By Frank Risorto
Roberto Mancini has Italian confidence soaring sky high, and fans of the la Nazionale brimming with enthusiasm, leading into Euro 2020 and given the run the national side has put together over the last two years it’s easy to get swept up in Azzurri fever.
The Azzurri have won 23 out of 32 games under Mancini’s tenure, including 10 wins from 10 Euro 2020 qualifying group matches. The national side cruised through a relatively easy qualifying group with Finland, Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Armenia and Liechtenstein and now Mancini and the Azzurri’s toughest test has arrived.
Mancini’s men are now only a few games of shy of the undefeated record set by Vittorio Pozzo’s side of the 1930s and despite the talk of win streaks, potential Euro success and being tournament dark horses the Azzurri know that finishing anything else but top of their group would be a failure.
The Azzurri are favourites in group featuring Wales, Turkey and Switzerland and find themselves with a huge advantage playing all of their group games in Rome. So where can, and can’t it go wrong for Italy this summer?
Let’s look at the tournament from an Italian fan’s perspective (that’s me!) and see where it can be won and lost for the Azzurri.
Here are my five predictions, good and bad, that no one asked for!
1) Long live Italian defending.
In a tournament where experience will be key, Mancini’s hesitancy to pair either Bonucci or Chiellini with Bastoni in the middle of Italy’s defence at one stage or another in this tournament will prove crucial.
Bastoni was superb for Inter this season between his passing, positioning and defending and should be an automatic selection however given the relatively young age of the Italian side you get the feeling Mancini will start the Juventus combination in game one
Given both Bonucci and Chiellini are no longer automatic starters for their club was both their selections a surprise, no! Was it a gamble to select both, yes! Perhaps the age-old Italian defending dark arts, cough cough, will make an appearance or two this tournament.
Their performances for Juventus this season were on par with Mother Nature picking their pockets and although Mancini found it difficult to ditch the old guard entirely this squad has the transitional look and feel to it.
The decision to take both may be a wise one given the lack of experience in this squad yet I find it difficult to not get the sense that at one stage or another in this tournament we, and Mancini, will regret his decision to start with the two experienced central defenders, if indeed he does.
2) No Italian player will individually score more than 3 goals
Mancini’s 4–3–3 formation has been well defined over the course of his sides Euro 2020 qualifying campaign playing out from the back and aiming to dictate pace.
The revolving door that has become Italy’s starting forward position looks to continue with Italy’s goals coming from all over the field during the qualifying campaign however Insigne and Chiesa look primed to both have big tournaments.
Chiesa’s football progressed in Turin this season and he’ll be looking to make a statement this summer proving he belongs on the world stage.
Insigne in his limited time at Euro 2016 had moments of individual brilliance and will be looking to consistently repeat this at Euro 2020 making the position in Mancini’s front three his own.
This team wasn’t built around a clinical striker leading the line and the qualifying campaign saw goals shared around the side; a trend I think will continue in Euro 2020 for the Azzurri.
If Immobile or Belotti fire up and have the footballing month of their life, proving many wrong that they indeed can score consistently on the international stage, perhaps Mancini can forward to a return to Wembley, where he lost the 1992 European Cup final for Sampdoria against Barcelona.
Both he and Gianluca Vialli, now head of the Italian team delegation, will want to exorcise those demons no doubt!
3) Jorghino will be the star of the tournament
Jorghino will carry over his Champions League and Premier League form into Euro 2020 riding the wave of success. The former Hellas Verona midfielder, who was undoubtedly the star of the show post the Champions League final, is crucial to Mancini’s side both on and off the ball.
The tempo and speed at which Jorghino controls possession, and perfectly complements Nico Barella, proves why he’s so important to the Italian national side.
With question marks surrounding the fitness Marco Verratti the Brazilian-Italian may find himself with a new partner in midfield this tournament with many picking Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli to shine and make his presence felt on La Nazionale.
Locatelli may shine, Barella may take the glory with his never stop playing style, outside of the box wonder-strikes, phenomenal passing ability but without Jorghino being Jorghino it all falls apart.
4) Rotation will play its part
Given the short turnaround between the season and this tournament squad rotation will play a huge factor for Roberto Mancini and his side.
It seems almost criminal to take to Euro 2020 the likes of Andrea Belotti, Andrea Bastoni, Matteo Pessina, Domenico Berardi and Francesco Acerbi and have them sit on the bench all tournament.
You get the sense that the defence will be heavily rotated, the fullbacks as well as in the middle of defence.
Whether Mancini will risk changing his preferred midfield three as the tournament progresses, as well as his front three is another matter.
Given the fact we’ve almost come off two seasons of club football back-to-back though with a squad so strong surely Mancini wouldn’t risk it all on the same eleven for each game, or would he?
5) Italy will win Euro 2020
Ok so if you’re still reading this what else would you expect but my patriotic nature and loyalty to Italian football and the Azzurri to shine through.
I ask you this though, why not?
In a tournament that has seen the likes of Greece, Portugal and Denmark all depart Champions why can’t it be Italy. Just for once why can’t it be Italy?
The last two years have shown anything can happen in football and off the back of Roberto Mancini’s clear direction and idealistic football come July 11 we don’t want to hear the crowd singing White Stripes, we don’t want to see Federico Bernadeschi performing karaoke and we certainly don’t want to see Mancini and Vialli lose another final at Wembley.
We only want to see one thing and that’s Italy crowned European Champions. Italia! Italia! Italia! Italia!