Italy, a new team to beat
While the European champions resume competition against Bulgaria on Thursday, Mancini and his men resume their journey to Qatar with a new status to assume.
Will Italy come down from its little cloud after its dream summer, concluded in apotheosis on the side of Wembley against England? The return of the European champions against Bulgaria this Thursday evening (8:45 p.m.) should provide some initial answers.
Mancini’s new challenge
After having relieved a moribund Italy and injured in its ego of champion by its non-participation in the World Cup 2018, the « Mancio » is facing one of the greatest challenges of a coaching career: knowing how to maintain a group of champions concerned and at the top. Ask Didier Deschamps and his group of world champions, they know something about it since their disappointment against Switzerland in the round of 16 of the last Euro (defeat 3-1).
Faithful to the intimate saying not to change « a winning team », the Italian coach called on the 25 European champions with the exception of Leonardo Spinazzola, still in the process of treating his terrible injury after his ruptured tendon. Achilles against Belgium (2-1). However, Roberto Mancini has decided to call on an enlarged group of 36 players in order to establish a beginning of renewal – and why not competition – within a workforce that should not rest on its laurels in its quest for the World 2022 in Qatar. Among them, the promising but fragile Nicolo Zaniolo (22 years old) or the former Parisian Moise Kean (21 years old), who has recently returned to Juventus.
« Relive the same emotions » as soon as possible
Asked about the return of his selection on the field for the first of his team since the Euro final, the Italian coach said he was « happy to play as European champions« Even if the players »are aware of the importance of a good start tomorrow« . Mancini even knows he is expected since he is now playing « as European champion« . Same story with the experienced defender Leonardo Bonucci (34 years old) who insisted on the desire to “relive” and “transmit” all his emotions to the Italian public who will find their way back for the first time. Squadra Azzura European champion against Bulgaria. A public playing a central driving role in the construction of this European champion team which had repeatedly repeated its desire to delight the Italian people hard hit by the Covid-19.
In front of them stands a team from Bulgaria that the Nazionale had faced last March, still in the context of qualifying for the World Cup. Italy had won (2-0) thanks to the achievements of Belotti on penalty and Locatelli. But for Bonucci, it is a “dangerous” team because “very rough” and much more “athletically advanced” than the Italians who have only resumed their championship, for the most part, for two weeks. The other objective of the evening will be to bring to 35 the number of games without defeat of Italy, a series started after the setback against Portugal (1-0) dating from September 10, 2018. This Thursday evening, the Italians will play therefore with a double stake, that of assuming their status of invincible European champions, but also and above all, not to disappoint a public that believes more than ever in its Squadra Azzura.