Before Roberto Mancini took the Italian job, the national side was in disarray. Just 12 years prior to the 2018 World Cup, the Azzurri were the champions of the world. Their fall, however, took everyone by surprise. They hit rock bottom after failing to qualify for the previous World Cup. This unexpected decline marked the end of Gian Piero Ventura’s reign. And he was replaced by Mancini on 14th May 2018. Now, the Azzurri are a force to be reckoned with, and the ex-Manchester City manager must take the credit. With that, let’s look at how the 56-year-old has rebuilt the Italian national side.
Equaling an 82-Year Record
Following Mancini’s appointment, the 56-year-old instilled a new-found belief throughout the national side. He spearheaded a 27-game unbeaten run prior to the start of the 2020 European Championships. Italy are now 6/1 in Euro 2020 odds to win the competition after they secured their spot at the top of Group A. They won all three of their games. Having dominated their group, the Azzurri established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. And will be hoping to go deep into the competition.
It’s a testament to Mancini’s work with the Italian national side that their matchday three victory over Wales saw the 56-year-old equal an 82-year record. In triumphing over Robert Page’s team, Italy extended their unbeaten run to 30 successive matches, equaling Vittorio Pozzo’s tally from the 1930s. However, Mancini has distanced himself from comparisons to Pozzo’s team, as the Italian manager won two World Cups in 1934 and 1938.
Bringing Style Back to the Azzurri
In the pre-Mancini era, Italy had lost their identity. The Azzurri lost 1-0 on aggregate to Sweden in World Cup 2018 qualifying, meaning they would miss the competition for the first time since 1958. Not only that, but the failure also saw several of the team’s old guard retire from the international stage, such as Danielle De Rossi, Georgio Chiellini, and Gianluigi Buffon. However, Mancini wasn’t going to begin his reign without experienced heads, and thus Chiellini returned to the squad and was appointed captain by the former Manchester City manager.
Aside from reintegrating experience back into the Azzurri, Mancini’s tactical intelligence has been the catalyst in Italy’s revival. Despite favoring a 4-3-3, the Italian encourages his full-backs to press high up the field while one of the midfielders drops into the defense to form a back three. This approach works well as the Azzurri have plenty of options in midfield, many of which have the desire and intelligence to drift into and fill pockets of space. Manuel Locatelli, in particular, embodies Mancini’s all-action approach, as evident from his well-taken brace against Switzerland on matchday two of the group phase. Furthermore, the manager can also call on Nicolo Barella, who plays for Inter Milan. The Nerazzurri have long had star-studded names in their roster, such as Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the Italian midfielder is the latest in a long line of world-class talents.
Taking the Football World by Storm
Despite their unbeaten run prior to Euro 2020, many weren’t considering Italy as genuine contenders. Now, however, opinions have changed drastically. Under Mancini, the Azzurri look like one of the most well-rounded teams in world football, which is a frightening thought for their competitors. With a young squad and quality in depth, this could be the start of a dominant period for Italy and Mancini.