Saturday June 8 2019
Our Big Fat Greek Victory

This was as close to a perfect Italy performance as we’ve seen for many years and Giancarlo Rinaldi is relishing the Athens triumph.

If a Coach is measured by his ability to get his more surprising decisions right, Roberto Mancini is definitely a man on the up. There were those who thought this first mildly testing away tie might trip up his resuscitation of the Azzurri. They will have to wait until at least another game to puncture the feel-good factor he has begun to inflate Italian chests.

Eyebrows were raised at the inclusion of Lorenzo Insigne - he responded with a trademark swerving strike. Some winced at the appearance of Emerson Palmieri on the team-sheet - but he was a constant threat down a left flank as enticingly unencumbered as a Sunday morning motorway. Even Andrea Belotti - despite the lack of a goal - was back to his troublesome best, setting up Nicolò Barella. Three out of three for Mancio on that front.

The job was done for him by half-time against a Greek side that looked as limp and lifeless as month-old moussaka. They started submissively and only got more timid as the night went on. You got the feeling they would have happily retired to some taverna to drown their sorrows before an hour had passed. By then, Giorgio Chiellini’s troops already had their mind on Tuesday’s clash with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

This was the kind of dominant, controlled and clinical display that Azzurri fans thought they might never see again. Yes, there were slip-ups late in the game which a better team would punish, and that gives them something to work on. However, even the most churlish would have to admit that the good far outweighed the bad in Athens. At least, I like to kid myself they would.

The quality of Marco Verratti and Jorginho in midfield was delightful at times, with Barella adding cutting edge to their beautiful brushstrokes. The attitude - for most of the match - was impeccable and always enterprising.

The blemish, if there was one, was perhaps to be a little bit too presumptuous late in the game and fail to press home their advantage and sometimes dwell on the ball too much at the back. But, to these eyes anyway, that seemed like a small criticism when you think about where the boys in blue have come from. They were not perfect, for sure, but they were a lot closer to it than we had got used to under Giampiero Ventura.

There were things to work on, no doubt. The attack was a bit lopsided - predominantly down the left and much less down the flank occupied by Alessandro Florenzi and Federico Chiesa. There was the odd overindulgence at the back, which the world’s finer sides would make you pay for. And, perhaps, there was a bit of relaxation after the third goal went in that the very finest teams might not have allowed themselves. It all felt like small fry really, though.

Moaners will always moan, of course, and they are perfectly entitled to do so. It is true that this new Italy hasn’t beaten much yet, but three wins out of three have put them well on the road to Euro 2020, which is a major tonic after the pain of watching a World Cup as spectators.

Those of us with a sunnier disposition, however, are allowed to enjoy the wonderful warmth that a resounding victory provides. No cause to get carried away - for sure - but no need to dwell on the negatives either. Mancini would have liked a fourth goal - wouldn’t we all? - but this was no night to be too downbeat.

There will be time for grumbling, no doubt, so let’s just congratulate the Azzurri on getting everything pretty much right for once.

Have your say...
MM - what squad depth! We can only hope these players continue to develop. Heading over this weekend for the U-21s - hopefully Kean Chiesa Barella Mancini can lead us to a trophy! Forza!
on the 11th June, 2019 at 1:58pm
I don't rate Izzo, Politano, Grifo and Quag is too old.

23 man squad for Euro 20 - Brackets are reserves:

GK X3: Donnarumma, Sirigu, Meret (OR Plizzari / Audero)

CB X4: Romagnoli, Caldara, Chellini, Bonucci (OR Mancini)

WB X3: Emerson, Spinazzola, Calabria (Adjapong, Conti)

CM X6: Veratti, Jorginho, Barella, Tonali, Sensi, Pellegrini (Crystante)

WF X4: Chiesa, Bernardeschi, Zaniolo, Insigne (OR Berardi / Orsolini)

CF X3: Kean, Balotelli, Belotti (OR Cutrone / Pellegri / Pinamonti)
on the 10th June, 2019 at 3:53pm

So Harry Kane is that good that he went off injured during the Champions league Quarter final at 0-0 with Man City in the first leg at home and then Spurs scored and won the game, went to Eithad and scored 3, went to Amsterdam and scored 3. He was back for the final and Nations L and scored 0.

