Tuesday November 19 2019
Mancini: 'Teams want to avoid us'

Roberto Mancini believes teams will want to avoid Italy at Euro 2020 after a record-breaking qualification campaign.

Italy made it a perfect 10 last night as they thrashed Armenia 9-1, setting numerous records on the way.

Speaking at a Press conference, Mancini was sorry to hear Abraham Khashmanyan had offered to resign after his country’s embarrassing result but nonetheless praised his own team.

“First of all, I feel sorry for the Armenia coach. I heard what he said, and I’m really sorry,” began the boss.

“It was a match where we did really well and the players I brought in did well. To keep scoring goals is a very positive sign.

“We are happy to have won 10 matches in the group stage, it’s very difficult to win all of them.

“We are happy about what we have achieved and the fans were very passionate. This is the foundation we must build on.

“The atmosphere produced by the fans in Palermo made us feel good. It’s over now and we’ve done well.”

The Azzurri continued to receive criticism in the months after their 2018 World Cup failure, but the CT highlighted the impact of youth when asked about the national side’s revival.

“Something special has happened. We have won all the games in the group, with a squad that didn’t have a lot of confidence.

“I think the youth gave us something and the fans have grown attached to them because they are young lads, from different teams, some with a bit more experience.

“They have played well and maintained a high level. I think this is the reason.”

Now they have a long break from international football and there are concerns about the lack of time to prepare for the European Championship next summer.

“From tomorrow, we start another story. We are looking to grow through the friendly matches in March.

“It would be good to play against two teams of a high level. Germany, France, England, Spain, the teams who are better than us…

“Now we need to follow the programme that we have set up. We are trying to organise ourselves in the best possible way. We are positive.

“We have the time we have and we will take advantage of it.”

Nicolò Zaniolo started in attack and scored twice last night, but Mancini reiterated he would like to play the Roma youngster in midfield.

“I think he’s a midfielder because if he scores goals, I’ll have other options. I put him up front, the role he has played for the past year.

“In the second half, I made a change to see how he would work. Sometimes he plays on instinct, while in midfield you need to think a bit more.”

Palermo represents something special for Italy now, and Mancini joked about how he might decide to move to the Sicilian capital.

“I think I’ll move here! When you come here, the atmosphere is very good. The stadium is perfect to play in.

“If the pitch is good, perfect. It’s a city where I think the national team have always had a good experience.”

Looking ahead to the finals, Mancini felt other teams were again wary of the Euro 2012 runners-up.

“I don’t know. I say they are stronger because they are ahead of us with their work. France won the World Cup and are a young group.

“Spain are the same. Belgium have developed a lot of extraordinary players over the past 5-6 years.

“After that, I think the others would prefer to avoid Italy because of our past.”

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