Wednesday October 16 2019
Imperious Italy fly the flag

Italy's 5-0 win against Liechtenstein last night confirmed the Azzurri had got their pride back, regardless of which colour they wear, writes Vijay Rahaman.

The Azzurri wore green on Saturday... and won. They wore white in Vaduz on Tuesday night... and won. Italy's flag contains the colours of these two plus red, but the 1968 European champions traditionally play in blue as the house of Savoia that ruled on the peninsula from 1846 to 1946 colour was blue.

However, it does not seem to matter what colour the national team dons when they take to the field under Roberto Mancini as their mindset remains the same, and one would sense that the previous rulers would not mind too much, as long as they honour the shirt.

Under the former Inter and Manchester City boss, this is a team who are well-versed in their tactical set-up and such was evident at the Rheinpark Stadion, where he made 10 changes from the 2-0 victory over Greece. The only one who kept his place was Marco Verratti as Mancio handed him the captain’s armband, in an almost-symbolic gesture to the Paris Saint-Germain man, whose maturity has been questioned at times.

The midfield dynamo ran the midfield as the record set by the legendary Vittorio Pozzo 80 years ago of nine consecutive wins was matched by these modern gladiators.

The Azzurri - or should I say Bianchi - scored early through a well-worked goal that was finished off by Federico Bernadeschi, but the floodgates did not open for them. On a rainy night in the capital, which became a sovereign member state of the Roman Empire on January 23, 1719, the Liechtenstein players battened down the hatches and tried to defend their goal under siege from the visitors.

Despite that, goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu still had moments when he was forced to show his recent brilliant form with Torino, which earned him his return to the national team. He seemed to be in an almost one-on-one battle with striker Dennis Salanovic, denying the FC Thun man on three occasions in the first hour, the last of which was a cat-like sprawl from a wonderful curling effort inside the penalty area.

His performance showed that going forward, should Gigio Donnarumma need a rest, get injured or - for whatever reason - experiences a drop in form, Italy have a more-than-capable deputy on hand. Not to mention a certain Alex Meret...

Under Mancini, arguably the strongest part of the team has been the midfield, where Verratti and fellow technicians Jorginho and Nicolo Barella move in unison like an orchestra at the opera at the Teatro La Scala in Milan. Without the duo, however, and with him having the baton to direct their notes, the team did not skip a beat - Roma duo Bryan Cristante and Nicolo Zaniolo building chemistry as the match progressed.

There has been much debate of exactly what is the best position on the field for Zaniolo to fulfil his undoubted potential, and we may have seen a glimpse of that last night. Of course, what his club manager Paulo Fonseca decides to do at Trigoria is another matter entirely.

Despite the continued possession statistics being heavily in favour of La Nazionale, like Pep Guardiola’s Barca side of 2011, it wasn’t until the final 20 minutes that they paid off. However, it did pay off and in droves.

Andrea Belotti replaced Ciro Immobile as the main striker in the favoured 4-3-3 formation for this modern Mancini make-up, and the Torino hitman emulated his teammate Sirigu at the back with a double. Both goals were headers, the latter of which was assisted by debutant Giovanni Di Lorenzo. The Napoli defender grabbed his chance with both hands and, with both full-back positions still very much up for grabs, the Tuscan’s name is in the hat for next summer.

In between, there were goals from players who have Roma and Milan connections.

Stephan El Shaarawy picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box from an attacking corner and floated in a lovely ball for Alessio Romagnoli, who was freely able to head home for his first international goal. It was then the turn of El Shaarawy, who is currently enjoying the riches of the Chinese Super League with Shanghai Shenhua, to get his name on the scoresheet. Cristante picked out his ex-teammate with a slide-rule pass that Francesco Totti would have been proud, and ‘the Little Pharaoh’ powered the ball with the top of his right foot past a hapless Benjamin Buchel in goal.

People may say, “it’s only Liechtenstein” or “their group was easy.” However, two years removed from failure to qualify for the World Cup, Italy fans have learned a hard lesson - never take anything for granted.

