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Saturday October 12 2019
Practically perfect Italy progress

Italy are a team transformed from World Cup failures to Euro 2020 perfect records, but Giancarlo Rinaldi awaits further developments.

They might have disguised themselves in green, but it did not leave us feeling blue. From one of the lowest points in the history of the Italian national team, we really could not have asked for more.

A 100% Euro 2020 qualification record - matched only by Belgium - and a place secured with three games to spare would have seemed almost unimaginable two years ago. Roberto Mancini has delivered on his promises with the same style he used to produce with the Sampdoria Number 10 on his back.

This was one of the lower key victories of this Group J domination. Greece had reacted to a miserable campaign by covering up like a boxer fearing the knockout blow at any moment. Once a Jorginho penalty had pierced their stubborn defences, however, they never looked like getting back to their feet. It was party time in the Stadio Olimpico - which Azzurri fans will hope is a taste of things to come next summer.

While the supporters celebrate, of course, nobody in the Italy ranks will be quaffing too much Prosecco over these performances. A section comprising Finland, Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Liechtenstein - along with the struggling Greeks - was hardly the group of death. Nonetheless, who would have fancied seven wins out of seven under Giampiero Ventura? Possibly not even his closest friends.

The victory over John van’t Schip’s side - apart from renewing memories in older viewers of times when he locked horns with Mancini in the Derby della Lanterna - did show some areas which will need to be worked on. Italy enjoyed huge possession, but struggled to break down opponents of only modest quality. They will need to bring more precision and pace to their play when they come up against better sides.

Indeed, it was a somewhat fortuitous Federico swap - Bernardeschi for the limping Chiesa - that helped to pep them up. Cutting in onto his left foot, the Juventus man seemed to enjoy the rare feeling of grass beneath his boots on a match day and delivered a deflected goal and some decent enterprise. It would be to his and Club Italia’s benefit if he spent a little less time familiarising himself with the substitutes’ benches of Serie A in the weeks and months to come.

The midfield ticked along nicely enough on the Marco Verratti-Jorginho axis and the Brazilian born star’s little skipping spot-kick worked a treat.

It was a night to be patient, in truth, and the Azzurri were clinical enough in the end. Nobody really shone, but their possession stats were more one-sided than a basketball match between Lorenzo Insigne and Gigio Donnarumma. This was more about getting the job done than any glorious football.

Yes, it was a worry that Ciro Immobile saw the ball so little and the striking role remains a bit of a headache. The return to form of Andrea Belotti has at least given another option while we await to see if home comforts in Brescia can make Mario Balotelli a serious contender for a role. However, it would be harsh on the architects of this qualification if they were to be discarded in order to allow for his return - unless his form is so outstanding it cannot be ignored.

This is a good group of players who have repaired a reputation which looked like it might have been permanently damaged back in November 2017, but there is still plenty of work to do. This run of victories has been a perfect tonic, but it is a little early to say the patient is completely cured.

Italy expects its national team to be contenders at every major tournament and that will be the next big test for Mancio’s troops. They have at least shown themselves able to cope with Europe’s middle tier sides - something which was not a given for a while. The next step is to get back to battling with the very best on the continent as equals - no matter what colour of strip they might have to wear.

