One of the big criticisms of the Azzurri in recent years has been the seeming reluctance to incorporate new blood into the side. Newly hired Roberto Mancini quickly moved to mend that criticism, with the likes of Lorenzo Insigne, Jorginho and Federico Bernardeschi becoming starters.
That may be a change, but there is one constant: no matter who seems to play in the XI, the performances still remain uninspiring and often clueless, whilst the results often correlate.
The first half against Ukraine started well both Bernardeschi and Leonardo Bonucci having chances inside 10 minutes. Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine quickly settled though and became a resilient, well coached defensive side. Gaps in the defence were hard to come by but after 55 minutes, Federico Bernardeschi came up with a blistering shot from outside the box that beat Andriy Pyatov at this near post.
You would have thought that Bernardeschi’s goal would give Italy some confidence considering they seem to lack it desperately under Mancini and Giampiero Ventura before him. However, the psyche of the team remains just as frail as it has been the past few years.
Midfielder Ruslan Malinovskiy scored the equaliser just seven minutes later, following a Mykyta Burda knock-on from a corner where Italy seemed to be seriously lacking attention and organisation. Both sides had a chance to steal the game but in truth neither side had the quality to do it convincingly as it finished 1-1.
Historically and more recently, under Antonio Conte, defending has been Italy’s strongpoint. With past sides, scoring one goal was enough to win the game as the defence and the defensive coaching from the CT would see them through.
However, at this point it seems to be more of a confidence and self-belief issue for La Nazionale. Chiellini and Bonucci seem like different players once they play internationally, as do the majority of the squad. Mancini’s reign started well with a win over Saudi Arabia, but there have been no wins since and it’s clearly damaging the players’ mentality.
The lack of integration of young players over the years seems to now be catching up with Italy. Their two most capped players in this squad are Chiellini and Bonucci with 98 and 82 caps respectively. Then there’s a massive drop off to Ciro Immobile with 34. It’s not a surprise that Italy look so disjointed.
Credit does have to go to Roberto Mancini, he gave the people what they wanted and tried to bring new blood into the side. The only issue is it doesn’t matter which players came into the side, this seems to be a period for Il Azzurri where talent is desperately lacking. The players are of course talented enough to beat lesser sides such as Ukraine, but it really does have to be noted that this is not a side as talented as the successful ones before.
Italy’s next game is a visit to Poland for the UEFA Nations League where a loss could place them with an almost impossible hill to climb to get to the next round.
Perhaps Mancini will have a few tricks up his sleeve but Italy’s chances for this one look slim, which is all you need to know about this Italian national team.