This is a young band of players who have worked superbly to make their national team a source of pride for the ‘tifosi’ again, led by a CT who wants “the players to bring back the joy of the Azzurri” again. Both pride and joy have been regained, and the build-up to this summer’s European extravaganza is picking up pace.

Bigger tests await in 2020 for this squad, but whether they play in blue, green, white or throw us all for a loop and go with red, this version of Italy’s national team has honoured the shirt that they so proudly wear.

Have your say...
The most skilled player in Italy is Berardi. He can create his own chances. He, I believe has more complete talent than Berna.
on the 28th October, 2019 at 5:27pm
I agree that there is much to rejoice about the Azzurri rebuild under Mancini. The number and quality of young players coming through are a breath of fresh air who bring new hope. Yet describing them as "Imperious" or even making comparisons to Barca under Guardiola in 2011 is a bit rich and premature at this stage. They need to beat teams like Spain, Germany, France, Portugal, Croatia, etc and win Euro 2020. That's when they'll truly be imperious
on the 18th October, 2019 at 10:35pm

(1)Donnarumma -- (5)Izzo/(2)Florenzi, (19)Bonucci, (13)Ramognoli, (3)Spinazolla -- (6)Verratti, (8)Jorginho, (12)Sensi/(18)Barella -- (10)Insigne, (9)Bellotti, (14)Chiesa/(20)Bernadeschi

Subs: (17)Srigu, (21)Meret, (15)Emerson, (23)Mancini, (16)Zaniolo, (7)Pellegrini, (4)Cristante, (22)El Sharawy, (11)Keane
on the 17th October, 2019 at 6:11pm
Forget 5 the other night,I think playing in the Euro final,scoring goals will be our problem.We don't have World Class strikers.
on the 17th October, 2019 at 8:12am
@Primo Calcio
I'd have something pretty similar to you.

Full-backs and strikers seem to be an issue, though. Plenty of option in those positions, but no really top players.

Belotti will need a strong season to make the CF spot his own.

Central midfield is the best its been for a while.
on the 17th October, 2019 at 12:21am
Buddha baggio
Euro qualifiers are on ESPN+ (streaming)
Not sure about friendlies though...
Regardless, at $5.99/month (US) you get the Azzurri and Serie A
So we’ll worth it (for me)
on the 16th October, 2019 at 11:50pm
>>>> yet again im just happy to see them scoring goals and winning games they SHOULD be winning easily. So things are looking up and scrubbing off that foul stench of past failures.
If we can get a good draw for euros who knows.
On side note I prefer Sirigu as #1
...and a question for anyone on here in Northeast of USA...does anyone know why RAI International no longer shows azzurri games? It used to show nearly all friendly and qualifying games.but no longer the past few years.
on the 16th October, 2019 at 10:28pm
Well look it’s really great to see La Nazionale winning games scoring goals Mancini project really gaining momentum and positive energy and results.
Good to see young players getting experience and confidence willing to be fearless and bleed for the shirt...and im not trying to be negative, BUT they’re in the EASIEST group in the entire history of qualifying. maybe luck or FIFA/Uefa doing a favor,but if they were in any other group it would be different story. Take a look for yourselves.
on the 16th October, 2019 at 10:20pm
@FERBAN Cool Idea
Gigio, Sirigu, Meret
Chiellini, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Mancini
Emerson, Di Lorenzo, Florenzi, Biraghi
Verratti, Barella, Sensi, Jorginho, Tonali, Zaniolo
Insigne, Chiesa, Berna
That's 21. Pretty much locked for me unless things change.
Outsiders: Spinazzola, Lu. Pellegrini, D'Ambrosio, Acerbi, Izzo, Lo. Pellegrini, Cristante, Castrovilli, Jack, Politano, Berardi, Kean, Immobile, Balotelli, SES, Verdi, Grifo.
on the 16th October, 2019 at 7:23pm
Pretty excited with how they are playing. It was really weird seeing Italy in green thou...
on the 16th October, 2019 at 4:50pm
Pretty excited with how they are playing. It was really weird seeing Italy in green thou...
on the 16th October, 2019 at 4:50pm
I am excited by this new team, the last two victories were far from a stroll in the park. Greece could have been two up before we got the penalty, and last night Liechtenstein nearly scored in the first minute. Yet 10 wins out of 10, and eight of them being competitive games is a first for all of us and our best post-war record. So confidence is high, the Euros are going to be tough, as we know, but Spain, Germany, Netherlands, England, Belgium, Croatia will want to avoid Italy.
on the 16th October, 2019 at 4:14pm
I am excited by this new team, the last two victories were far from a stroll in the park. Greece could have been two up before we got the penalty, and last night Liechtenstein nearly scored in the first minute. Yet 10 wins out of 10, and eight of them being competitive games is a first for all of us and our best post-war record. So confidence is high, the Euros are going to be tough, as we know, but Spain, Germany, Netherlands, England, Belgium, Croatia will want to avoid Italy.
on the 16th October, 2019 at 4:13pm
Now that they've qualified, maybe Football Italia can do an ongoing/changing "Top 50" players to keep an eye on as the tournament approaches.

