The summer international season will kick off this month with a wide array of competitions including the Women’s and U20 World Cups, U21 Euros, Copa America, and Gold Cup. While the senior Azzurri squad won’t be involved in a major tournament, Italy still has some important matches to play in the build up to Europe’s next big men’s event: Euro 2020. The Azzurri will continue their qualifying campaign on Saturday with a trip to Athens; one of the toughest tasks of this qualifying cycle.
Robert Mancini’s Azzurri side will look to pick up right where it left off in March, when Italy beat Finland 2-0 and Liechtenstein 6-0. It was a perfect start for a young side looking to build momentum in its quest to begin a new Azzurri era. After March’s qualifiers, Italy finds itself top of Group J on six points, followed closely behind Greece and Bosnia and Herzegovina; each on four points.
Greece vs. Italy: June 8th. 20:45 CET/ 2:45 EST. Athens, Greece. TV: ESPN+
A win for the Azzurri in Athens would give them a fairly comfortable five point cushion over their Mediterranean neighbors. Additionally, it would serve as another confidence booster for Mancini’s youthful side before Bosnia comes to Turin on Tuesday.
The Greeks are generally a solid defensive side, who don’t score a ton; akin to many Italian teams of yesteryear. This could bode well for an Italian side that hasn’t conceded in five straight. Greece will be coming off a friendly defeat to Turkey over the weekend by the score of 2-1; thanks in part to a lovely Cengiz Ünder rocket. It will be interesting to see if that extra game time will give Greece any kind of advantage, considering the Azzurri haven’t played together in awhile.
Historically, Italy has been strong against the Greeks with five wins, three draws, and just one loss in nine matches. However, the two sides haven’t met since a 2008 friendly in Athens that ended in a draw. Meanwhile, the Azzurri are unbeaten in their last 32 Euro qualifiers (26 wins, 6 draws) and will look to seven straight Euro qualifiers for the first time ever.
This match could see quite a few Giallorossi players in it. Mancini recently called up a half dozen Roma players. Meanwhile, Greece has Kostas Manolas on its roster. However, only Alesandro Florenzi is slated to start for the Azzurri at right back. The rest of the probable formations can be seen below.