Are Italy now the team to beat at Euro 2020? Roberto Mancini’s men are flawless at the back, clinical in attack, have excellent strength in depth and are set to be on the ‘good side’ of the knockout draw… just how far can they go this summer?
- Italy have set out their stall early at Euro 2020 with two group stage thrashings
- Roberto Mancini’s men have beaten Turkey and Switzerland by 3-0 scorelines
- The Azzurri are unbeaten in 29 ties and have won 10 in a row without conceding
- Mancini’s side have the breakout stars so far and a star forward in Ciro Immobile
- Italy are slowly becoming the team to beat this summer after an excellent start…
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here
Andrea Bocelli started Italy’s Euro 2020 campaign with a rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’, which literally translates as ‘Let No One Sleep’. If the country aren’t being kept awake at night by their brilliant on-pitch displays, then they’re certainly dreaming of success his summer.
In the two 3-0 Group A victories against Turkey and Switzerland to start the tournament, Roberto Mancini’s men have sent a message that they are the team to beat this summer.
In fact, they’re the team to beat across the whole of Europe – the Azzurri are not only 29 games unbeaten in all competitions but they have also won their last 10 matches without conceding a single goal.
Italy have set out their stall early on at Euro 2020 with two 3-0 group stage thrashings
The stylish but strict Roberto Mancini has made Italy tactically astute with all-round resilience
But beyond the excellent results, there is an added fear factor to Mancini’s Italy team. One of defensive togetherness, attacking talent and excellent squad depth, which is leading to growing fears among their rivals that this is not simply a case of a country peaking too early.
Italy have won their first pair of European Championship games convincingly and by the same scoreline, but the performances in the two games could not have been any more different.
Against Turkey on Friday night, Mancini’s men were in control against a side that sat deep and did little to trouble their backline. Italy wore down Senol Gunes’ side with both unrelenting attacking phases and presses on the back line and ran out completely deserved winners.
Against Turkey last Friday, the Azzurri controlled the tie and pressed well to win comfortably
On Wednesday against the Swiss, Italy sat back relinquished a bit more possession to their opponents but were devastating on the counter-attack and were just as clinical as their first match.
Manuel Locatelli’s two goals in Rome were expert breakaways that involved most of the midfielders and attackers on the pitch after showing an incredible amount of patience against a side who were more of a threat for the Italian defence.
The Italians could, and arguably should, have scored more on Wednesday night with Ciro Immobile, who netted the third goal, spurning the chance of a hat-trick from counter-attacks.
This is already a worrying sign for Italy’s rivals: Mancini’s men are capable of executing any sort of game plan – whether it be attacking or defensive – leading to a tactical dilemma for their rivals.
In their second game against Switzerland on Wednesday, Italy were devastating on the break
This flexibility can also been seen in the options Mancini has available to him. The quality of Italy’s performances so far can also be judged by the immense talent that are currently back-up options for the national team.
Midfield talisman Marco Verratti is injured but could return for the final group game, while attacker Federico Chiesa – arguably Juventus’ only shining light from a disappointing campaign last season – is yet to start at the finals.
When captain Giorgio Chiellini came off injured against Switzerland in the first-half, centre-back Francesco Acerbi stepped in alongside Leonardo Bonucci and did not look out of place, putting his body on the line with the rest of the Italian defence to preserve another clean sheet.
Sassuolo duo Manuel Locatelli (left) and Domenico Berardi right) are the surprise star players
Italy’s key duo Marco Verratti (left) and Federico Chiesa (right) are not needed at the moment
Full-backs Emerson Palmieri and Alessandro Florenzi are not needed despite playing for Chelsea and PSG, with midfielder Jorginho is playing a quieter role in the heart of the midfield due to the talent around him.
Mancini has ultimately realised that experience for a Champions League club is not needed in the core of his Italy side. Their star men on Wednesday night were midfielder Locatelli and winger Domenico Berardi – who were both part of Roberto de Zerbi’s attack-minded Sassuolo side this season.
Both players, along with left-back Leonardo Spinazzola, are making early cases to be the breakout stars of the tournament, despite long-term arguments for the likes of England’s Phil Foden, Spain’s Pedri, Sweden’s Alexander Isak and Germany’s Florian Neuhaus.
Leonardo Spinazzola (right) is another Italian breakout Euro 2020 star so far at left-back
Gone are the days where Bonucci and Chiellini’s expertise at Juventus is much-needed in the Italian national team. Acerbi is at Lazio, left-back Spinazzola at Roma, while impact substitutes Rafael Toloi and Matteo Pessina are with Atalanta.
Striker Ciro Immobile is also hitting his international purple patch at the right time. After being Mario Balotelli’s back-up at the 2014 World Cup and rather uninspiring at the last Euros five years ago, the 31-year-old now has two goals in his first two Euro 2020 games to act as the key striker any competition hopefuls need to strive.
Title-winning experience in the playing staff is ultimately not needed as there is plenty in the dugout as well. No other manager has picked up more trophies as a coach than Mancini, who sits very comfortably in the top ten most successful tacticians of all time with 23 titles.
Mancini (right) and star striker Ciro Immobile (left) are leading their team to big things
But can the stylish but strict 56-year-old lead his side to European success this summer? Italy are now expected to finish top of their group ahead of their final match with Wales on Sunday, which makes their knockout route a little clearer.
Should they finish top, then the Azzurri will face the runner-up of Group C, which – if the Netherlands continue their good start to the tournament – will be one of Austria, Ukraine or North Macedonia.
Given the way they swatted away Turkey and Switzerland in the past six days, then any of the Group C teams should not be a problem.
The quarter-final may spring up a more difficult challenge in the form of Group B favourites Belgium, who are currently in the last chance saloon to get their golden generation of talent into the history books.
Mancini’s side should be given a favourable last-16 draw should they finish top of the group
Italy can also fall back on success over Belgium in Euro 2016, winning their opening group match against Marc Wilmots’ side when Antonio Conte was manager of the Azzurri, who had a much less-talented squad back then.
The semi-final would likely involve either France or Portugal, with the potential of the other team, England or Spain in the final.
But given how well Italy are playing at the moment, and have been over the past few months, who is to stop them going all the way this summer?
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