The Rise of Italian Football


For another first since 1958, the Italian national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after losing to Sweden in the World Cup Play-Off.The Italian national team coach at that time, Giampiero Ventura, who replaced Antonio Conte, who moved to Chelsea, became the target of public anger and was considered responsible for the big failure. Until now it is still a question why the Italian national team, which was strengthened by star players such as Buffon, Juventus defender trio Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli and also their best strikers such as Insigne, Immobile, Berardi, Belotti, Eder, and Pelle had to fail to qualify for the competition. the tournament they have won 4 times?

 are many analyzes behind the failure of the Azzuri, including the Italian style of play that is too "conservative", too in the comfort zone of their football system to the unbalanced mix of young players with senior players. Since winning the 2006 World Cup, the Italian national team has experienced a fairly tragic setback.

The major failures at the 2008 European Cup and 2010 World Cup proved that the golden generation of Italy, which at that time was still inhabited by star players such as Totti, Del Piero, Cannavaro, Zambrotta, Gattuso, Camoranesi, Toni, Grosso, and Inzaghi had ended.

At Euro 2012 and the 2013 Confederations Cup, the Italian national team under coach Cesare Prandelli did experience an increase in performance, where at the 2012 European Cup, they managed to become runners-up after being defeated by Spain and won third place in the 2013 Confederations Cup after defeating Uruguay in the contest. that. Regeneration was indeed the key to Italy's success at that time, the presence of new players such as Chiellini, Bonucci, Montolivo, Balotelli, Abate, Candreva, El Shaarawy, Florenzi, De Sciglio, to Verratti became the key to the return of Italy's achievements. 2018. The inaugural season of the UEFA Nations League awaits. Gli Azzurri also welcomes the European Cup qualifiers which this time they should not miss.

Three years later, the former Manchester City manager proved that the Italian national team was not finished at all. When Mancini arrived, Italy was 17th in the FIFA rankings, losing to Chile and Sweden. They are also only 14 points adrift of Wales. Now, ahead of the European Cup, Nicolo Barella and his friends are in seventh place, only losing to Spain, Portugal, England, Brazil, France, and Belgium.

Mancini led Italy to impress in the last two years, with outstanding performances in European Cup qualifiers. Joined in Group J, Gli Azzurri won all the matches. Only Belgium has a better record in qualifying. Italy has scored three fewer goals and conceded one more than Roberto Martinez's men.

"In May 2018 [when Mancini took over], I was sure we could come back because no one believed in us," said Mancini. He did it brilliantly.

In 2019, Mancini's men won 11 straight wins, breaking the record of legendary coach Vitorio Pozzo. Since losing to Poland in September 2018, Italy is also unbeaten in 26 matches. Mancini needed three more games without defeat to equal Pozzo's record set in 1935-1939.

Ahead of playing the European Cup at the Olimpico, Italy is in good condition. It's no exaggeration to place them as one of the favorites to win. This four-year tournament will be a real test for Mancini's team. Their opponents in the qualifying phase were relatively easy. Now, in Group A of the European Cup, the Gli Azzurri are joined by Turkey, Switzerland and Wales which are potentially troublesome.

Italy More Proactive Under Mancini

Roberto Mancini relies on a basic 4-3-3 formation when facing the match. He instructed his team to be proactive and determine the tempo of the game. The former Inter Milan coach left the stereotypical Italian game that tends to focus on defensive solidity and tries to absorb the opponent's pressure.

Mancini's team played more progressively. Francesco Acerbi and his friends tend to play with a high defensive line and try to grab the ball in the opponent's area. Two fullbacks are also used to rising to high positions to support the attack.

Under Mancini, Italy became a team that tried to dominate the game. This does not only apply when Italy faces a more inferior team. In the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League, the Gli Azzurri still try to appear dominant against teams like the Netherlands and Poland.

Italy recorded an average of 60% ball possession when competing in Group 1 of the UNL League A. As a result, they won the group with a score of 12 points, three wins, and three draws. Italy has scored seven goals and conceded only two of their six UNL matches.

