Saturday May 25 2019
Mancini: 'Italy ahead of schedule'

Roberto Mancini assures Italy will “have our say at Euro 2020 with attacking football that is entertaining and gratifying. We are ahead of schedule.”

The Azzurri have started Euro 2020 qualifying with victories over Finland and Liechtenstein, but visit Greece on June 8 and host Bosnia on June 11.

“There are teams that are ahead of us. France, first and foremost, but none of them have superstars to make the difference,” Mancini told La Stampa newspaper.

“So if we do good work, if we play attacking football that is entertaining and gratifying, then results are possible. We are Italy, we can be like France and Spain in opening up a new era. It’s a good moment in our football.

“If we were to face France now, they’d beat us, but we’ll be able to have our say once Euro 2020 comes around.

“We have some real young talents coming through. Moise Kean is only 19 years old, so it’s up to him, but he can become an extraordinary striker. I sometimes use him on the wing, but if he does what he needs to, then he’ll be a centre-forward.

“Then there are Sandro Tonali, Nicolò Barella, Gianluca Mancini and Nicolò Zaniolo. They look pretty talented to me and also physically strong, so we can have our say.

“There is the issue of experience, because in my day, we’d reach their age and already have three years of Serie A football under our belts. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to see their reactions and naivety. Take Armando Izzo, for example. He had a great season with Torino, but I was struck by his attitude when he arrived for his first Italy training session. It was as if he had come to Disneyland.”

Euro 2020 becomes a huge test for the Nazionale, who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup under Giampiero Ventura.

Mancini took over a year ago and had mixed results, guiding the Azzurri to second place in their Nations League group behind Portugal.

“Our draw at San Siro against Portugal, even though we didn’t score, was our best performance of my tenure. I am most pleased with the fact we became a team so very quickly. I thought it would’ve taken longer and been more of a struggle, but thanks to the lads, we are ahead of schedule.

“My idea was originally to target success in the 2022 World Cup, but now we can challenge for Euro 2020.”

It’s not entirely an enjoyable experience for former Inter, Manchester City and Galatasaray Coach Mancini.

“The toughest part is the long months without being able to train the players. I think of ideas and then can’t apply them. It is a sacrifice, having so little time with the squad, but we hope to get more work done once the Euros come around.”

Mancini left out Torino hitman Andrea Belotti and Marseille striker Mario Balotelli, but could they be recalled?

“For Mario, the doors are potentially open. I will call up Belotti. The issue is, we play a certain type of football and need a certain type of player to fit in with that. Belotti has other qualities and characteristics, but if he scores goals…”

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