Roberto Mancini is confident Italy can challenge for the Nations League after drawing Spain in the semi-final. ‘The perception of Italy is different now.’
The Azzurri will host and open the Nations League Final Four on October 6, 2021, by taking on Spain at San Siro.
A day later, Belgium and France go head-to-head at the Allianz Juventus Stadium in Turin, then the Final is in Milan on October 10.
“It’ll be a wonderful final four, with four of the best teams in Europe, so I expect it to certainly be entertaining,” said Mancini in his press conference.
“It didn’t matter which team we drew for the semi-final, it was always going to be equally tough. Spain are like us, in that they have changed quite a few players, keeping some more experienced figures like Sergio Ramos. Their team are perhaps more vertical than in the past, but still focused on technique.
“I believe it’s going to be a very entertaining match. Ramos is one of the best defenders in the world and has been for many years. He’s got technique, is charismatic and certainly the most important player for both Real Madrid and Spain.”
Spanish and Dutch football had traditionally looked down their noses as Italy for their style of football, but that has changed.
“The perception of Italy is different now,” continued Mancini. “After 70-80 years in which we went abroad to play defend and counter, people can see we have changed.
“Admittedly, Belgium and France are at a more advanced stage in terms of people’s perception of their development, but we are very strong, too.”
Much of that is down to Mancini and his transformation of the Azzurri, including a run of all 10 wins in Euro 2020 qualifying.
“It was difficult at the start, as Italy didn’t qualify for the World Cup for the first time in decades and there was a sense of sadness around the team. We needed to do something different.
“We have been able to put together a team of talented young players with prospects for the future, as well as more experienced figures, and it’s a good group.
“It was a tricky situation when we arrived, as we needed to quickly and practically put a new era into action with the objective of not failing the Euro 2020 test.
“Now we’ll have the World Cup qualifiers, the Euros, and the Nations League. We want to do well, because it’s been some time since we were in the top teams. Since my first game, the only defeats we suffered were against World Champions France and Euro winners Portugal.”