Sunday October 13 2019
Mancini: 'Italy not far off the best'

Roberto Mancini maintains Italy are “not that far off the strongest European teams” after a perfect qualifying campaign for Euro 2020. "I tried to make these players believe in themselves."

The Azzurri beat Greece 2-0 last night to secure their spot in the tournament with a 100 per cent record of seven wins in Group J, all with three games to spare.

“Every match is difficult, especially if the opposition decide to put 10 men behind the ball and want to stop you from playing,” said the Coach in his Press conference.

“We tried too hard to force our way through in the first half, but it was much better in the second, when we were more patient.”

How have the Nazionale been transformed so quickly from the side that failed to qualify for the World Cup two years ago to this dominant force?

“I tried to make the players believe in themselves, when everyone else said Italy didn’t have good players with quality. At times, you need to be a little patient. We might not have a world class standout, but we have a team that fights hard, plays good football and still has a long way to go.

“I think we might find it easier once we are in the Euros, because the opponents there will be more open and not so defensive. It’s tough for everyone at this stage, just look at Spain held 1-1 by Norway and the opening game of France’s group saw them lose 2-0 in Turkey.

“We try to create positive, attacking football, even if that means running the risk of counter-attacks. I prefer that to waiting for something to happen.

“We’ve got a year ahead of us to improve and I think we are not that far off the strongest European teams. I do feel very proud, because it was not a good situation when I arrived. This is football and I am glad to have given a helping hand.”

Considering Italy have already qualified, will Mancini test out some new faces in the remaining three games?

“A good ranking is crucial for the draw, so we have to end the group well. There will be some lads who can make their debuts, for example Sandro Tonali, Gaetano Castrovilli and Giovanni Di Lorenzo. We can’t call them all together, though.”

There could also be room for some old glories to have one last Azzurri outing, such as Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi.

“They are the only two players remaining in activity from the 2006 World Cup. It is possible and it would be nice.”

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