Following their failure to qualify for the last World Cup in Russia, Italy are about to enter the Euros with a sense of renewed optimism. Roberto Mancini has this team playing an aggressive more modern version of football, that is not only entertaining, but most significantly, gaining results.
Gli Azzurri had a perfect 10 from 10 in their group which contained Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Finland, Greece and Liechtenstein. Whether they played home or away, Italy approached the game in the same way and racked up 37 goals, allowed just four and had a highly impressive goal difference of four.
Tactics and Formation
Playing in a 4-3-3 set-up, Italy have managed to use both their midfield dynamism and width to attack and defend with the same efficiency. The Azzurri build from the back and with the normal trio in the middle of Nicolò Barella-Jorginho-Marco Verratti, they are able to open up opposition defenses.
Typically Inter player Barella pushed further forward to join the attack, both with late runs into the box or by supplying that killer final pass, while the other two hung back. When they are without the ball, Italy presses the opponent in an attempt to win back the ball as quickly as possible. That starts with the front three, with either Ciro Immobile, Giacomo Raspadori or Andrea Belotti and the two wide attackers.
Mancini is expected to go with a line-up of Donnarumma; Florenzi-Bonucci-Chiellini-Spinazzola; Barella-Jorginho-Verratti; Chiesa-Immobile-Insigne. There main issues are Verratti’s current fitness, should Berardi start over Chiesa & is Immobile or Belotti the best striker.
Roberto Mancini took over an Italy that was in the doldrums after missing the last World Cup. He has however, managed to mould a relatively young team who are hungry for success. He encourages them to play pro-active football, leaving behind the defend & counter-attack that the country has been known for decades.
He has also shown a willingness to give each and every player a chance, as evident by him picking Alessandro Bastoni, Matteo Pessina and without a doubt, most surprisingly, Sassuolo striker Giacomo Raspodori. As a player, “Mancio” was known as stylish, creative and entertaining, but, previously as a coach, not so much. However, with his country, he has definitely taken those characteristics and implemented them into the current Italy set-up.
Just a few days before the start of the tournament and Gigio’s contract situation is still not resolved. The former Milan youth player turned down the club’s contract offer and has been linked to PSG, Barcelona and Juve. His status as a top-class goalie is not in question, as he has pulled off a number of miraculous saves. He does need to work on his feet on the ball and his ability from set-pieces.
The 24-year old had an up-and-down time at club level with Napoli. The Partenopei’s now former coach Gennaro Gattuso favoured veteran David Ospina, but Meret ended the 2019-2020 campaign as the goalkeeper in the Coppa Italia final, as the Neapolitans beat Juve on penalties after a 0-0. In the shoot-out, the Udinese-born player saved from Paulo Dybala to lead his side to victory.
The Torino keeper beat out youngster Alessio Cragno to grab the third and final spot on the goalkeeping roster of three. At 34, he is the veteran of the group and his experience, including a five-year stint at PSG, where he won trophies galore and was named goalkeeper of the year back to back in 2013 and 2014 could prove valuable to the entire group.
A bit of a late bloomer, the Roma player at 28 has only 14 caps at international level to his name. He has the ability to blow past opposition defenders due to his speed, has the strength to hold off attackers down the flank and the versatility to operate on either flank.
The Chelsea left-back ended the last season as a European Cup winner, but spent large portions on the bench. He was born in Santos, but qualified for Italy due to his ancestry. He is quick, skillful and a decent crosser of the ball and while he is expected to be a back-up, he could potentially provide the team with an extra threat going forward.
The Roma player is still owned by Roma, but spent last year on loan at PSG. At 30 and by making his debut in 2012, he is one of the few current players to have had experience at a major championship, having played at the last Euros in 2016. He initially began as a central midfielder before the switch out wide. He is tactically aware, full of energy and has the stamina to play both ends of the pitch with the same strength.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo
The Toscana-born player has had to bide his time to get to the top. Stints at Reggina, Cuneo, Matera and Empoli allowed him to build his reputation, before the big move to Napoli. He has firmly made the right back slot in Campania his own and with his ability to score goals, accurate crossing and quickness, he will be pushing Florenzi for that starting spot.
Having battled cancer, the Lazio center-back has gained an immense appreciation of where he has reached in his career. At 33, this could well be his one and only major tournament, so without a doubt, will be going all out to make it count. He is strong in the air, man-marking and even scores the odd long-range goal as well.
A ball-playing center-back who has had his struggles this past season. His veteran status adds experience to the squad and as he heads to his third European Championship, he’ll want to put the past near misses right.
At 36, the Juve and Italy captain will hope to finally win that elusive international trophy. He is a throwback to a somewhat old-school Italian defender. Not flashy, not pretty nor technically sound. He just defends and enjoys the one on one battles with opposition strikers like few in today’s game.
The Inter defender has risen in leaps and bounds in recent times. He came through the Atalanta youth system and was purchased by Inter for a whopping €31 million at just 18. It has proven money well spent, as after going back to Bergamo and later on Parma on loan, he returned to the Nerazzurri and for the past two seasons has improved vastly. At 6ft 3′, he is good in the air, but also with the penchant for making the decisive pass along the ground and the technique to go with it. Should be in the Azzurri set-up for years to come.
