Roberto Mancini’s rebuild of the Italian National Team looks to be moving ahead according to plan. With its win on Saturday in Athens, Italy has won all three of its Euro 2020 qualifiers and leads Group J with nine points. Boasting an impressive +11 goal differential, the Azzurri have kept clean sheets and scored multiple goals in each win; a far cry from the ineptness in front of goal that plagued Gian Piero Ventura’s reign. The clean sheet was the sixth straight for the Azzurri and it’s Italy's seven straight Euro qualifying win.
“What’s changed, above all, is our CT,” Bonucci said at a Press conference.
“He came in with a very precise idea, which has gone on to spread throughout Italian football. Many young players have managed to impose themselves, each giving their own contributions.”
It may be early to call this a rebirth of Italian football just yet, but a group of talented youth is establishing itself as the foundation of this team. Leading that group is Nicoló Barella, who opened the scoring Saturday; his second of qualifying. Barella has established himself as the third member of an impressive midfield trio with Jorginho and Marco Verratti. Italy also got goal contributions from two of its more senior players on Saturday: Lorenzo Insigne and Leonardo Bonucci.
Despite the dominant performance, which saw Italy control 64% of possession and out-shoot the Greeks 10-3 on target, Mancini felt it wasn’t good enough. The CT continues to push his squad to a higher standard, bemoaning the fact that it couldn’t find a fourth goal in the second half.
“The most important aspect now is why didn’t we score a fourth goal in the second half? We should’ve pushed harder, at times sat back and should’ve converted some of the other chances,” said Mancini post match.
Mancini will look for improvements when the Azzurri host Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Juventus Stadium on Tuesday. The Bosnians were shock losers in Finland prior to the Azzurri taking the pitch on Saturday. The Balkans side were without Morales Pjanic in midfield (red card suspension) and managed only one shot on goal the entire match.
Italy v Bosnia-Herzegovina: June 11th. 20:45 CET/ 2:45 EST. Turin, Italy. TV: ESPN2
With the loss Bosnia-Herzegovina now sits joint third Group J with Greece on four points. Meanwhile, Finland surprisingly leapfrogged both sides to move into second on nine points. In spite of this, Italy will be wise not to take Bosnia lightly, as current Roma (soon to be Inter) striker Edin Dzeko will provide the Azzurri backline with its toughest test to date. Mancini warned that his side can’t take the Bosnians lightly despite their shock defeat.
“Bosnia may be coming from a bad defeat, but this will be a different game. They will be motivated to do well. As we didn’t qualify for the last World Cup, we can’t take anything for granted.”
#GreeceItaly 0️⃣-3️⃣— Italy (@azzurri) June 8, 2019
⚽️ 24’ #Barella, 30’ #Insigne, 33’ #Bonucci
The #Azzurri lead Group J on maximum points, with the National Team now set to face Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday in Turin. #EuropeanQualifiers #Euro2020 #VivoAzzurro pic.twitter.com/iigGYHhQdp
However, if Italy can continue its fine form and knock off Bosnia then it can open up a sizable lead over the Balkans side; thought by many to be the biggest threat to Italy winning its qualifying group. A win would keep Mancini’s side on its path of resurgence as it looks to re-establish itself as one of Europe’s alpha males.
ITALY (4-3-3): Sirigu; G.Mancini, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson Palmieri; Barella Jorginho, Verratti; Bernardeschi, Quagliarella, Insigne. Manager: Mancini.
BOSNIA (4-3-2-1): Sehic; Bicakcic, Sunjic, Zukanovic, Civic; Gojak, Pjanic, Saric; Visca, Vrancic; Dzeko. Manager: Prosinecki.