Thursday September 3 2020
Azzurri return against revamped Bosnia

Italy hope to pick up where they left off, but Bosnia-Herzegovina are starting from scratch under a new coach and without their star midfielder, writes Owen Diana.

After what felt like an interminable 10-month wait, Italy finally return to action against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday evening in Florence for the Nations League.

The Azzurri racked up a record 11 consecutive victories before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the international football calendar, and they will be eager to pick up where they left off at the Artemio Franchi. The visitors are not to be taken lightly, but Roberto Mancini’s men have the requisite attacking weapons to start their Nations League campaign on the right foot.

Although there is a certain familiarity between these sides after their meetings in Euro 2020 qualifying Group J, much has changed for Bosnia since November 2019. Former head coach Robert Prosinecki has been replaced by Dusan Bajevic, who, for all his experience, has not prowled a touchline since he left Greek outfit Atromitos in December 2012. Bajevic has favoured a 4-4-1-1 or 4-5-1 formation at various points in his career, and it would be no surprise if he went with a pragmatic approach in his first match as National Team boss.

Regardless of how the new manager chooses to set up, talismanic captain Edin Dzeko promises to be a key component of his plans. Bosnia’s hopes of troubling an organized Azzurri backline hinges on the Roma striker’s ability to hold the ball up and bring his teammates into play. With Juve reportedly interested in his signature, Dzeko will have plenty of motivation to put in a performance that helps seal a move to Turin.

Dzeko’s presence is a huge boost for Bosnia, but the absence of former Serie A star Miralem Pjanic is a hammer blow to their chances of getting a result. Without the newly minted Barcelona creator, The Dragons will have a difficult time holding onto the ball. Furthermore, Bosnia’s attack will be sorely lacking Pjanic’s capacity to drift in between the opposing midfield and defence.

Jorginho is a Mancini favourite for his ball-playing ability, but the Azzurri will always be susceptible against teams who can exploit the Chelsea man’s defensive deficiencies. That weakness could come back to haunt Italy at a later date, but their offensive virtues should overwhelm the brittle Bosnians.

There are a host of Italian attackers in fine form heading into Friday’s contest. Ciro Immobile is at the peak of his powers after capturing his third Capocannoniere and the European Golden Shoe. Out wide, Nicolò Zaniolo and Federico Chiesa both ended the season strongly.

The exploits of Zaniolo, who made a triumphant comeback from a cruciate ligament tear suffered in January against Juventus, were particularly inspiring. Although Mancini could accommodate both players by fielding one at the tip of a midfield triangle, the two young flyers will likely fight it out for a spot on the right.

That area of the pitch could prove crucial, as Bosnia left-back Sead Kolasinac is far more adept going forward than he is tracking back. The Arsenal powerhouse can often be caught too high up the pitch and is prone to lapses in concentration. If either Zaniolo or Chiesa can provide quality service to the red-hot Immobile, Italy should run out comfortable winners.

Have your say...
People here are complaining about Chiellini and Bonucci, but who else is there. Romagnoli was injured, as is Bastoni now. Rugani never got enough chances at Juve, maybe Caldara can get a chance, but centre back is worrying area for Italy.

The only alternatives are Acerbi (32), Izzo (had a bad season with Torino), and moreover the younger ones get injured more, while Bonucci plays every match and rarely gets injured. Not many young Italian CB's coming through, someone needs to train the youth.
on the 4th September, 2020 at 3:31pm
Chiellini at the age of 36.Assumed the rossi was still playing and that Buffon had not retired for the azzuri. Mancini would still call them to participate
on the 4th September, 2020 at 12:04pm
Chiellini is back in there. I dont understand the azurri coaches always returning to the same old system instead of working on the feature and this is the problem with italy. Until a player doesn't retire, they will always selecting them over younger players. Good young players like Romagnoli, Caldara, bastoni, Mancini and Romagna should get the chance to gain experience and establish them self.
on the 4th September, 2020 at 11:58am
Bosnia are a quality team i would expect mancini won't experiment maybe zaniolo getting a start or orsolini. it would have been good to see bastoni or locatelli getting some game time or castrovilli.

caputo is a solid forward i not really sure at 33 what he can offer italy for the future. he is insurance for the euros if the younger italian forwards fail to consistent goalscorers next season.
on the 3rd September, 2020 at 9:43pm
like to see Emerson Palmieri,Zappacosta,Izzo,Romangnoli,Spinazzola, get some playing time together to gel and find best back line.
Bonucci and Chiellini are really pushing past their prime and by next june may no longer even be needed or all that reliable. unfortunate euro 2020 was ppd to 2021 this could of been their swan song.
also i have ask why doesnt RAI show azzurri games anymore ? anyone know ?
its the only way i got to see qualifying games.i dont have all pay/stream sport channels.
on the 3rd September, 2020 at 8:04pm
Why is Bonucci and Chiellini playing in the back.. Thats the problem with Italy? Always relaying on old players to produce quality performances....Stick with the young players and develop them............seems like we're stating the same issues over and over
on the 3rd September, 2020 at 6:04pm
Let's hope Italy can carry on where they left off after the enforced break playing really attractive football and winning in style. Barella has separated himself from the pack of Castrovilli, Tonali, Sensi, Pellegrini, Locatelli and is now clearly a starter after some fine post lockdown form. Zaniolo looks strong back from his injury and Chiesa picked up towards the end of the season. Would be good to see Bastoni in a back 4 but the signs are good
on the 3rd September, 2020 at 12:18pm
Interesting game. A lot of the young 'stars' were pretty poor after the re-start so the jury is still out on this all-new Azzurri.
on the 3rd September, 2020 at 11:28am
There is only one option: FORZA ITALIA!
on the 3rd September, 2020 at 11:00am

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