Sunday October 14 2018
Impressive Italy worth the wait

Italy may have needed a last-gasp winner to beat Poland on Sunday, but Giancarlo Rinaldi was hugely enamoured by what the Azzurri served up in Chorzow...

If there is going to be a renaissance in Italian football, perhaps it was fitting that it should originate in Florence. After what have seemed like interminable Dark Ages for the Azzurri, they finally delivered a performance - and result - to provide hope of a brighter future. It was only right that it was Fiorentina full-back Cristiano Biraghi who popped up with a more-than-merited winning goal from a dominant display. That his celebrations honoured Davide Astori only added to the emotion of this late, late victory in Poland.

It is amazing the difference a goal makes, especially one which stubbornly refused to materialise in the previous 91 minutes or so. The play produced by Roberto Mancini’s side had been impressive and enterprising for the majority of this Nations League clash, but without finding the net it would have felt frustratingly incomplete. This result gives the team - and its CT - some precious breathing space.

As always on such occasions, you can make your own judgments about where Italy’s merits end and Poland’s shortcomings begin. The hosts continued the underwhelming football it produced at this summer’s World Cup, despite possessing a more than respectable squad of players. Their visitors - with the neat inter-passing of Jorginho, Marco Verratti, Lorenzo Insigne and the rest - looked streets ahead of their recent performances.

And what to say of Nicolo Barella, a boy who looks born to play in the blue of his country? Mancio has chopped and changed his midfield, with the likes of Roberto Gagliardini and Lorenzo Pellegrini getting their chance, but the Cagliari youngster has seized his opportunity. Little wonder it has sparked the inevitable talk of a big-money transfer to the Premier League. Cue the Roll Out Barella headlines in due course.

This was Italy’s answer to ‘tiki-taka’ for spells of this game with the same infuriating - at times anyway - reluctance to stick the ball in the net. A front line of Insigne and the two Federicos - Bernardeschi and Chiesa - guarantees movement, trickery and skill but, unfortunately, not goals. The number of chances spurned - not only by the attack but by the whole team - was starting to get worryingly high. before Biraghi finally broke the deadlock. There was always the danger that Gianluigi Donnarumma might get caught on by one of the very rare Polish breaks.

It would be foolish to think that - on the back of a decent start to their Ukraine friendly and a last-gasp victory here - all the Azzurri’s troubles are over. Mancini himself was quick to point out as much in his post-match interviews and recognise there was still work to do. Nonetheless, his passionate celebration of the winning goal underlined just how important he knew these three points were. There is still an improbable outside chance of winning the group but, at least, the ghost of relegation has been sent packing.

This first competitive win in what has felt like a lifetime was a vital tonic, even if it should not disguise the hard graft that lies ahead. At last we saw Italy go out and boss a game, play nice football and create chances with a new generation of players. All is not perfect yet, just as all hope was not lost before but the future definitely looks brighter. The team finally showed an identity, character and delivered a result. It’s still only a small step but - given what has gone before - any progress feels like a giant stride.

We had almost forgotten what nights like this feel like. Let’s savour it and hope there are more to come against tougher opposition in the games ahead.

Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports.

