Italy National Team

The European Championship continues to captivate and the most impressive team so far are burning bright. 

Italy are the first team to qualify for the knockout rounds of Euro 2020 after a resounding 3-0 win over neighbours Switzerland. The significance of this victory was emphatic as a 29th straight unbeaten game is only short of equaling the Azzurri’s all-time record of 30 set in July 1939.

Having never scored thrice in any previous European Championship, Italy followed up the opening 3-0 victory over Turkey with a similarly composed display here, as Manuel Locatelli scored the first brace of his senior career on a sensational night in Rome.

Locatelli showed he can score all kinds of goals with a lung-busting run into the box to finish off a move he started, before a superb left-footed strike from outside the box into the far bottom corner. Ciro Immobile kept his tally up with a late strike from distance to wrap up the win.

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Italy played some beautiful football and a 10th straight win without conceding will fill them with confidence.

Greater tests may lie ahead, but Italy are walking the walk at the moment. The next aim now is to become the first team since Germany in Euro 2012 to record three group-stage wins.

Antonio Conte’s unfancied band may have shocked the continent with a run to the 2016 quarterfinals, but Roberto Mancini’s class of 2021 are threatening to deliver the perfect Italian Job this summer.

The 56-year-old tactician is well-aware of his sides chances;

Roberto Mancini

Mancini said, “I am lucky to have such good players, and they have room for improvement. Many of them are young and still haven’t played in the Champions League or the Europa League”.

“You have France, Portugal and Belgium – one of those are world champions, another are European champions and the other are the No 1 ranked side in the world”.

“There are teams in this tournament who in terms of maturity are ahead of us, but anything can happen in football. I try to explain my ideas to the players and until now they have been excellent”.

The Dark Horses are Running Rampant

Playing in front of their own fans in a major tournament for the first time in 31 years is having a bright effect on this hungry Italy squad.

Manuel Locatelli

They are focused on their return to the international scene following their shock absence at the 2018 World Cup

They have quality all over the pitch, a fantastic mentality, and a genuinely exciting blend of youth and experience. With Gigi Donnaruma between the sticks, Leonardo Bonucci marshaling the defence flanked by the flamboyant Leonardo Spinazolla and Giovanni Di Lorenzo; the midfield includes the excellent Jorginho, pass-master Marco Veratti, Nicollo Barella, and Swiss slayer Locatelli. In the forward areas, Mancini can call upon stalwarts Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Domenico Berardi, Federico Chiesa, Matteo Politano and Andrea Belotti.

Although 37-year-old captain Giorgio Chiellini went off with a muscular injury less than 30 minutes in, he was replaced by Lazio’s Francesco Acerbi, and Alessandro Bastoni – one of Italy’s finest young defenders who won Serie A with Inter Milan – remains an option on the bench. 

Such is the embarrassment of talent at Azzurri’s disposal. And they have the ability to go far and make their mark on the tournament.

Indeed, Italy overachieved by reaching the quarter-final five years ago in France. The expectation on this much better squad is to at least match that.

Mancini’s greatest achievement so far as a manager was guiding Manchester City to their first League title in 44 years, sealed by THAT late goal from Sergio Aguero on the enthralling final day in 2012. 

However, he might be set to topple his finest moment should he take his country all the way this summer.

Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin
June 17, 2021
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Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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