, but they should find their way smoothly into the knockout round.
Roberto Mancini has won it all at domestic club level, but what he’s missing from his elusive trophy cabinet is European glory. There is no better opportunity than at this summer’s Euro’s, and the Azzurri faithful should be excited about what lies ahead this summer.
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