Have your say...
On that performance,it will not surprise me if we win the group. I have always stated that we are on the right path and we are. Florenzi, Jorginho, Verratti and Barella are all superb and if they are fit, they must play at all costs. Cannot wait for Spinazzola to come back from injury.The futre is bright, the future is Azzurro! Bravo Roberto Mancini, continua su questa strada.
on the 18th October, 2018 at 12:40pm
The midfield did look better but remember that Poland sucked in the WC also so I wouldn't get carried away as the opposition is questionable. In any event I did like the way Italy played and they are on the right path although still tough times but they are playing correctly to their potential. Concerns remain though, only 1 goal after 90 minutes and wasn't Verratti who lost the ball and Poland almost capitalized on the counter?
on the 17th October, 2018 at 12:06am
Everything and everyone was good except insigne and bernardeschi. The way they slowed down counter attacks, their selfishness, and the poor finishing almost cost us. Now I know both won't be sitting but I'm tired of seeing insigne start. He doesn't play well for us. But if we're to play with a trident I'd like to see insigne balotelli chiesa. If not balotelli, cutrone definitely has shown he's a great goal scorer.
on the 16th October, 2018 at 2:45pm
That midfield looked great, just hope Verratti can stay healthy. Also pretty excited to see Cutrone fit into this squad.
on the 16th October, 2018 at 2:29pm
Cant believe people are still calling for Conte or disregarding Mancini after hes made only positive steps so far. Conte can get the best out of his teams but hes part of the reason we are where we are. Prandelli began the rebuilding process for us after 2010 and did mostly a good job, Conte then disregarded all young players for the likes of Parolo, Pelle and Eder all of which would be useless for us going forward. Mancini is trusting youth and doing a fantastic job so far, give him time.
on the 16th October, 2018 at 11:33am
Again and again so dissapointing Poland team Serie A players (but Szczesny) in Zielinski, Linetty and Milik. Congrats for Italy, also some Azzuri luck in Bologna draw 1:1 (unfair penalty as Kuba attacked a ball).
on the 16th October, 2018 at 11:26am
@Anonymous You're right, I did not state my point clearly.
I was trying to get at the timing issue of these articles. I really wish they were switched...i.e. have the courage to express optimism in the midst of a "negative" performance against the Ukraine and prior to the Poland game Or criticize before and even after a win. At least be consistent with the messaging. It is far too easy to criticize when things dont go well and praise when things after a win. It's just lazy imo.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 8:03pm
This was the first game in probably 18 months where I have thought before kick off "I am confident we will win this game". Nice to see our boys playing a modern, high tempo, pressing game. More of the same please going forward!
on the 15th October, 2018 at 7:46pm
@ Maldini's Better Heir

It's almost as though things can change between one game or the next, or that two different writers can have two different takes, you chuntering moron
on the 15th October, 2018 at 7:33pm
What a fantastic and timely performance! Although the goals were still hard to come by, this was the first game in a long time where the Azzurri created clear-cut goalscoring opportunities. The last two games have provided some great confidence going forward! Forza Azzurri!!!
on the 15th October, 2018 at 6:56pm
From "Inexperienced Italy looks disjointed" to "Impressive Italy worth the wait"...wonderful
on the 15th October, 2018 at 5:51pm
yes i was a critic to mancini and azzurri lately, but that is simply because i love azzurri and i want to see them a powerful football team once again, as it has been for some time as an azzurri fan to witness such decline. However, the future is bright, and it is more likely that azzurri shall be where they should be and i must say italy is a powerful football nation. azzurri has the likes of barella, kean, tonali, cutourne etc.certainly the future is so bright. i need to be patient we all must
on the 15th October, 2018 at 5:30pm
Like others I agree that it was the best performance that the Azzurri have produced for a few years. They struggled to score and a last minute goal gave Italy a needed win but the performance was as pleasing as the result. Mancini has already made small steps in the right directions and a few more & we will be up where we belong again. Keeper good, Defence needs a little adjusting, Midfield Good up front is difficult because all 3 played well but The Azzurri could do with a main striker.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 5:12pm
Belotti has had some form issues but he should be back soon, he was brilliant in 2016-17. This 4-3-3 formation may finally click.

And with Jorginho and Verratti in middle, Italy can dominate games with this kind of possession.

Atleast there is a plan now and some style in play. Now Italy needs to work on getting better bench to the starting 11, and also more chances for younger Italian players in Serie A, to be ready for euro 2020 and WC 22.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 4:55pm
I liked how Italy played. It should probably have been 3-0 with some luck (2 times hit the bar) and better finishing.

The midfield was impressive. I saw the praise for Barella, but from what I saw in the match, Verratti finally came on his own, and did the kind of World class performance. When fit, he is really good and will be the key both attacking and defensively.