Have your say...
Seriously, some over-the-top negativity here.
And what is the deal with the Insigne hate? Short memories or what? Have you guys forgotten his sublime goals vs Greece and Bosnia back in June?
Mancini has rightly made him a fixed member of the starting Xl and Italy are now perfect 7-0-0, qualified for 2020.
on the 15th October, 2019 at 12:57am
Perfect in terms of results. Perfect record and some serious potential in terms of young players n gelling as a team. Great potential. Of course they're probably way off the top teams n they aren't legends yet but they could be! They seem to be a bit unlucky when it comes to defensive players n injuries but they still have Bonucci, Romagnoli, Mancini n Chiellini to help when fit. All I can see missing is a top no 9 but Belotti,Kean n Pinamonti all have potential n the midfield is strong already!
on the 14th October, 2019 at 1:20pm
@Momo & Dami no one is whining, you're damn right this team is shaping up, but shaping up and "perfect" r 2 different things, just trying to be realistic here. Do u think this team can beat Spain, Germany &Belgium in 3 knockout games in 2020? I hope so but only then u can say they're ready. Please don't bring up 06 when talking about this Italy, we had legends in every position in 06, I don't c any today. We had Totti & Delpiero, Inzagi & Toni, Nesta & Materazi competing for places for god sake!
on the 14th October, 2019 at 6:13am
Balotelli is in the prime of his career and he's playing for...Brescia. That is all you need to know. Never a prolific goal scorer (isn't clinical), zero work rate, selfish, poor disciplinary record. Mancini is probably the only coach left who would even let him back in the national team, and he's mostly gone missing during the qualifiers. At this point its better to play with a false 9 and start Insigne, Berna, and Chiesa together...Belotti, Immobile, and Berardi can come off the bench.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 10:56pm
@Jeremy Italy have plenty of players to run around what they are lacking up front is a talented striker. Belotti is not good enough. Balotelli is the only one capable of scoring and creating against the top teams. The midfield is stacked with talent, and am not talking about Jorginho Im not a fan either of him. You have Barella Veratti, Sensi, the list goes on who are really good. Though I think they will be better in the next world cup.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 8:04pm
And I forgot to mention Sensi. Plus plenty of guys in their mid 20's who will peak by the WC...Berna, Romagnoli, Mancini, Belotti, Berardi, etc.This team went 7-0 in qualifying so far. Other than Belgium, no other team can boast of having as good a record. We just saw Spain draw with Norway, and France even lost to Turkey. Italy is doing just fine, and progressing quite well after the disaster under Ventura.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 5:56pm
Dami is right. Some of you people whine like little children. Find another team to support, Italy don't need you. This team is slowly shaping up to be one of the best in the world. We might not get there for the Euro's, but I think we can be a favorite for the WC. And the talent is there. Just in midfield we have players coming through like Zaniolo, Tonali, Barrella, Pelligrini...all in there early 20's who seem poised for great things. Not to mention players like Chiesa, Donnarumma...
on the 13th October, 2019 at 5:51pm
We have talent, up and down the pitch. Probably our strongest midfield since 06 and a defence which is raw but improving. Going into the Euro we are a real dark horse. Right now this team is built to win by 1-0 or 2-1 scorelines, which is fine. Mancini just needs to solidify the defence, because the midfield is capable of controlling games. Also, Belotti is our best bet up top he usually only needs one chance.

Also, love the new kit. Forza Italia.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 5:02pm
My goodness with the moaning in these comments youd have thought we had bombed out of the group, not qualified with a 100% record. 2 years ago we didnt even qualify for the World Cup and now after walking our Euro group there's just incessant complaints. We've come a long way under Mancini, lets not forget how poor Portugal were yet they won the last Euro. Knockout football italy is a different beast, we always have been. Lets focus on the group stage now and see where we end up.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 4:59pm
I think Mancio is doing a good job overall though. Managing to win games whilst trying out various players and tweaks in formation. With Chiellini back (hopefully) the defence will be much more trustworthy. My main doubt is Jorginho. I'm just not sure he adds enough to warrant a place ahead of some of the really excellent midfielders that are emerging in Serie A right now. My 4 would be Pellegrini Verratti Sensi Barella.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 4:40pm
Nowhere near perfect but not as poor as some comments suggest either. I think a 4 man midfield including at least one of Sensi and Pellegrini (probably instead of Insigne) would make the team more creative and improve the team defensively. Also I would make it clear that Belotti is the first choice centre forward and start him in every game from now on to give him confidence. It time to start defining the first 11 now and have a really established team going into the tournament...
on the 13th October, 2019 at 4:25pm
The group was weak but italy have clearly dominated it the said can't be said for england or france. what is important is that italy have qualified which is something after recent outings shouldn't be taken for granted.