Immobile has amazing stats too does that make him fit the bill?

What have England and Spurs won, and what has Kane ever done in a big game when actually it counts to be considered that level...
on the 10th June, 2019 at 3:38pm
When everyone is fit my squad would be :

Donnarumma, Sirigu, Cragno

Bonucci, Chiellini, Romagnoli, Rugani, Caldara, Palmieri, Izzo, Mancini, Spinazzola, De Sciglio, Conti, Florenzi.

Barella, Di Lorenzo, Cristante, Bernardeschi, Jorginho, Verratti, Sensi, Pellegrini, Zaniolo, Politano, Tonali.

Belotti, Chiesa, Orsolini, Grifo, Insigne, Kean, Quagliarella, Pavoletti, Balotelli, Cutrone.

Any thoughts?
on the 10th June, 2019 at 10:28am
Really hope under 20s win world cup and same with under 21 euros. We need to start winning tournaments, it might seem strange but I am fed up of losing finals, the under 17s have lost 2 consecutive finals and under 19 lost final last year. Our record in finals is terrible, we often play really great then lose in the final. I hope we can take the final step in these 2 tournaments and win them. We have a lot of talent in all age catergories, the issue is getting playing time.
on the 10th June, 2019 at 10:19am
I thought the performance was excellent, yes Greece where poor but you can only beat whats in front of you. The only criticism is we took our foot of the gas a bit and made some mistakes defensively in the second half which could have resulted in a goal against, also we should have scored more goals, although credit to the Greece keeper he made at least 4 really top saves. Feeling really excited for the first time in years about the future and cant wait till Tuesdays game.
on the 10th June, 2019 at 10:15am
I wanted Mancini, I am glad he's doing well, I believe in hima and this team. The difference since he took over...
on the 10th June, 2019 at 9:25am
Err... Mick M. Harry Kane's stats are as follows: Club football - 180 goals in 318 appearances, while at international level he's notched up 22 goals in 38 games. I'm not saying he's top of the tree but if we can get a player in an Azzurri shirt with those stats (or even close) then we will win something. Period.
on the 9th June, 2019 at 5:01pm

Harry Kane? He's so overrated. Did nothing in CL final, nothing in the Nations League. When it counts he's average, he has no pace. All his WC goals were against weak opposition, three were penalties and one was a deflection. We don't need Kane.

We need to start Kean, and then have 2 to as back up from Balotelli, Belotti, Cutrone, Pellegri (when fit) Pinamonti.

We're in a good place upfront, Mancini just needs to get rid of Quag (too old) Provoletti, Immobile and please no more Zaza.
on the 9th June, 2019 at 4:01pm
Chiellini was part of the WC14 failure too, but we don't discredit him. Insigne actually only made 1 sub appearance against Costa Rica that tourney. At Euro 2016 he made 3 sub appearances and played well against Spain and Germany. Everyone played average for Ventura and everyone knew it was madness to leave Insigne out vs Sweden.
If he continues to score and prove himself under Mancini he should play.
Berna may even do well in the midfield 3. Maybe Berna-Verratti-Barella?
on the 9th June, 2019 at 2:56pm
Very encouraging. Belotti was a real pest for the Greek defenders. Give him a few more games to develop his chemistry with the rest of the team and I can see us going up another level. The only, slight, negative for me was Chiesa. He looks to be yet another one of those players that is full of running, but lacks composure and look like a headless chicken, the closer he gets to goal. Orsolini impressed me a lot more than the Viola man over the past few months.
on the 9th June, 2019 at 1:11pm
I still believe Kean should be the starting centre forward for this team. it is good to see that Italy now has so many options in attack. that will be crucial going forward.
on the 9th June, 2019 at 9:20am
Good win but yet again after going into a big lead in the first half we don't continue scoring in the second.It happens too often.
on the 9th June, 2019 at 8:13am
I wasn’t 100% Mancini was the man you the rebuilding of the azzuri thought he would be to defensive but he is doing a great job slowly rebuilding and making us good to watch again.

