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Italy Continue to Make Strides Under Roberto Mancini

After failing to qualify for the World Cup, Italy are now a team in transition. Firing Gian Piero Ventura, the Azzurri hired former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini. Since taking over, the team has made slow but steady progress. Currently sitting second in Group 3, Italian football continues to make strides under their new manager.

Italy Continue to Make Strides

The recent international break saw Italy play one friendly and one UEFA Nations League game. In their first game, Mancini’s team came away with an underwhelming 1-1 draw against Ukraine. Unable to break down a resolute Ukraine team, Italy were left frustrated on the night. In the team’s UEFA Nations League fixture, they faced another tough opponent, struggling to score until the 92nd minute. Mancini’s team walked away with all three points, winning 1-0 and avoiding relegation.

What We Learned

After failing to dominate in either fixture, Italy still came away with two good results. During the team’s friendly with Ukraine, Mancini learned a lot about his group. Experimenting with his lineup, Mancini saw good performances from Federico Bernardeschi and his three-man midfield. Italy’s star man on the night was Bernardeschi, but Mancini also saw Lorenzo Insigne play a key role. Despite the result, the team played well.

Heading into the second game, Italy went in with an unchanged lineup. Forced to wait 92 minutes for a goal, a game-winner finally arrived when full-back Cristiano Biraghi scored in stoppage time. Controlling both games, Italy had 70% possession against Poland. The team also created 38 chances in two games, something Mancini will consider a big positive. Finishing those chances is one thing, but creating them is another. Italy’s midfield trio was superb in both games, a trio which looks set to play a big role moving forward.

The Midfield Trio

Mancini started the same midfield trio in both games. Marco Verratti, Jorginho, Nicolò Barella – this trio played a key role in both fixtures, controlling possession and creating chances. All three players are balanced, talented individuals who help the team at both ends of the pitch. A young trio, Italy know they can rely on Verratti and Jorginho; Barella is the wildcard. Only 21, Barella’s best years are ahead of him, with the Cagliari midfielder the final piece of the puzzle. As a nation, Italy have always had quality, creative midfielders. However, the generation that led the team to both the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2012 finals has been and gone. Mancini is looking for the next Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi, Gennaro Gattuso.

Heading in the Right Direction

Since missing out on the World Cup, Italian football has changed. Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon has retired, surrendering his captaincy. In May, Mancini was announced as the new manager of the Azzurri. The Italian FA also moved on from the controversial figure, Carlo Tavecchio as President of the Italian Football Federation. These changes were necessary, Italian football had stalled, failing to move on with the rest of the world. Mancini’s younger, fresher Italian team is heading in the right direction going forward. Similar to Holland, Italy have made good decisions, leading to the team making strides under Mancini.

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