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Tuesday June 11 2019
Bosnia are Italy's toughest test yet

With Italy thriving under Roberto Mancini’s attacking style, Anthony Barbagallo explains Bosnia-Herzegovina will be their hardest challenge yet.

The mood around the Italy camp hasn’t been this elated since the Antonio Conte era at the Euro 2016. In fact, there is currently strong optimism among all fronts of Italian football on the international stage.

The Italy side have ignited the Under-20 World Cup with star striker Andrea Pinamonti. The Azzurre recently performed a monumental upset against the Matildas in the Women’s World Cup. And then there is the U21 Italy side – brimmed with incredible talent – aiming to go all the way on their home turf in the 2019 European Under-21 Championship. So Italian football appears to be making its presence felt on the international stage once again.

In the senior men’s Italian team, the integration of talented youth, mixture of veterans and a new playing identity are all paying dividends for the Azzurri in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign so far. The way the Nazionale has been able to dictate the tempo, score 11 goals and to concede none in their last three Euro qualifiers against Finland, Liechtenstein and Greece should be commended.

However, Mancini’s men cannot afford to fall into the trap of complacency when they take on a problematic Bosnia side later this evening.  

Bosnia-Herzegovina, just like Italy, play in a 4-3-3 formation and like to impose their attacking style of football right from the beginning. Robert Prosinecki’s men also enjoy controlling the midfield through Miralem Pjanic and expose opponent defenders off set-pieces and corner kicks through Edin Dzeko. When the Zmajevi (The Dragons) faced Greece back in March, the Bosnians showed why they are a lethal side in attack by scoring two goals in the space of five minutes.

A decent portion of Bosnia’s players ply their trade in Europe’s elite leagues, including Pjanic and Dzeko playing for two of Serie A’s biggest clubs. There is no doubt that these Bosnian stars will know where to expose Italy’s flaws.

Italian midfielders Jorginho, Marco Verratti and NicolòBarella must ensure that they limit the space for Pjanic to roam in. The Juventus midfielder is the brains for Bosnia in the middle of the pitch – the orchestrator in threading through balls and feeding Dzeko from set-pieces and corner kicks.

With the Azzurri receiving no real goalscoring threats in their last three Euro qualifiers, the Italian defending will need to be well prepared to fend off the substantial aerial threat of Dzeko. As we have seen in Serie A, all the Roma striker needs is one decent cross in the box to head the ball into the net. Italy’s centre-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci must use their physicality to repel the ball from aerial situations in the Italian 18-yard box.

The Italians will also have to keep tabs on Bosnia’s Edin Visca. The right winger is a clinical finisher when given a chance on goal, but his crossing abilities means he will need to be monitored continuously by Italy’s left back, in this case, most likely Emerson Palmieri. 

However, with Bosnia heavily reliant on their star playmaker Pjanic to control the passing game and build up the attacking plays, this could work in favour of Mancini’s men. If the Italian midfield and defence can cut the supply to Bosnia’s forward line and isolate Pjanic from the action, then that could almost allow the Azzurri to dictate the tempo for most of the game.

You could see how much Pjanic’s creativity was missed in Bosnia’s 2-0 loss to Finland this past weekend. Also, without wing-back Sead Kolasinac and Empoli midfielder Rade Krunic, that does take a significant toll on Bosnia’s dynamism, experience and consistency.

Another issue that the Zmajevi currently can’t address is their capitulation in defence, particularly in the second half. In the game against Greece, Bosnia gave up their firm 2-0 lead by losing their tactical structure. During the recent fixture against Finland, the Bosnians were picked apart on the counter-attacks by Finnish striker Teemu Pukki. With Prosinecki’s side sometimes committing too many players up front in attack, the flood gates open.

While Italy are the favourites due to home advantage and recent form, the Azzurri cannot afford to snub this capable Bosnian side, who are aiming to qualify for their first ever Euro competition. This fixture will arguably be the toughest contest for the Nazionale so far – possibly giving the Italians the motivation to extend their five-point gap to eight over the Bosnians in Group J.

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Have your say...
It's not that I want to see defensive football, I want to see us winning again, talent is important only if it helps but not hinder u and in the end, u do what u gotta do to win. I gave Conte's team 0% chance of qualifying and they exceeded expectations because they had the right attitude, I don't care how talented you are, if you don't play your heart out for country and fans, then you should watch from home.
on the 14th June, 2019 at 4:22am
@NewACM In plain words u want to see Conte football again. Um, No thank you. There's a reason the U20's lost. The last 2 games against Mali and Ukraine they plaid bad. Plain and simple. The game against 10 man Mali they had no midfield and I felt like I was watching Conte 2.0 were all they did was race down the wings and send balls to no one but outer space. The mens against Bosnia was "ok" but not great. Defense was poor and mid was leaky with Jorginho and not enough created in the final 3rd.
on the 12th June, 2019 at 2:37pm
Talent alone does not work if you don't fight hard. Belotti always gives 100%, even when he wasn't scoring goals, he would defend corners.

