If it feels like it’s been quite awhile since you’ve seen the Italian National Team take the pitch, that’s because it has been: the Azzurri haven’t played in nearly ten months since they completed Euro 2020 qualifying on November 18, 2019.
In that match, the Azzurri ran roughshod in a 9-1 victory over Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Armenia. That win allowed Roberto Mancini’s side to finish a perfect 10-0-0 in qualifying. The Azzurri were looking good heading into the 2020 calendar year with the Euros on the horizon.
We all know what has happened since then. With the shut down, all of Italy’s friendlies from the spring were cancelled, not mention Euro 2020 becoming Euro 2021.
With so much time between matches, there’s no telling what kind of form Mancini’s side will bring into the opening weekend of the second edition of the UEFA Nations League. In this version of the competition, Italy finds itself in a group with Bosnia & Herzegovina, Netherlands, and Poland, so there will certainly be some stern tests for Mancini’s side, which didn’t face the toughest competition in its Euro qualifying group.
Facing the likes of Netherlands, Poland, and Bosnia should prove to be a good litmus test for Mancini’s relatively young side. The experience gained from these matches is something that will be invaluable come Euro 2021 next June.
Mancini will likely use these matches to help him whittle down his 23 man roster for Euro 2021, as well as help him determine a starting XI. Therefore, there should be plenty of players with something to prove for the Azzurri, and hose players will get their first shot to impress Mancini since November today against BIH.
In the opening match, the Azzurri will face Edin Dzeko’s Bosnia & Herzegovina—a side which Italy has a recent history with. Italy faced Bosnia twice during Euro 2020 qualifying: a 2-1 victory back in June 2019 behind goals from Lorenzo Inisgne and Marco Verratti. Then on match day 9 in November, the Azzurri got goals from Francesco Acerbi, Insigne, and Andrea Belotti to win 3-0 in Zenica.
Dzeko, of course, will be the biggest threat to an Italy victory. The Roma striker scored Bosnia’s only goal during the previous two meetings. As Roma fans can attest to, he is an omnipresent threat for opposing defenses and has familiarity with Italy’s central defense from playing in Serie A.
Besides Dzeko, there are plenty of other players for Romanisti to keep an eye on as Gianluca Mancini, Leonarado Spinazzola, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Bryan Cristante, Nicolò Zaniolo, and Alessandro Florenzi were all called up by Mancini. So, you may want to tune in and see what kind of role Paulo Fonseca’s troops can carve out on the international scene.