Brazilian-born Tolói has only made his debut this year after representing the country of his birth up till under-20 level. He has the ability to read the play from a distance and is a good passer of the ball from out the back. The Atalanta player became club captain, after Papu Gómez left in January.
A somewhat surprising choice as the Roma midfielder has been much maligned. His versatility is his best attribute and has the ability to hit long-range shots and combines well with his teammates. On the defensive side, can be caught out at times though.
The Roma-born player made his name with Sassuolo, but now wears the captain’s armband for the Giallorossi. He is technically superb, can pick out a pass either along the ground or over the top and as a covering defensive midfielder, has improved in recent times.
At just 24, the Sardinian-born player is set to be marauding the Italy midfield for years to come. He has already racked up 23 caps for his country, a high number considering Italy’s reputation to not trust young players. The Inter player is not just any player though.
He is the atypical modern midfielder who can perform on both ends of the pitch. He is physically strong, has the vision and technique, is very strong mentally and with a never say die attitude. Whether it’s attacking from open play, from a set-piece, defending a lead or tracking back, Barella can just about do it all.
The now Chelsea player came through the Verona set-up, before becoming an integral part of Maurizio Sarri’s entertaining Napoli team. He keeps the ball moving, with his speed of thought, vision and passing ability. He could have played for Brazil, but chose Italy back in 2014, making his debut two years later. His ability to break up play and start quick counters has allowed him to operate in the regista role. He is quite efficient as a penalty taker as well, with his unique style.
The Pescara-born player has the unusual tidbit of having not made a single appearance in Serie A. After helping his hometown club to promotion in 2012, he moved to PSG and has been there since. A brilliant deep-lying playmaker but with a bit of temper and an unerring knack of picking up unnecessary cards. He has lovely close ball control, can dribble around the pitch, and has excellent passing range. He is going into the Euros carrying an injury and is in doubt for the opener versus Turkey.
Made headlines when he scored a 20-yard screamer for Milan vs Juve in 2016 in an eventual Rossoneri win. However, due to a number of factors, he never solidified his place in the team and left for Sassuolo three years ago. His career has really taken off at the Mapei Stadium and is another in a line of all-round midfielders that Italy and Mancini can call on.
Showed up to training at Atalanta carrying a controversial bag caught the attention of the Calcio crazy world. However, that has not affected his play at all. Has found a home after bouncing around Italy, including a good spell at Verona. Did not initially make the 26-man squad, but after the injury of Stefano Sensi, was drafted in. He can operate in a number of roles in the front six and it’s that versatility that Mancio has shown he appreciates.
The Lazio striker’s stats of just 13 goals in 46 games is much criticised and his performance versus Sweden in the World Cup play-off was deemed a major reason for Gli Azzurri’s failure. He has scored bucketful of goals at the Stadio Olympico and will be hoping to put those past performances behind him. His strengths are his ability to move between the lines and pressure the opposition.
Not the most technically gifted striker, but “Il Gallo” more than makes up for it with his willingness to run and run and run all game. He is very good in the air, has the ability to score spectacular goals and can combine well with his teammates. At 27, if he can turn in a good performance at the Euros, he may finally get that big move after giving his all at Torino.
A quick, skillful and incisive winger, the Juve player is one player who could use the Euros to really announce himself to a wider audience. He can take on opposition defenders, whip in crosses, has intelligent movement off the ball and can finish off chances. He is also a willing defender as well, when the need arises.
A left-footed player who is happiest playing on the right side, the Cariati-born winger cum forward is an exciting prospect. At 26, he is in his prime and has shown his loyalty to Sassuolo, despite having offers to leave. He can cut inside and set up a teammate or create himself, is fleet of foot, and has good technique. He has great movement off the ball, never allowing himself to be static and always gives his teammates an option and is a nightmare for the opposition.
Naples born and bred and made his name with Pescara along with Verratti and Immobile, he is the leader of the attack at 30. Operating as a right-footed forward on the left side, he is tactically intelligent, quick, skillful, a team player in the true sense, without neglecting his own ability to score. He has made the cut inside curlers from the top of the penalty area a signature move. He’ll be hoping to improve on his eight goals in 41 games significantly this summer.
Since his move to Juve from Fiorentina, the now 27-year old has never met the heights as he did in Tuscany. The issue could be he does not have a defined role. With La Vecchia Signora, he has operated all over the pitch and has found consistency, hard to come. With his national team though, he is often deployed on the right side of the attacking trio under Mancini, and that he has struggled so much at club level but has made the Euro squad, shows how much the manager regards him.
The Sassuolo striker made Mancini’s team for the Euros despite not even having played for the senior team. Obviously, this is a pick for the future, as the coach wants to give the player a feel of the big tournament vibe. He is two-footed, vision and combines well with his teammates, as well as being quick between the lines. His versatility means he can play anywhere along the front three.
By: Vijay Rahaman
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Nicolò Campo – LightRocket