Thursday April 1 2021
Efficient Azzurri

Italy picked up their fifth 2-0 win in a row and Richard Hall sees the glass half full despite a not entirely convincing performance in Lithuania.

Italian papers were not dwelling on the fact that Italy could still improve. Instead, they focused on the fact that Italy had won three out of three in the International break and that Roberto Mancini equalled Marcelo Lippi’s 25-game unbeaten run with the Azzurri.

It was a torrid first half in Lithuania, yes, but Italy won again, keeping another clean sheet and remaining on top their World Cup Group. There is room for improvement, but it should not be underestimated where Mancini has brought the Azzurri.

It would not be Italy if there were no chastising of the national team. Social media has given the disgruntled fan a platform to voice their opinions, other than just in the coffee shop. The cold facts of the game against Lithuania were as follows.

Tomas Svedkauskas, the Lithuanian goalkeeper was man of the match, Stefano Sensi made a difference on his arrival on the pitch and was a difference-maker.

Ciro Immobile’s poor form continued despite scoring a late penalty and Italy found themselves pushed out wide by an intelligent home side and had no creative threat to unlock them. Despite all of this, Italy still won and over the three games, they proved much.

‘Apocalypse’. This was the heading in the Gazzetta Dello Sport on November 14th 2017. A stunned nation awoke to realise it was not a nightmare. For the first time in 60 years, Italy would not be at the World Cup Finals: 1958 was the last time the Azzurri had not qualified for the competition.

Ironically, that tournament was held in Sweden and it was the Swedes who had beaten them in 2017. Remember this well? It is hard for the nation not to as 14.8 million had tuned in to watch the game.

They witnessed Gigi Buffon’s tears and they were stunned as coach Gian Piero Ventura initially refused to resing. There had been dressing room chaos as Italian veterans had influenced tactics and the football was terrible. This was not long ago.

Roberto Mancini has been a revelation and he has put the Azzurri back on the International map in quick time. They look like one of Europe’s elite teams and they look flexible, intelligent, defensively sound, and have strength in depth.

The Azzurri qualified for the Euros and beat Holland to book their place in the Nations’ League Final Four. They have started their World Cup qualifiers by efficiently dispatching Northern Ireland, Bulgaria and Lithuania.

Friendlies against San Marino and the Czech Republic are to come before they enter the Euros and be confident of qualifying as their group has Switzerland, Wales, and Turkey.

There are no guarantees, but they certainly have the squad to do so.

Throughout the team, Italy have quality and their mix of experience and youth is a good one. The older heads like Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Ciro Immobile and others are complemented by the exceptional young talents like Nicolo Barella, Alessandro Bastoni and Matteo Pessina, to name a few.

It is true that mistakes will still be made and that certain games will highlight deficiencies, but this is key for Mancini to experiment and find these out before a major tournament.

Bastoni made mistakes against Lithuania, Immobile was not supplied and when he was poor. Italy certainly needed a creative option in that game, but it certainly is strong enough to make other teams at the Euros sit up and take note when you look at the first eleven.

Corriere Dello Sport summed it up nicely when they said this morning that “Italy only know how to win.” They agreed it was a poor first half, but they found a way to win, which is what matters.

Great national sides do that. They cannot all provide splendid football every time. To put this into context, take yourself back to 2017 and assess the feeling and how desperate you would be to see Italy as they are today.

The Azzurri are capable of competing to the latter stages in these Euros next summer and the start of the World Cup Qualifiers and the results they have managed to achieve will give them confidence. Italy may not always be attractive, but they are efficient with the potential of being brilliant.



Have your say...
This is what our Italian players can do, this is more of a reason to bring in the italian players back into Seria A. As a collective Italy can be great. Reduce the foreign players and make the majority Italian. Why is this not evident to all. Forget all the other issue this is the foundation of a county that it needs to build from. Investigate the FIGC and politics behind all this an expose it to the country/people.
on the 1st April, 2021 at 1:23pm
The lack of true goalscorers is the only thing that worries me with this Azzurri team. Immobile is just no good enough. Belotti hasn't developed how I'd have hoped.
I would just put Chiesa as a striker and work round that.
Three out of three is a good start.
A project for Serie A needs to be put in motion the lack of Italian talent in key roles is becoming more and more evident. If Serie A reforms and restricts the number of non italian players on the field at anytime we have something to save
on the 1st April, 2021 at 1:18pm
Fabio Capello said it best: "does not mater how you win, as long as you win". All the big teams are struggling but there is time. Biggest issue can be the big teams imposing Mancio to use there players that suck. Insigne will carry this team no doubt about it and in my hope will take 2 out of 3 championships. He is the top player on this Italian side hands down.
on the 1st April, 2021 at 1:17pm
I’ve been watching immobile miss chances for Italy for so many years now. 11 in about 40 caps only one against top nation Holland. It’s just terrible I remember last time we played England in 10 mins his touch in front of goal for Italy is shocking you could see it on his face last night at final whistle Mancini makes excuses but even he sees it but realise he doesn’t have any options really. He even used false 9 at the start of his term because he knows immobile is crap
on the 1st April, 2021 at 1:10pm
I don’t think this is totally fair. I’ve really enjoyed watched Italy under Mancini best I’ve seen us in years. Last night with so many changes and 3 games in a week and not playing for 5 months I thought we have done well. Last nights team so many players that stepped in with very few caps. The worry for me is the strikers we just don’t have one and I think that’s why we will struggle to win anything immobile should have scored 6-7goals over these games and scored a pen and from a gk mistake.
on the 1st April, 2021 at 1:02pm
1. Who should start up front? Despite his misses I still think it should be Immobile but it's not an ideal situation.
2. Who's the first choice cb pairing?
3. Why are we playing San Marino and Czech Republic? Would it not have been better to have a real test against a team not participating in the euros like Argentina or Brazil?
on the 1st April, 2021 at 12:48pm
2. Locatelli is truly an international player and looks more and more at home in the Italy shirt.
3. Pessina for me isn't quite there yet and if everyones fit shouldn't be in the squad.
4. Berardi seems to have finally matured over the last 18 months for both club and country. He may not be the world class talent many thought he'd become when he burst onto the scene but he should certainly be in the squad, and possibly first 11 for the Euros.

Now a few questions
on the 1st April, 2021 at 12:43pm
Italy played 6 halves of football and were absolutely brilliant for one of them (1st half against N. Ireland) and mediocre for the rest yet they still won all 3 games without conceding and created chances for Immobile to miss. Italy also didn't have their strongest 11 on the field at the same time in any of the games so all in all you have to take the positives.

A few questions have been answered from these three games 1. Spinazzola should be the starting lb but Emerson is a decent back-up
on the 1st April, 2021 at 12:40pm

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