Football

Mancini rekindles Italy’s love for Azzurri

Turnaround: Roberto Mancini, centre, has transformed Italy, which failed to make the last World Cup, into a potent force.  

Roberto Mancini has turned the clock back for Italy, recapturing the atmosphere of the 1990 World Cup the country hosted, with a 1-0 win over Wales capping a perfect Euro 2020 group-stage run.

Three years after taking over following Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, Mancini has lead the Azzurri back to centre stage in emphatic fashion.

The song “Notti magiche” (Magical Nights) popularised during its home World Cup 31 years ago when Italy reached the semifinals rang out at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, where it has played all its matches.

After a perfect European qualifying run, Italy has continued that form in the group stage, beating Turkey and Switzerland, both with a 3-0 scoreline, before the victory over the Welsh sealed top spot in Group A. It was an 11th consecutive victory without conceding a goal.

‘Magical Nights’

“It was nice to hear the Stadio Olimpico singing ‘Notti magiche’ (Magical Nights),” said 56-year-old Mancini.

“It brought us back a few years when we were all younger and we felt an extraordinary love for the national team.

“This is why I want to dedicate this victory to them.”

He added: “We say Ciao Roma and thank them for what they have done.”

Italy will play the runner-up from Group C at Wembley, where the semifinals and final will also be hosted.

Pozzo’s legacy

Italy extended its unbeaten run to 30 games — 25 wins and five draws — a feat last achieved under two-time World Cup winning coach Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.

“I’d like to resemble one of the coaches who won the World Cup,” said Mancini, who has been in charge of four-time world champions Italy for 35 games.

“Pozzo won many other important things. We are still behind.”

Another record beckons — a 12th consecutive victory. That was achieved by Ferruccio Valcareggi, who led Italy to its only European title in 1968, and a runner-up spot in the World Cup two years later.

Mancini brought in fresh legs against the Welsh, with eight changes from the Swiss game, but the outcome was the same as a side with an average age of 27 again dominated its rival.

Mancini conceded the run had been perfect as Italy matched its unbeaten group runs in three previous world and European tournaments in 2000, 1990 and 1978.

“We couldn’t have done better,” said the former Manchester City manager.

“Changing even one or two players doesn’t change anything because everyone knows what they have to do and the product does not change.”


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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 10:47:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/mancini-rekindles-italys-love-for-azzurri/article34894507.ece

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