I thought it would be a tricky game last night that we would scrap and nick a 1-0 but I can’t remember seeing us totally kill a game of in 1st half like that before very impressive I also like that he was angry that we didn’t keep pushing and not let Greece back in all good signs

Early days but this is good :)
on the 9th June, 2019 at 7:33am
I think we are definitely back as a world player and we're probably not that far away from being a major force in the game again. The midfield needs a tweak with players who are going to move the ball a lot quicker; too many balls back to defence for my liking. But more important than that, we need a credible centre forward who is going to score one in two. At the moment, our forwards need to three or four chances to score - I hate to say it but we need a Harry Kane!
on the 9th June, 2019 at 7:13am
Romagnoli 24 had the same stats as Van Dijk 28 three quarters into this season - Van Dijk looks like he might win the Ballon Dor, on the other hand Romagnoli remains an unused sub for us?

I'm a Juve fan but Romagnoli should be starting. At every tournament Bonucci and Chellini have played for Italy they've looked knackered by the knockout stages. At 33 and 35 next year after a long season with Juve they might be our downfall.

Love Chellini - Bonucci (overrated) it's time for Romagnoli
on the 9th June, 2019 at 12:30am
Berna is 24 and has never played a major tournament for Italy, he plays for a winning team alongside Ronaldo and has kept Dybala out.

Insigne is 28 had 2 major tournaments plus was involved in the failed WC campaign only getting dropped for Sweden because he was average in the qualifiers. Used to love insigne BUT he hasn't done anything for Italy despite given the chance. One goal doesn't change it.

Berna isn't Salah BUT plays a different style to the one we expect of Insigne and he's young.
on the 9th June, 2019 at 12:16am
Why is it that Insigne gets measured up to Hazard and Mane but not Bernadeschi. Fede is no Salah either. I'm not saying he should be untouchable but Insigne gets too much criticism. I don't see what Berna has done, for club or country, to be placed above Lorenzo.
At the end of the day both will get their chances and whoever perform better will start.
on the 8th June, 2019 at 10:26pm
Very positive performance. Should have been 5 or 6. Emerson really staked his claim for the LB position. Belotti too for CF. Chiesa was quite and wow what a howler miss.
Bonucci, despite his goal, really was shaky for me. Romagnoli is the better defender but him and Chiello are both lefties. Mancini probably won't break up the Juve CBs.
For me the midfield still misses some dynamism. Barella-Verratti-Zaniolo is what I want to see.
on the 8th June, 2019 at 10:22pm
on the 8th June, 2019 at 10:13pm
Wince at Emerson? Almost everyone agrees he is our best left back.

Definitely our best midfield trio right now, Tonali will probably take Jorginho's place in a few years.

Seeing Romagnoli, Zaniolo, Kean not playing at all seems odd. Three golden players of the new generation (despite Rom being 24), I get Chellini and Bonucci's chemistry but they are 32 & 34.

Chiesa needs to move to a big club that's all he lacks, when he does and plays CL he'll be our star attacker (hopefully alongside Kean)!
on the 8th June, 2019 at 10:07pm
We all know we have strength in depth. Good performance. BUT squad could be better overall with the players not selected.

Insigne needs to do more than he's doing, we use him in a Hazard / Salah / Mane / Dybala role but he miles off any of those players, for one he's not quick nor strong on the ball. Can he do it against big nations, can he win us a semi / final? I doubt it.

As a sub insigne is suitable BUT Bernadeschi should be ahead of him now and Zaniolo when he's ready.
on the 8th June, 2019 at 9:59pm
Why would anyone wince at emerson being on the starters sheet? He was the best LB in serie A before his injury and is now finally coming back to his old form. He;s far better than biraghi who's a poor mans grosso. Mancini needs to give Romagnoli a starting place as he;s a better defender than bonucci at this point and has a higher ceiling than he ever did.

Not a fan of chiesa these days. Lacks agility, which is odd as his dad has plenty of that and he just isn't a killer in front of goal.
on the 8th June, 2019 at 9:47pm
A fine performance that we Azzurri fans have been waiting for. It's true that the quality of opponent has not been great but I wouldn't consider Sweden to be heads and shoulders above this Greek squad. The Azzurri looked nothing short of brilliant today and we finally have something to be excited about. Forza Azzurri!!
on the 8th June, 2019 at 9:42pm

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