Friday November 16 2018
Mancini: ‘Important to play youngsters’

Italy CT Roberto Mancini defends his decision to play young players in the Nations League - “if you never play it’s difficult”.

The Azzurri can still qualify for the finals if they beat Portugal tomorrow night, but they then need Poland to get a result in the final match.

That predicament is due to a slow start which saw a draw with the Poles, and defeat in Lisbon with a team featuring the likes of Manuel Lazzari, Mattia Caldara and Bryan Cristante.

“Clearly we’d like to advance to the final four,” Mancini said in his pre-match Press conference.

“In the first few games we had to give young players a chance to play important games like the one in Portugal, even to make mistakes.

“If you never play it’s difficult for a youngster. Our objective is the European Championships, so you need to think that in two years these young lads will have more games under their belts.

“I think things have gone well, it’s clear that morale was at rock bottom after failing to reach the World Cup.

“It’ll take time, no-one has a magic wand, but we’re improving game-by-game.

“There are 50 million people willing you to win, so it’s normal that there’s pressure, but I’ve experienced that over the years.”

Italy have never lost at San Siro, but are returning for the first time since the 0-0 draw with Sweden which saw them fail to reach the World Cup.

“San Siro has always responded well to the national team.

“The national team never died, I remember the two games very well and the national team deserve to advance.

“It’s football, it happens to all national teams, and last year it happened to ours. Of course, going to the World Cup is very important for us.

“We’ve rolled up our sleeves, but there’s still a long road ahead.”

It’s expected that Lazio striker Ciro Immobile will start tomorrow.

“Immobile has a very good chance of starting,” Mancini confirmed.

“He plays in a different way for his club, but he has quality and that’s important. He’s someone who scores goals and that’s what we’re looking for.

“He’s in pole position but I don't think there’s a big difference, we have 24 hours to decide and we’ll do it tomorrow.

"He's smart, he's quick and he has an eye for goal, so if he plays he needs to play the way he knows how, sticking close to the two centre-backs."

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