Euro 2020: Roberto Mancini's Italy are the team to fear heading into knockouts

Roberto Mancini has transformed the Azzurri's into a well oiled machine that has no real weakness, they are on a 30 match unbeaten run.

Italian national team after the 1-0 win against Wales in Euro 2020; Credit: Twitter/@azzurri
By Sreejith C R | Jun 26, 2021 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

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After the end of the group stage of Euro 2020, it’s safe to say that Italy is the most feared team in the tournament. Roberto Mancini’s side haven’t displayed any real weakness so far. They have thrashed every opponent on their way to last 16. Despite making eight changes to the starting eleven in the final group fixture against Wales, the Azzurri’s displayed a dominant performance to win 1-0. Their defence looks solid and the midfield contributes equally to the attack and defence. The forward line is clinical and very good at creating plenty of chances too.

After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, under former head coach Gian Piero Ventura, the 2006 World Champions Italy have transformed themselves into a world class unit under Roberto Mancini.

The former Manchester City boss, who took charge of the side in 2018, hasn’t lost a match since the 1-0 defeat to Portugal in 2018.

They have now equaled their previous record of 30 games unbeaten streak set up in the 1930’s. Mancini’s side can beat that record with a win against Austria in the round of 16 encounter on Saturday.

Solid defence

Italy have always been known to have a very strong defence. In fact if we look at the most successful Italian teams in the past they were known to have the best defenders. Thus, their title success was built on a strong back line.

Just look at legendary goalkeeper Dino Zoff, who captained them to glory at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. And who can forget defender Fabio Cannavaro leading them to their fourth world title in 2006. He even won the Golden Ball that year.

This Italian team of 2021 is also no different. Leonardo Bonucci and Georgio Chiellini are one of the best central defensive partners in the world right now. However unlike the previous great Italian units, this side is also very strong going forward.

Even the two wing-backs are very attack minded and are not hesitant to join the attack whenever possible. Unlike the traditional Italian teams who were happy to sit back and defend after scoring a goal, this team is hungry for goals. But they attack without compromising on the defence. Indeed Mancini’s side hasn’t conceded a goal in the 11 games.

Attacking setup

Holding midfielder Jorginho is a pivotal player in Mancini’s tactics, he has started in every game so far. The Chelsea player provides cover for the wing-backs whenever they go forward. His ability to dictate the pace of the game and patiently sit back to support the central defenders are key for the success of Italians.

Meanwhile the other two midfielders- Manuel Locatelli and Nicolo Barella are the silent killers in the team. Locatelli’s two goals in the game against Switzerland is a testament to that. Lorenzo Insigne plays on the left side of attack but is a right-footed player. More often than not he likes to cut inside and take players on. This creates space and allows the likes of Locatelli and left-wing-back Leonardo Spinazzola to get into attacking positions.

Similarly, striker Ciro Immobile plays more like a false number nine. The Lazio player isn’t the main goal scorer in the team. Quite often, he draws the defender towards him and creates space for Domenico Berardi, Barella and right-wing-back De Lorenzo.

Italy – the team over individuals

Therefore this Italian side is a team which is not dependent on individuals. Mancini has brilliantly set up a unit that has match winners in every position. 25 out of 26 players in the squad have got playing time.

Having the likes of Juventus players Federico Chiesa and Federico Bernardeschi starting on the bench in the first two games speaks volumes about their bench strength.

But, knockout matches of major tournaments have always been a tricky affair. Wales defeated Belgium to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and Portugal winning the title at Paris without scoring a single goal in the regular time of knockout stages adds to the unpredictable nature of the tournament.

Quite often or not it’s not the best team on the paper or world ranking that goes through, it’s always the best team on the day. A bit of luck with their best performance can help the Austrians to pull out a surprise against the 2006 world champions.

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