Wednesday June 12 2019
Azzurri adjusted to beat Bosnia

Roberto Mancini is developing a clear Italy identity, but Elio Salerno explains the CT also made key tactical changes to defeat Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Italy maintained their 100% record in Euro 2020 qualification as they secured a 2-1 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Group J, but as expected, they were made to work for it.

Following the 3-0 victory in Greece, Azzurri boss Roberto Mancini chose to make three changes to his starting XI for Tuesday night’s game. Gianluca Mancini stepped in at right back while Federico Bernardeschi and Serie A Capocannoniere Fabio Quagliarella were introduced to freshen up the attack.

Mancini’s men controlled the opening stages and quickly set about dominating the ball. Italy’s shape in possession is becoming increasingly recognisable. The back four transitioned into a back three when Italy had the ball, a tactic favoured by Mister Mancini. This shift saw left-back Emerson Palmieri position himself high alongside Italy’s attacking line while on the opposite side, Gianluca Mancini sat deeper, forming part of the three-man backline with centrally placed Leo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini to the left.

Lorenzo Insigne occupied a position between the opposition left-back and left centre-back in order to free space for Emerson and on the right flank, Federico Bernardeschi isolated himself high and wide. The midfield trident worked in familiar fashion with Marco Verratti and Jorginho in close proximity to the ball, with NicolòBarella positioning himself ahead of play.

In Saturday’s victory, the Azzurri overloaded the left half of the pitch in order to use Emerson’s speed in-behind the Greek defence, but unlike Greece, Bosnia had done their homework. Robert Prosinecki’s team did not allow themselves to get drawn in and exploited. Covering spaces using positional defending prevented Italy from playing in-between or over Bosnia, providing Miralem Pjanic and co a platform into the game.

The away side began to look increasingly dangerous as the first half wore on, the game plan was working excellently. Bosnia committed numbers defensively to their right and were happy for Italy to probe away in that area in the knowledge that the Azzurri would not hurt them by switching play. Italy’s right side was not equipped to damage Bosnia. Between the deeper positioned Mancini and the skillset of Bernardeschi, any quick switch would be comfortably defended.

The attacking strategy that worked decisively a few days ago was now being used against Italy. The tandem of Verratti and Jorginho are aesthetically pleasing, but turn over possession and play beyond them quickly then Italy are in real danger. It was theme throughout the game and Bosnia offered a constant threat on the counter as a result. With Barella placed beyond the ball, this Italy midfield lacks speed in transition, leaving a one-paced defence exposed. There were warnings prior to Edin Dzeko putting his team ahead around the half-hour mark as he rounded off a slick Bosnia move.

For the many good things Mancini has achieved in short time in charge, this first half in Turin was not one of them. Quagliarella has many qualities but is no longer a forward that fits playing in a 4-3-3 and the decision to play the previously mentioned Mancini and Bernardeschi in those specific roles was questionable.

The Azzurri were being tested and Mancini - to his credit - responded instantly. A half-time change saw Quagliarella removed for the pacey Federico Chiesa, a change that resulted in Bernardeschi moving to a False 9 role with Chiesa on the right wing.

It was a play that worked instantly. During the opening 45 minutes Italy lacked dynamic movement going forward and as a result failed to open up spaces or penetrate the Bosnian defence. However, Mancni’s changes addressed that. Bonucci’s raking pass found Chiesa in behind the full-back where he was able to win a corner. From the resulting kick, Insigne produced a moment of a real quality. Bernardeschi’s pinpoint cross was weighted perfectly and as the ball dropped to Italy’s Number 10 on the edge of the box, he responded by hammering home a superbly executed volley.

Bosnia continued to carry a threat, but Italy began to ramp up the pressure on their visitors. The four-time world champions were now testing their opponents, stretching the pitch and building attacks through a variety of avenues. Another positive substitution followed, a more orthodox in right back in Mattia De Sciglio meant both of Italy’s full backs were taking up positions in the attacking third.

It was Italy’s pitch occupation that aided their winning goal with Insigne yet again playing a key role. The Napoli attackers positioning allowed Bonucci to find him beyond the defensive line with a long diagonal ball. Using the space well, Insigne dribbled into the box before picking out the run of supporting teammate Verratti. The PSG midfielder coolly passed the ball into the corner of the net to finish off a neat move and secure his country the win.

Italy chief Mancini deserves praise for the performances of the aforementioned Insigne and Verratti. Both are players that have been misused and criticised under previous regimes, with that being especially true of Insigne. With two goals and an assist during this international period, Insigne has begun to silence his critics and if he can maintain this kind of form for his country, then it will come as a huge boost to the Azzurri.

Overall these two outings have ended what has been a positive season for the Azzurri. Mancini continues to make progress with this group of talented players and this latest game against Bosnia will have given the Italy tactician further awareness of where this team needs to improve and adapt. The hope that the boys in blue can make an impact in next summer’s tournament continues to grow.