It is now question of who will play their way into this italian team over the course of the season clearly they are some talented players who are on the fringes at the moment. At the moment emerson florenzi pellegrini lazzari and sensi could find their way into this team.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 4:18pm
Most of the messages posted ref current Italian team seem to be realistic as to where the team currently stands. The lack of a quality striker is probably the biggest problem with a fully fit Belotti the only option. He is the only striker Italy have who has presence, heading ability and young enough that he should improve.
Mancini has given, what is a relatively young team by Italian standards,confidence and identity but I feel the Euros come a year too soon for their maturity.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 4:13pm
We've come a long way. The group is on the easy side and we should win but this hasn't always been the case of late and let's not forget that we put in some good performances prior to the qualifiers against good sides like Portugal and Poland.
That said I cannot for the life of me see why Immobile & Insigne both started last night. Both continue to struggle in the Italy shirt and are both are such light weights. Surely Mancini has to play Belotti who has such a physical presence and can score
on the 13th October, 2019 at 11:22am
While the strikers, the defence, and even the goalie lack consistency, the midfield gives me great hope. From 2 years ago when Marco Parolo was our best option, Italy has such a plethora of young up and comers at least 3-4 of them could become superstars soon. This list includes Barella, Sensi, Pellegrini, Zaniolo, Tonali, Verratti, Jorghino, Gagliardini, and a few others. The competition should be fierce in the ensuing years and Italia will benefit.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 10:24am
Forget about Balotelli. The reason this Italy team is doing well, is because of the harmony in the team. We don't need that arrogant troublemaker. The squad is just fine. Well-balanced in all departments. Yes, the group was easy, but how many times in the past has the group been "easy", only for Italy to have to worry on the last day about qualification. Italy has great young players, and a great future.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 9:52am
I am not a person that expects to be entertained, 2006 we were solid, a complete unit of a team!
I have seen Italy lift 2 world cups in my life time but when we have been terrible we had quality we had a defence we had 1 or 2 world class payers that took the team forward, Baggio, cannavaro, Baresi, Rossi.
What do we have now? Insigne? Immobile? Spinazola? Jorginho? They are all average. The fact there are people even calling for Balotelli really does show the state we are in.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 9:07am
@ARD
Correct this was an easy group.
We made every game look difficult to be honest. Last night was a shocking.
We 100% don't need to bring Balotelli we need him to stay as far away as possible, we need payers that actually run. Belotti is more than capable with the correct service but we have no creativity. We may well be 'stacked' up with midfielder but none are any good. Verratti is the best and thats it, Barella is promising, jorginho is average and should stay in london.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 8:58am
This is not perfect. If we catch just 1 good team we are done for. That was a shocking match and Mancini saying we are not far from the best is the biggest pile of rubbish i have ever heard. It took a penalty to get what i think was out only attempt at goal til that point. Can't cross, can't finish, we have absolutely no creative qualities, Immobile and other are actually dreadful, defensively we looked horrific. That Greek team haven't played together if they had a years experience we'd have lost!
on the 13th October, 2019 at 8:48am
Calling this Italy perfect is an exaggeration. Some of the current players wouldn't have dreamed of a spot back in the day. D'ambrosio? Spinazzola? Insigne who only plays for himself? Berna with his poor last touch, etc.. That said, they're on the right track, playing with confidence & controlling games. It's a young group that will only grow and improve. unless something changes before Euro20, it's merely a chance to gain experience rather than compete with the big guns.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 4:53am
I know everyone's trying to not get carried away but let's give credit where it's due. Bosnia and Armenia are two tough dark horses who could give any team a hard time and Finland is a team on the rise with the likes of Teemu Pukki and Hradecky. If we're talking about a decade ago then sure, Italy's group might be easy but today it's as difficult a group as any, if not the 2nd most difficult and that's only because Germany and Netherlands were in one group.
on the 13th October, 2019 at 4:27am
I agree with ARD and I especially am concerned with the defense... It's a work in progress... they are building but still incomplete...
on the 13th October, 2019 at 2:58am
Italy's group was easy, lets not get carried away. Mancini has done well but you can only do so much with the talent you have. Italy seems stacked in the midfield, but lacking in the attack and the defense is so so. If Ballotelli plays well this season he must be taken to the Euros if they want to be competitive. He is the best Italy have right now, would be a big mistake to leave him out of the squad. The midfield is the strength but is it enough to win the Euro, I don't believe so at this time
on the 13th October, 2019 at 12:54am

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