It'd be interesting to see who fans and writers would whittle down to make 23
on the 16th October, 2019 at 12:53pm
That's a strong core.


Romagnoli's huge potential at the age he is captaining Milan despite their recent struggles.

Bernadeschi plays for a top 3 european team

Jorginho runs Chelsea's midfield

Barella key at Inter as is Sensi (who is currently a sub for us)

Zaniolo, Tonali 19

Pellegrini would walk into most national team midfields (he's a sub for us)

We have solid wingbacks Emerson, Spinazzola, Florenzi

Sure I'd like Mbappe as CF BUT likewise France would love some of our players
on the 16th October, 2019 at 12:02pm
Why are you moaning?
I have not seen an Italy team play keep ball with a wonderful midfield for years!
Forget about the past playersThis is an excellent Italy team who actually take the game to the opposition!
@ sanrella.
No one plays anyone of any substance in the qualifiers
It is what it is
Start smiling and quit with your comments.
At the end of the day we keep the ball brilliantly.
It’s a joy to watch.
on the 16th October, 2019 at 11:59am
It's like saying 1930s squads were better than 82 squad and 82 squad was better than 06 squad.

20 years ago isn't relevant today. Squad-wise if Mancini picks correctly I wouldn't envy any national team over ours. Individuals can always be swapped BUT are Chellini / Bonucci considered alongside the best CB's in the world? Yes

Is there a better CM than Veratti? No

Can Donnarumma be the best GK in world football? Yes

Does Chiesa have the potential to be a world star? Yes

Do we have depth? Yes
on the 16th October, 2019 at 11:54am
You keep stating that we had an easy group.Well so did other national sides such as England,France,Portugal.Guess what,all of them struggled.England for example just about won against Kosovo 4-3,lost to Cech Repubblic,France drew to Turkey and Ukraine is top against Portugal.There are no more easy games.We have done well.Yes sometimes you expect them to play faster one touch football but overall,they have done well so give them some respect please.Next summer will be hard for every team.END OF.
on the 16th October, 2019 at 11:24am
As a lad who in the second decade of his life grew up watching Buffon, Maldini, Nesta, Del Piero, and Totti, guided by Lippi...

Then being humiliated to watch utter imbeciles like Sirigu, Verratti, Insigne, Immobile et al guided by a tool like Ventura...

This group is genuinely a breath of fresh air. They aren't half as talented as La Nazionale from 20 years ago, but at least they're trying their best.

Let's hope for at least a SF run in Euros and World Cup. #FinoAllaFine
on the 16th October, 2019 at 8:19am
I'm not getting too excited.We haven't beaten anyone.As for games like last night,usually we would win those 3-1 when 5-0 is what we should be doing.
When we get to the finals it will be a whole different ball game.
on the 16th October, 2019 at 8:16am

Post new comment

Your email address is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here.
Maximum 500 characters.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Your responses will be moderated, and sometimes edited, by Football Italia before appearing on the site. Your data may be made public and you accept our Privacy Policy. Please keep your comments clean and try to keep them relevant to the blog above. We reserve the right to reject views that we deem unsuitable for publication.