Since failing to reach the 2018 World Cup, Italy have enjoyed a rejuvenation under coach Roberto Mancini that saw the Azzurri clock up a perfect qualifying campaign for this summer’s European Championship.
The Italians are currently on a 26-match unbeaten run – the second longest in their history – and are many observers’ dark horses to go deep in the tournament.
Indeed, there is a growing optimism in the country and a feeling that they have a good blend of youth and experience in their squad. But can they get the most out of their attack to truly challenge for the title? And will the decision to include injured playmaker Marco Veratti pay off?
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Why haven’t Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti shown their best form in Italian colours?
Immobile and Belotti seem weaker when they wear the national team jersey. They probably feel the pressure of a role that has been occupied by great strikers before them (authentic legends), and have not yet overcome the trauma of failing to score in two games against Sweden [in a World Cup play-off] in November 2017.
In Serie A their performances are definitely above average, but when the level rises on the international stage they can’t be reliable. In view of the European Championship this is a big problem, above all, because they will all be crucial and decisive games. However, I believe that Mancini’s system can work without a Robert Lewandowski-style striker. In addition, pay attention to the role of ‘Magic Box’ Giacomo Raspadori, a very interesting player who can play both as a first striker and as an offensive playmaker.
How big a gamble is it taking Marco Verratti? Will he actually play?
Let’s say that bringing an injured player into a competition like the Euros is always a big risk. Verratti’s condition is more or less this: he is continuing to do physical therapy, but he will hardly be present at the opener.
Mancini made a sort of bet: to try to come through the group despite the injury of the PSG playmaker, then hope to have him in top form in the knockout phase. It is a risk, above all because Marco is the star of the national team, but as we have said a thousand times, the strength of the group lies precisely in the group and not in the individuals. We are yet to find out who will play in his place and when Verratti will be 100 per cent ready.
Italy are on the ‘easy’ side of the draw and could avoid France/Germany/Portugal/Spain/England until the semi-finals. Could they cause a surprise?
Expectations are high. Italy has a great desire to breathe the air of important competitions again and Mancini did a great job in preparation.
Objectively speaking, finishing in the top eight would be a great result. Let’s not forget that Italy did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but even a run to the semi finals here could be possible. The best thing is to think step by step. First you have to overcome the group, and from that moment on, the sky’s the limit. Many players will have very big responsibilities, so we don’t know how they will react. We will see, all we know is that winning the trophy is practically impossible.
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