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Italy

Euro 2020 Team Analysis

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Gli Azzuri

The quadrennial championship in Russia in 2018 didn’t have the ‘Blues’ for the first time in the nation’s history since 1958. They are the second most successful country in the sport with 4 stars adorning the Azzuri crest and their absence in the 2018 World Cup was termed as a ‘glitch in the football matrix’. The Euros has become the perfect platform for Italy to restore their national pride and they will hope to make themselves credible contenders at Europe’s premier International tournament. Roberto Mancini had taken over as the national manager in 2018 and has meticulously rebuilt the team from ruins giving the Italians a new identity and promise.

Italy had qualified for the European Championship with 3 games to spare and had won every game in the group stage to top their group. Italy bossed the group stage with 10 wins, having scored 37 goals. They have a goal difference of 33 which is 2nd only to Belgium in the competition. They have been unbeaten in 25 games following the World Cup qualifiers equaling the record of the 2006 World Cup-winning side managed by Marcello Lippi. Italy has won the tournament only once in 1968 during their first appearance in the competition. They finished second in their 2000 and 2012 campaigns and were semi-finalists during the 1980 and 1988 editions of the tournament. Their most recent campaign resulted in them reaching the quarter-finals where they lost on penalties to Germany.

Manager

Roberto Mancini had had a bright managerial career and has been known to be ‘winning silverware for fun’ according to his contemporaries. He was the manager of Manchester City when they won their first Premier League title and also had his hands on the FA Cup before leaving England in 2013. He has also been the manager of Inter Milan (twice), Zenit St Petersburg, Galatasaray, Lazio, and Fiorentina. The tactician has enjoyed a great deal of success as the national manager in the past three years and has set the record for most victories in a single calendar year and boasts a win ratio that is second-best of any Italian manager.

Provisional Squad for the Euro

Goalkeepers: Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino)

Defenders: Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Alessandro Florenzi (Paris), Manuel Lazzari (Lazio), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta)

Midfielders: Nicolò Barella (Inter), Gaetano Castrovilli (Fiorentina), Bryan Cristante (Roma), 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), Vincenzo Grifo (Freiburg), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Moise Kean (Paris), Matteo Politano (Napoli), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo)

The manager will announce his final squad on Sunday 30th May 2021.

Key players

Gianluigi Donnaruma

The No 1 jersey of the Italian side was illustriously adorned by Gianluigi Buffon for over two decades and with 176 caps and the 2006 World Cup to boot, it’s hard to imagine anyone ever coming close to his legacy. Luckily for Italian football, this gargantuan void has been more or less filled out by Donnarumma the AC Milan shot-stopper and vice-captain, who has already established himself as a world-class goalkeeper at 22 years of age. Donnaruma shows so much promise and leadership at this age and is set out to be one of the best goalkeepers in the tournament.

Nicolo Barella

The Serie A champions of 2020/21 have had Nicolo Barella as one of their undisputed heroes in their title campaign. He has been the complete package and one of the most important players across the whole Italian squad. He has been compared to the likes of Steven Gerrard in offering a complete midfield package to the team. Barella is a player who exhibits class and is supposed to be an integral part of Mancini’s squad.

Predicted Lineup and Formation

Mancini’s philosophy has largely been based on a 4-3-3 formation. He has consistently used a triple attack with a lead striker supported through the flanks. The midfield usually comprises a holding midfielder, a playmaker, and a textbook central midfielder. The defence has been mainstream and is heavily dependent on the versatility and ‘Italian’ defensive flair supported by the overlapping wingbacks.

Donnaruma is expected to start at goal with Bonucci leading the defence alongside Francesco Acerbi. Spinazzola and Florenzi will probably occupy the wing-back positions. The midfield is set to be controlled by Locatelli and Marco Veratti alongside Nicolo Barella. Lorenzo Insigne and Frederico Chiesa are expected to fill the flanks of the attack spearheaded by Ciro Immobile. Emerson and Jorginho are dropped out of the preliminary squad because they are a part of the Chelsea squad that is set to face Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League final. They are expected to be included in Mancini’s final squad. Their addition would mean Jorginho starting ahead of Locatelli or Veratti and Emerson being preferred over Spinazzola.

 

Formation: 4-3-3

Strengths

The Blues have a new generation of talents who have the thirst to prove themselves on an international stage. There is a promising crop of youngsters that are in contention for the squad alongside players who have been a constant presence in the European competitions. The Italians will surely be an engaging side that would threaten the favourites of the tournament with an overwhelming squad filled with talent and composure. Italy has a myriad of options in the midfield that oozes talent and creativity. This builds on as one of the major strengths of the Italian side. The philosophy of football that is implemented by the manager has been the highlight of their unbeaten run in the international competitions and the heavy rotation of players hasn’t affected the team’s style of play or their winning record. Tactically Mancini has been superior in his international exploits. The experience and winning mentality of the manager is an added advantage for the team as they try to re-establish themselves back among the best.

Weaknesses

An aged experienced defence that includes Bonucci and Chiellini – ‘the Italian wall’, can turn out to be their weakness. To compete against a fast-paced opposition would be a great deal of concern with this defence. Their weak centre-back spot is the main source of concern for the Italian fans even though the team has a squad filled with young talents. Players like Bastoni have been emerging as strong contenders for a place in the starting lineup, but their international inexperience is something of a weakness that the manager has to deal with. The absence of quality left-backs in the squad is another weakness that troubles the Blues.

Conclusion

Italy has transformed itself from a struggling side in world football to a formidable one in a matter of 3 years. They have become a strong contender in the UEFA Euro 2020 after exhibiting a blemishless performance in the group stage, Nations League as well as the World Cup qualifiers. Only Belgium has had better performance over this period in comparison. The Blues are undeniably the favourites to top their group. Italy is not a favourite to win the competition at the moment but the tournament has become a stage for the Azzuri to create history and not just bask upon their glorious past. Roberto Mancini’s side is expected to provide a challenge for the current leaders of world football and may even arguably be a title contender in this edition.

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