Italy needs to now have this group of 25-30 players in top form.

The midfield is good, they need to be more consistent, but defense needs Romagnoli, Rugani etc. to be more consistent and start playing role for Italy as Chiellini Bonucci won't last forever.

Chiesa needs to improve finishing and Berna has scope to be more consistent. Hope they will improve
on the 12th June, 2019 at 2:28pm
I agree with NewACM post. I liked Balo after Euro 2012, and somehow he never lived up to it after that with bad attitude also. He blames a lot of things but after Mancini called him up last year he could have had a good league season and come back to national team. Instead more drama, controversy, red cards, not enough goals.

Immobile has disappointed but Belotti is really good. He is not fastest, or strongest, but he has hold up play, he can have fast change of pace, and an eye for goal.
on the 12th June, 2019 at 2:23pm
@JuveFan no point if youth is that of Insta & FaceB. Talent is important but attitude is critical. I've watched everything Italy since 1990 & I know who got us far & who didn't. Iaquinta, Inzaghi& Perrotta did, Balo, Cassa & co didn't & never will. Italy is tactical, physical, latin-like, productive & efficient & will always be, if u're not all of the above, u don't belong & no, ur Hairstyle doesn't count. Right now I'd rather see an Italy of team players, wrestlers & warriors.. skill is a bonus
on the 12th June, 2019 at 7:29am
Looks like we’re starting to get that awful taste out our mouths left by (Ugh...I don’t even wanna say the name) ...Ventura.

Happy for Mancini and the boys.hope this sparks some passion and confidence.
Still long way to go, far as winning major trophy.
But by start of next summer Azzurri has a constant starting 11 of top players and permanent 8 man nucleus of squad with identity and stragety ....with 100% fit and reformed Balotelli for one last go.
on the 12th June, 2019 at 2:02am
Just to re-cap.Insigne never does it for Italy.
on the 11th June, 2019 at 11:13pm
Not our best performance tonight but really proud of the team. We kept fighting and never gave up. 4 wins out of 4, 13 goals 1 against. In all the games we have created chances and have played good entertaining football. Long way to go but we are on the right track. Credit to Bosnia, they played well.
on the 11th June, 2019 at 10:47pm
Juve fan - I hope your right. We won't get a better chance to win a euro under 21. Also euro 19 tournament soon. I am sick of getting so close on the youth tournaments but failing to win. Last 2 under 20 world cup lost in the semi. Last 2 under 17 euro lost in final. Last under 19 euro lost in final. Last under 21 lost in semi. We just can't get over the finish line.
on the 11th June, 2019 at 10:40pm
Sam De Martino - shocking decision, with everything at stake. I hope U21's can make up for it.


worthless 2 cents - I was too and then I saw Quageriella on the team sheet, and Kean and Zaniolo not even on the bench - strange. Kean should be starting tonight.


appreciate - We definitely will see a rise just need Mancini to stick with his approach, feel like he's backing away from it as time goes on based on tonights line up and players like Kean not even getting a kick after scoring 3 in 2!
on the 11th June, 2019 at 7:48pm
Let's boycott third place play off. The referee is Byron Moreno in disguise. never a foul in a million years. Awful decision cost us a final place. Really mad.
on the 11th June, 2019 at 6:46pm
as you very well must know, tonight's game is a bit tough. however, i expect azzurri to rise to the occassion. it is worth to mention how glad i am to witness azzurri performing well so far. italy is always a manufacturer of real good & quality footballers, after all italia is the master of tactics & attention to details. although, italian football is still behind where it should be leading, my instincts say that we shall witness the rise of the golden era of italian football once again.
on the 11th June, 2019 at 4:53pm
Pretty excited to see how the NT have improved in such a short time. Hoping to see some more of the young players on the field today and hoping for another strong performance.
on the 11th June, 2019 at 3:12pm
Would like to see more of Romagnoli, Zaniolo and Kean.

And no more Proveletti, Immobile and Quag - he'll be 37 next Euro, don't see any benefit from picking him or giving him minutes over Kean or Belotti for example, it just takes competitive opportunities away from them to gel with the team, we all love sentiment but in the National team there shouldn't be any, even legends like Maldini weren't afforded that.

Mancini isn't far off with his squad and line up, hoping it tweaks by next June
on the 11th June, 2019 at 11:54am
More exciting than 2016 - Conte was avoiding youth and flair, instead opting for a workmen like squad, which ultimately benefited his legacy because it created an illusion that we had a bad generation of players, which he made overachieve, when in reality we had a talented generation (i.e. Balotelli, Giovinco, Jorginho, Berardi, Romagnoli, Belotti, Pellegrini, Caldara, Rugani, Locatelli etc) who if selected would've made reaching the quarters less of a surprise.
on the 11th June, 2019 at 11:44am

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