Italy CT Roberto Mancini won’t rule Fabio Quagliarella out of the Euro 2020 squad, much like Antonio Di Natale at Euro 2012. “He’s here on merit.”
The Azzurri maintained their perfect start to Euro 2020 qualifying with a 6-0 victory over Liechtenstein, having beaten Finland 2-0 on Saturday.
This puts them top of Group J, as Greece fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in Bosnia after Miralem Pjanic saw red.
“Finland played a very defensive game against us and totally changed their tactics after 20 games, which means they were afraid of us,” said the Coach in his Press conference.
“The points against Liechtenstein were predictable, but it was right to take the correct approach in both the first and second half. It does make you feel sorry for the other team, but it’s also a matter of respect not to take your foot off the gas and just stop playing.
“We were fairly aggressive throughout and it was important to get a lot of goals under our belts. There has been a detachment between the fans and the Nazionale in recent years, so we must try to feed the love for this team. Hopefully, we’ll always play in packed stadiums going forward.
“Missing out on the World Cup was painful for everyone, from fans to players, reporters to Coaches. It was a disaster for Italy. Everyone hopes the Nazionale can get back to being competitive.
“There are talented young players here with a bright future ahead of them. I am fortunate to be here in my position.”
Quagliarella became the oldest ever player to score in an Italy jersey, aged 36 years and 54 days, somewhat at odds with Mancini’s brief of introducing young talent.
Yet, the Sampdoria striker scored twice and provided an assist for 19-year-old Moise Kean.
“I think it’s good for Italian football to see someone like Quagliarella play with a 19-year-old. Quagliarella is here on merit, not for any other reason. Fabio is a good guy, he’s got a remarkable story behind him and the people love him.”
Mancini was asked if Quagliarella could end up taking the role of Antonio Di Natale at Euro 2012, the veteran hitman who can get goals in tricky situations.
“It’s difficult to say now, but things are going well and he’s in great shape. I think he can keep going like this. Fabio can play football, you know…”
With Kean and Quagliarella shining, is there any room for Mario Balotelli to return after his social media rant?
“Mario has to stay calm and get in good shape. You can’t have everyone love you and he’s a public figure, a famous player, so it’s only natural he’s going to get criticised by some.
“We’ll talk about it over the next few months, as don’t forget there’s another three months until the next match. I left some players at home who could come back in, around 15 I am keeping an eye on, so there’s an extended group of 40 players overall.”
With the Under-21 European Championships coming up in June and so many players crossing over between the two levels, Azzurrini Coach Gigi Di Biagio hinted they were discussing a joint Italy training retreat between senior and Under-21 teams.
“We are seeking a date that could suit both parties, so we can evaluate a few youngsters. Maybe one or two days dedicated just to training with younger players.”