On Wednesday September 8th in Sassuolo, Italy smashed Lithuania 5-0 in their 2022 FIFA World Cup Group C qualifying match to achieve a record 37th straight undefeated match eclipsing the record of 36 matches set by the Brazil national team between 1993 and 1996.
How has Roberto Mancini made Italy a team that seem unbeatable.
Roberto Mancini Made Italy the Greatest Team of Recent Years
When former Manchester City and Inter Milan manager Mancini took on the Italian national team job, he inherited an Italy side that had missed out on qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup under Luigi Di Biagio after losing a playoff against Sweden. His contract was to run until 2020, and if he managed to qualify for Euro 2020, and extension would be automatically triggered until 2022.
Changes Made by Mancini to the National Team Setup
Ex-Sampdoria forward Mancini immediately set to work as he surrounded himself with his trusted associates, all of whom he had enjoyed a successful playing career with. The evidence of this was seen in the closeness of the head of the Italy national team delegation, Gianluca Vialli, to the national team during their successful Euro 2020 campaign. Mancini brought along three of his former Sampdoria teammates to join him as assistant managers of the Italy national team. The appointment of Vialli, his close friend and former teammate followed much later in 2019.
Before the era of Mancini, Italy was famed for its fierce defenders and defending. The last defender to win the Ballon d’Or, Fabio Cannavaro, was the captain of the victorious Italian national team to the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Having produced legendary defenders such as Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Nesta and many more, one could be forgiven for attributing the art of defending purely to Italy.
Italy Style of Play Under the Guidance of Mancini
Mancini, however was interested in doing much more than just having a defensive tag with the Italian national team. He intended to set up his side to play on the front foot at all times, making then-Napoli midfielder Jorginho his first choice to occupy the deepest midfield role. Jorginho, it must be remembered, was overlooked and discarded by the previous permanent manager Giam Piero Ventura. Mancini’s choice of Jorginho in midfield meant that he had a player who he could trust to control the tempo of a match for him. Combining Jorginho with PSG schemer Marco Veratti and Nicolo Barella ensured that the Azzurri could keep control of possession and also reduce the amount of the ball seen by their opposition, just as he did when he was Manchester City manager.
Bringing through the youngsters
Immediately as he arrived, Mancini set to work on bringing through youngsters to the Italy national team set-up, with the likes of Moise Kean, Nicolo Zaniolo, Sandro Tonali, Federico Chiesa all beneficiaries of his decision, with Chiesa especially excellent in Euro 2020 and Kean the scorer of two goals on their record-breaking night. Despite his affinity for the young players, he kept his trusted old guard close enough to ensure that their impacts were felt in the team. The experience of captain Giorgio Chiellini in the Euro 2020 final came to the fore when he tugged back teenage winger Bukayo Saka late in the day to stop him from having a clear run to goal.
Mancini, Legendary Italy Manager
Mancini led his Italy side to an unprecedented ten wins in qualifying for Euro 2020 before leading his side to glory in the Championship with some classic performances. Despite their dazzling form prior to the tournament, they were unfancied by many because they had not come across many high-level teams since Mancini’s appointment. The Italian manager has proven himself to be a trailblazer, and surely has done an immense job in making this group of Italian players among the best ever.
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