Although more aggressive, Italy has not forgotten defense four-time champion of the most famous football championship failed to qualify for the first time since 1958. So embarrassed, the then President of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), Carlo Tavecchio, resigned. Gabriele Gravina became Tavecchio's replacement and immediately brought about big changes. Roberto Mancini was appointed head coach and was given the mandate to qualify Gli Azzurri to the Euro 2020 championship. That was the main condition of the initial agreement to extend his contract.

The initial impression that Mancini brought was ideal. Four days after his appointment, Italy won over Saudi Arabia in a friendly. However, things turned bad in the next five games. Italy failed to win.

Gravina's patience not to sack Mancini is finally starting to look fruitful. Italy managed to qualify for Euro 2020 with perfect points from 10 qualifying matches. They are the seventh country in history to qualify for the Euros with an unbeaten record in qualifying after France (1992, 2004), Czech Republic (2000), Spain (2012), Germany (2012), England (2016), and Belgium ( 2020).

Mancini is the best Gli Azzurri coach in the last 50 years if he counts only his first 22 matches (15 wins, five draws, two defeats). When the results of these 22 matches are converted into points as in Europe's top leagues, Mancini has accumulated 50 points, three more than the legendary Gli Azzurri coach, Arrigo Sacchi (47 points).

Mancini has now coached Italy 26 times, winning 17, drawing seven and losing just two. Now they are unbeaten in defeat in their last 21 matches, following a 2-0 win over Poland in the 2020 UEFA Nations League, Monday (16/11). Nine more games unbeaten, Mancini will match the record of the coach who gave Italy the 1934 & 1938 World Cup title, Vittorio Pozzo.

One of the keys to the success of Mancini's Italian direction is the depth of a qualified squad. Since the end of the 2006 World Cup-winning squad, Italy has had plenty of quality options in the first team.

From the attack line, there are Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti. Both players are very consistent if you look at the goals scored in the last two years. Immobile even won the European Golden Boot for the 2019/20 season with a record 36 league goals, making him the third Italian player to win the title (Francesco Totti & Luca Toni).

Mancini is also surrounded by top-class creative midfielders. There are the names of Jorginho, Marco Verratti, Nicolo Barella, Lorenzo Insigne, to the young Juventus star, Federico Chiesa. Meanwhile, the defense line slowly escaped the shadows of the Bonucci-Chiellini duo. Alessio Romagnoli and Francesco Acerbi performed solidly.

When it comes to choosing a goalkeeper, Italy doesn't have to worry either. Their current four goalkeepers, Alex Meret (Napoli), Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Alessio Cragno (Cagliari) and Salvatore Sirigu (Torino) are the main choices at their respective clubs.

Also, the young players did not escape the eyes of Mancini. In the list of 29 players Mancini called up on the last two matchdays of Euro Qualification in 2019, only 11 players were over the age of 25.

The 20-year-old midfielder, Sandro Tonali, is a name that is often called after being able to bring Brescia to promotion to the 2019/20 Serie A and moving to AC Milan last summer. Not to mention the 21-year-old main defender of Inter Milan, Alessandro Bastoni, and Manuel Locatelli who are on fire with Sassuolo. Also, keep in mind, Gianluigi Donnarumma is only a year older than Tonali.

The most important thing is that the Italian squad continues to grow and mature in the last two years. For example, the victory over Poland on Monday (16/11) shows that Italy has an even squad. Ahead of the match, 13 players from a total of 41 player lists were dropped due to being positive for COVID-19. Players such as Ciro Immobile, Federico Chiesa, and Cristiano Biraghi were sent back to their respective clubs.

Moreover, in this match, Mancini was not on the sidelines because he was undergoing self-quarantine. His assistant, Alberico Evani replaced Mancini's role nicely and said that their current squad was extraordinary.

"It's our culture that when difficult situations come we stick together. The players are amazing. They are growing and playing like veterans," said Evani.

He added, “We've been working together for the last two years, progress being the most important thing, but we still hope to do more. To reach the best level we have to move forward, but believing in this squad gives us hope."

Italy's revival under Mancini's guidance continues. He released the Gli Azzurri from the darkness of the Ventura era with his talented players.

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