Bernardeschi needs to work on finishing, and at times a finisher may be needed as how Lasagna gave an assist. I like Belotti too
on the 15th October, 2018 at 4:51pm
They key that most are missing is this: no players and the field who arent good with the ball at their feet. Eg: Immobile/Belotti/Zaza. The last 3 world champions won by having 11 players who have technical skill. Only Biraghi was a weak link in this department. No Gagliardini/Parolo/Darmian to have a weak first touch and lack the vision to make a vertical pass. verratti is underrated not overrated. That one pass between the kind can lead to a chance. I hope Mancini continues to use the false 9.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 4:23pm
This is they way to rebuild from the midfield out and that trio was phenomenal over along with florenzi and biraghi helping it seemed like conte 3-5-2 system. The passing was over 500 and completion was over 70%. With some tweaking in offense and additional subs this can become an unstoppable team. Italy was never known to score more than 2 goals ever so i would not worry for that.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 4:07pm
A great performance from the Italian national football team yesterday.The midfield trio was impressive,especially Jorginho.
If Italy had a world class striker yesterday,they would have thrased Poland.
However i still have my doubts abouts Mancini.I don't think he is the right man to guide Italy back to glory.Conte is the right man for this job.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 3:31pm
We looked great for the first time in a long, long time. If the trio up top can gel it will give us options be it 433 or 4231 with the three behind a conventional 9. With Cutrone developing like he is you wuld back him to finish the chances we had last night, people are also disregarding Belotti too quick. He has just returned from major injuries. Caldara, Romagnoli, Conti, Calabria are all coming through defensively and the midfield finally looked comfortable for the first time without Pirlo.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 3:17pm
@Dan i actually like Bonucci as the mans got skills. My issues are elsewhere. I am not a fan of Berna as like Ayew of Swansea, though skilful expends too much effort on simple things. He always seems to turn into traffic or his touches take him away from danger, terrible on the counter as his numerous touches slow down the attack.He has a good shot on him but that’s about it. I do like the midfield but it will be interesting to see how they cope against better opposition.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 2:33pm
Dan I see what you mean about Bonucci. Questions have been asked since his spell in Milan. But he didn't feel mentally right there.

His passing adds another dimension to the team. It's not just long balls over the back. He has a wide range and is a quarter back style outlet for his midfield to pass back to.

Then you've got the mentality and experience which is key. He's a leader, one of the few Italy has.

As long as he's got a strong defender next to him, it's a balanced partnership.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 12:18pm
Given that they lacked the finishing, clinical player to pop in one or two more of those, why not slot Cutrone in there as a CF to compliment CHiesa and Bernie? Go 3-4-2-1... Florenzi plays further up the pitch, get Romagnioli in there too (Drop Biragghi)...
on the 15th October, 2018 at 11:51am
The spaghetti has finally stuck! As I commented on another blog, this 'suck it and see' style of management from Mancini was pretty fruitless in the last few games. However, last night's game changed all that. We played with flair, a nice tempo and exhibited precision passing at times. All was great but the front line needs to be changed. I've been saying we need a 'big lump' Giroud-type striker to give the more diminutive strikers a chance. Mancini may have found a tasty option in Lasagne!
on the 15th October, 2018 at 11:28am
What do you guys think about Bonucci? With JBV in midfield and the technical quality that they possess, I would like to see a faster, more robust CB in the back 4, one that doesn't try Hollywood passes all of the time. Like David Luiz, I think that he is great in a back 3 (where the third CB can compensate for his lapses), but in a back 4 he can be a disaster waiting to happen. It sounds crazy saying this when you look at his Juve accomplishments, but Juve have the quality to bail him out.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 10:14am
Great performance but we played without an out and out recognised striker/front man?Maybe that's why we struggled to score but a team with Insigne,Chiesa and Bernardeschi is always going to be entertaining.However probably we will beat Portugal but then they will beat Poland anyway so we finish second.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 10:10am
Very encouraging. I wouldn't write off Belotti just yet. He's had a few injury problems over the last 18 months and he's mostly fed off scraps for club & country. With last nights midfield trio supporting him, I am confident that he could become our main man. Plus he has the quality and dynamism to interchange in a front 3.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 9:54am
on the 15th October, 2018 at 7:51am
Very well said Giancarlo. It was a good Italian performance, one that has been missing for some time. Even though we might not win the group, it would be nice to see Italy take the game to Portugal next month and make them have to beat Poland. Certainly restoring some pride and it will hopefully continue.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 7:36am
Part 2 of 2:Spain and Germany didn't rebuild overnight, Mancini took a pay cut to take a job he loved and passionately wanted, that means a lot. I'd rather have the squad he has now than the likes of Eder, Pelle, Parolo and Giaccherini. Enough with the negativity and over reacting, this isn't a small rebuilding task, and it's on the right track. Agree that more youngsters need to be trusted in Serie A though, new modern stadiums too. Forza Italia.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 7:24am
Part 1 of 2: Too many people are far too quick to criticise. Mancini's useless, Italy's finished, poor squad, no Euro 2020 qualification etc. Look at the facts! New manager, new tactics, a lot of new players, many of them young big rebuilding task. We played well against Poland, could have won 4 or 5-0 but got that winning goal in the end. Played well against Ukraine too, just couldn't score. Get behind the team, put in a performance against Portugal and back them for Euro 2020 qualifiers.
on the 15th October, 2018 at 7:20am

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