Have your say...
Italy need to experiment without playing Chiellini and Bonucci at the back. Those two are getting old. Romagniolli needs to starts and they need to find a partner for him. Hopefully Caldara can do well with Milan next season. The attack is still a big Issue. I like Ballotelli for now. I think Kean is too young needs a few more years to grow. Guagliarella is an old man. There are a lot of players in Serie A Im sure they can find someone.
on the 15th June, 2019 at 3:30pm
Mancini doing great work (TW). Should work on players' stamina going forward .....
on the 14th June, 2019 at 5:06pm
Who cares how old,if he's the best option then he should play. Youngsters r usually slowly integrated with the old guard coz results are important too, fielding young players to get slaughtered by experienced teams doesn't help confidence & hardly teaches them anything, they'd be chasing shadows. How come no one complained about Chilieni and Bonnuci.
on the 14th June, 2019 at 4:02am
Fantastic article, thanks. If only we had knowlegeable football journalists covering English football aswell.
on the 14th June, 2019 at 12:11am
Again I would like to see more attention given to strengthen the defensive aspect of the midfield. I agree that Zaniolo must be there somewhere, he also gives some needed physicality. Kean must be there as CF.
3-5-2 Formation is more safe for Italy:

Serigu (Donna)
Zanio (Bernard)/ Barella/ Jorgi/ Verra/Flore (Emerson)
Chiesa/Kean (Belotti)/Insigne

Play it safe and balanced, Mancio!
on the 13th June, 2019 at 9:14am
Immobile is way down the list, he's done nothing - best thing was a hat trick under Prandelli Pre World Cup 14 in a friendly. At club level he's a comfort player hence he struggled outside of Italy at Sevilla & Dortmund. Ventura's faith in him (as well as others) reason we failed to qualify for WC18

Quagliarella - again almost 37, doesn't run, scored 9 penalties this season - in open play 1 more goal than Proveletti. We gain nothing by starting a 37 year old. Kean, Balotelli, Belotti far better
on the 12th June, 2019 at 8:46pm
Totally agree with Primocalcio...
on the 12th June, 2019 at 7:47pm
Would have loved to see Zanniolo and Kean... Are they being rested for the all-importan U21?? Anyone else concerned about the diminutive size of many of Italy's players? Bosnia seemed ti physically dominate at times... and when we play even better teams (with size) I wonder if this will become a glaring problem...
on the 12th June, 2019 at 7:41pm
Would anyone care if Quag were 50 next year and took Italy to Euro Finals? He's Italy's best CF. If he deserves to be there then pick him.

Even if not selected for 2020, his consideration will create competition for the Euro2020 spots and make Kean and Belotti train harder! Players have to earn their place and they'll become better in the process - this isn't club football where Mancini can train them every day.

Mancini's worked a perfect balance of consistency vs. diversity IMO.
on the 12th June, 2019 at 6:50pm
The author gets it right.
Mancini at RB was frustrating, setting us up to be defensive at home to Bosnia and isolating Berna on the RW. MDS sub was good but he should have started.
I'll say it again; Jorginho is redundant with 2 other ball players like Verratti and Barella ahead of him. He offers quality on the ball but is a liability defensively. Hopefully Tonali comes good quick to offer more phsicality at CDM.
If not, maybe rework the midfield with Zaniolo or Berna to offer more athleticism.
on the 12th June, 2019 at 4:24pm
Too much freedom in the first half to Bosnia but RC was able to sort it out with the correct subs.It was then just one team that wanted to win and did.It is always difficult to perform well on two games on the trot but we did in the 2nd half.The future is bright, the future is Azzurro. Shame about the U20 as the equaliser should have stood.Scamacca had his eyes on the ball. You certainly cannot chop your arms off or be able to do a sharp turn without using your arms!Shame on you VAR.
on the 12th June, 2019 at 2:16pm
For everyone bashing quagliarella, WAKE UP. Until an elite striker emerges that is consistent, HE DESERVES TO BE THERE!!! No other italian has scored more goals in the past two seasons and immobile has had ENOUGH CHANCES with the national team. Quagliarella was given 45 min against bosnia and had a couple good chances. Italy always struggle against eastern european teams, so its surprising they actually won. There is no other 9 ATM. He brings expierence to the younger players as well,
on the 12th June, 2019 at 2:02pm
Agree with the suggestion of a switch to 3-5-2 formation. It doesn't matter who is the center forward in 4-3-3... the center forward gets isolated in this system. We need two strikers that can combine closer to the box. Insigne is a decent finisher but Chiesa and Bernardeschi are terrible finishers. Therefore it is vulnerable to rely on these three players providing goals in every game. Quagliarella remains the best italian finisher along with Immobile and both are still needed.
on the 12th June, 2019 at 1:38pm
Enjoyed the game last night thought we showed great character to come thro it I totally agree with this article thought mancini’s Changed didn’t make sense and it showed 1st half fair play he realised and switched we can’t play a high tempo press with a 37 year old glad he gave him a game and goal last month but we shouldn’t be using him in this system changes worked changed game the one player who I’ve never seen play well is bernardeschi?? 12 months without a win remember so well done manco
on the 12th June, 2019 at 12:37pm
Too much counter attack risks. I think something must be done in the Azurri's midfield to encounter these risks. Someone like the characteristics of De Rossi was missing in the midfield. We need a real defensive player to stand in front of the deference line to at least minimize these risks. Maybe Mancini should change the formation? Why not shifting the current formation from 4/3/3 to 3/5/2.

Chill - Bano - Florensy
Bernard - Barella - Geroginho - Vertatti -Emerson
Chiesa - Insigne
on the 12th June, 2019 at 11:42am
Quagliarella is 37 next year - great finisher (this season) but he adds nothing to the team. To get the best out of our midfield and our system it requires energy upfront from our number 9 and at the very least solid hold up play - Quag has neither as last night proved. With space for 3 in a 23 man squad from Kean 19, Belotti 25, Balotelli 28, Cutrone 21, Pellegri 18, Pinamonti 20, plus the capability to play false 9, we're well covered upfront with a variety of options to pick from.
on the 12th June, 2019 at 11:03am
I was the first to criticise Insigne because he wasn't delivering in the number 10 role for Italy as we needed him too and with the way he was playing I felt Zaniolo could have a bigger impact even at 19 growing into the team - I still think Zaniolo has a higher ceiling in the future. BUT after the consistency in Insigne's last two performances and if he continues to play like that, no one can say he doesn't deserve to start at EURO 2020.
on the 12th June, 2019 at 10:54am

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