Italy go from Euro 2020 glory to being ‘sixty years behind other nations’ with Azzurri facing ‘total reset’ after World Cup failure and Finalissima defeat, and Roberto Mancini’s future in doubt amid Paris Saint-Germain links
First Italy were knocked out of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, then they lost the Finalissima against Argentina, and now manager Roberto Mancini may leave. It’s been one hell of a climb down for the Euro 2020 champions, who were kings of the continent less than a year ago, but are now in the […]
First Italy were knocked out of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, then they lost the Finalissima against Argentina, and now manager Roberto Mancini may leave.
It’s been one hell of a climb down for the Euro 2020 champions, who were kings of the continent less than a year ago, but are now in the midst of disaster.
The Azzurri’s final win over England at Wembley Stadium was followed by draws against Bulgaria, Switzerland and Northern Ireland in Qatar 2022 qualifying, setting up a mouth-watering play-off final decider against fellow giants Portugal.
However, Mancini’s men didn’t even make it there, losing to North Macedonia in their play-off semi-final – with a stoppage time winner from Aleksandar Trajkovski bringing the shock of the tournament before it has even taken place.
Former Italy boss and three-time European Cup winning manager Arrigo Sacchi was in shock at the defeat, and offered a stark conclusion.
“President Gravina is a competent man, he will have to analyse the situation coldly and not get taken over by the emotion of the moment,” said the ex-AC Milan manager
“I hope he does not intend to solve everything by sending the coach away, the trouble is more serious, much more serious.
“Italian football suffers from cultural backwardness, there are no new ideas. Other nations evolve and we are sixty years behind.
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“I will say it clearly: the least guilty in this situation are the players and the coach. Here the problem is institutional.”
A 2-1 Nations League defeat against Spain in October ended an incredible 37-game unbeaten streak, and two more losses have since followed.
The latest of which came on their grand return to Wembley in the fabled Finalissima, where they were played off the pitch by Copa America champions Argentina in a 3-0 loss that only compounded Italy’s misery.
So much so that former Manchester City boss Mancini is now considering his future, with reports claiming the Premier League title-winning coach has his eye on the Paris Saint-Germain job.
Mancini had previously rejected offers to leave his post, with new-monied Newcastle regularly linked, and even Manchester United.
The 57-year-old decided to remain in his role, though, but reports suggest his previous commitment may be short-lived.
Much has changed with Italy since their grand victory last summer, and a squad that looked a striker short of perfection when they defeated England now looks miles off it.
Talismanic centre-back Giorgio Chiellini has bowed out, while the giant who won the final in the shootout, Gigi Donnarumma, has looked a shadow of himself since signing as PSG’s new hope in goal.
Federico Chiesa was Italy’s most eye-catching star of the Euros but the Juventus ace hasn’t played since January with an ACL injury, while fellow key forward Lorenzo Insigne is stepping away from the big time with a move to MLS.
There’s now problems all over the pitch, and many of them have always been there, with Qatar astonishingly being the second World Cup in a row the Azzurri have missed.
The four-time champions of the world have only ever previously missed a single tournament.
Solutions are dotted all across Serie A, with stars such as Sandro Tonali, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Alessandro Bastoni ready to step up as first-team regulars for the national side, but things are far more complicated than that.
“The victory in the Euros is part of the magic of that tournament, now we need to start again and find that magic once more,” said Mancini after their loss to Argentina.
“In football, everyone is behind you when you win and when you lose almost everyone turns against you. That’s just how it is.
“Argentina are in better shape right now and perhaps for the first time in three-and-a-half years we found a team that genuinely did dominate us, at least in the second-half.
“It takes time, we can’t just invent new players straight away, we knew it was going to be a tough process. It’s going to be a total reset, many of the players have already left and weren’t in any shape to play four games, it would’ve just created even more problems in September.
“The reset is from now, not September. That doesn’t mean those we see today won’t also be here in future, but the new era begins tomorrow.”
That new era comes against Germany in the Nations League on Saturday evening [7:45pm kick off] – and with a squad turnover that is desperately needed but maybe not possible, Euro 2020 may well be looked back on as a flash in the pan for a faltering giant.
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