From outsider to favorite of bookmakers then European champion, this is Italy’s journey in this Euro-2021. After a near-perfect competition, from the opening match at the Olimpico stadium in Rome to the final won on penalties at Wembley on Sunday 11 July, the Nazionale are back at the forefront of football.
The road traveled is immense for Squadra Azzura since the trauma of the failed qualification for the 2018 World Cup, a first for 60 years. Roberto Mancini then took the reins of the team and built a machine to win and to shine.
How not to be seduced by this very beautiful Italian team, always strong defensively but become so offensive and playful with Mancini. A heart, an energy, a rebirth.
– Bixente Lizarazu (@BixeLizarazu)July 4, 2021
Invincible for 34 matches
A figure says the current omnipotence of the Italians under the baton of Professor Mancini: 34. Since September 2018 and 34 matches, Italy has not lost any more. She has lined up 27 wins and 7 draws and has scored 80 times, with only 11 conceded goals and 21 clean sheets (a game without conceding a goal). It is only one game away from equaling record-holding Spain.
With their five straight wins in the tournament from the group stage to the quarter-finals, Squadra Azzurra equal the best series of the continental tournament, already achieved by France (1984), the Netherlands (1988-1992) and the Czech Republic (2000-2004).
‘At the beginning, when he told us to keep in mind the idea of winning the Euro, we thought he was crazy,’ admitted this week captain Giorgio Chiellini, who experienced the humiliation of the play-off lost to Sweden in November 2017, depriving Italy of the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
‘But it’s a dream that he slowly instilled in our minds, until it became true,’ he added, asked on the UEFA website, three days before Italy won Sunday at Wembley (1-1 ap, 3-2 tab) the second Euro in its history after 1968.
More than 60,000 spectators will be allowed in the Wembley stands for the semi-finals and the final
The victory at the Euro comes first of all to reward Mancini’s patient reconstruction work, carried out with the support of many of his former partners in Sampdoria, including his ‘quasi-brother’ Gianluca Vialli. In May 2018, however, few of them were in a hurry to take over from Gian Piero Ventura after the fall in dams. Carlo Ancelotti, first choice, had politely declined and Mancini, then coach of Zenith Saint Petersburg and arguably the most motivated for the post, was appointed.
For the supporters, seeing the ‘Nazionale’ win again was already a first satisfaction, during qualifying without false note for the Euro (ten victories in ten games), a feat that Italy was the only one to succeed outside of Belgium .
Added to this was the surprise of seeing her play well, run everywhere and score goal after goal during a first round overflight against Turkey (3-0), Switzerland (3-0) and Wales ( 1-0).
But with the knockout matches, the supporters have also discovered that this team without much international experience can also withstand the tension of cut-outs (2-1 after extra time in 8it isagainst Austria). And even give the lesson, in envy and play, to Belgium, among the favorites after leaving the road in France. And so on until this reversal of the situation against England.
Mancini kept repeating it during the Euro, and again on Saturday on the eve of the final, his eye sparkling under his graying wick: he wants his players to have fun and his Nazionale to be ‘entertaining’.
Straight like an ‘i’ on the edge of the field, Mancini speaks regularly to his players to replace them or advise them to move with a simple gesture. With the certainties acquired in twenty years of work and titles galore won in almost all the clubs he has coached (Fiorentina, Lazio, Inter, Manchester City, Galatasaray).
A young team without superstars
Under Roberto Mancini, the Italy team without a big star relies on a perfect balance between a solid defense – experience of the Chiellini-Bonucci duo and vigilance of the intractable goalkeeper Donnarumma – and a protean attack, able to pierce full axis with Barella and Insigne, like flying on wings with Chiesa and Spinazzola. In the middle, the Marco Verratti-Jorginho duo rakes and is crucial to the development of the game.
Roberto Mancini sur Gianluigi Donnarumma
‘He is the best goalkeeper in the world for me. Or else one of the two best ‘
– ULTRA PARISIEN (@ULTRAPARIISIEN)July 4, 2021
Italy, above all, kept its strength and enthusiasm, even against the first in the world rankings, which silenced the last reservations of those who pointed out the relative weakness of the opponents so far.
Roberto Mancini especially likes to build his teams based on young talent. Since taking over the team, he has lined up 63 different players and made 33 of them start. Among them are the now almost immovable starter Nicolò Barella, the Parisian Moise Kean or Domenico Berardi, Stefano Sensi, Alessandro Bastoni, Manuel Locatelli and Emerson Palmieri. Sometimes Mancini takes them to the cradle, without even the young nuggets having played in Serie A matches, like Nicolò Zaniolo or Sandro Tonali, who have been called up at 19 and 20 respectively.
The former striker also likes to rotate his workforce. He is the only manager to have used 25 of the 26 players at his disposal, even going so far as to bring in his second goalkeeper, Salvatore Sirigu, against Wales late in the game. A symbolic playing time offered which can be explained by his personal story: Mancini had always experienced as a tear the fact of not having played a single minute of the World Cup-1990 organized by Italy, third in this competition.
Renewed until 2026
Proof of the satisfaction offered by the coach, the Italian federation renewed his contract until 2026 even before the start of the Euro.
At Wembley, this ‘temple of football’, as the Italian coach respectfully calls it, he finally lifted the Henry-Delaunay Trophy, 10 years after an FA Cup lifted in the same place.
Nine years after its last Euro final, lost in 2012 against Spain (4-0), the Nazionale returns home with a new title and even more certainties than at the start of the tournament. Under the leadership of Roberto Mancini, it has moved back into the big leagues and, next year, it will inevitably be eyeing the World Cup in Qatar.