Mancini’s Italy must deliver again in 2022

by | Dec 31, 2021 12:09

Italy fans have felt any type of emotion in 2021 and Giancarlo Rinaldi explains what Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri need to get in the Euros mood again in 2022.

If there was anything up to be won in 2021, Italy was probably involved. From UEFA Euro 2020 to the Eurovision Song Contest, from the Great British Bake Off to Strictly Come Dancing, it felt every televisual triumph had a green-white-and-red flag draped across its shoulders. The trouble, of course, is how on earth do you follow a year like that?

Roberto Mancini will be less concerned about TV titles than those available on the football field. His Azzurri flew under the radar to success at Wembley in the summer but that has raised expectations of what this group of players can achieve. The fact that they need to hope for a playoff ticket to the World Cup shows how quickly the sporting gods can deliver a two-footed tackle to your recently regained reputation.

Still, let’s not lose all of the glorious afterglows from the European Nations straight away. Italy went into that competition on a great run of form and a squad without many superstars performed perfectly to take the trophy. Other teams had more outstanding soloists, but football has always been about the entire orchestra – not just talented individuals. The way they coped with losing one of their outstanding players – Leonardo Spinazzola – typified their attitude. They turned his absence into inspiration and lifted the cup, in part, to honour his contribution. That magical month or so was always going to be hard to replicate.

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Indeed, the second half of 2021 felt a bit like the horror hangover induced by one grappa too many on a wonderful night out. The Azzurri were not awful, but their old goalscoring headaches returned with a vengeance. They will need to get that out of their system pretty quickly if they hope to return to the levels they have set themselves over the past year.

In that sense, all eyes will be on the Renzo Barbera in March. It will be in Palermo that much of how they view 2022 will begin to be decided. A first playoff showdown with North Macedonia needs to be won before tackling a mildly more tricky trip to Portugal to see off a certain Cristiano Ronaldo and company. If not a mountain to climb, then certainly a very challenging cliff face.

Mancio will need to try his best to recreate that team spirit that stood him in such good stead at the Euros. This little mini-competition will only be navigated by getting this squad to perform – once again – much better than the sum of its parts. In that respect, it is to be hoped the Italian football authorities give him as much time as possible with them before these key clashes in order to have the best chance of success. Everything will have to click to ensure Italy fans don’t face watching another miserable World Cup with their noses pressed up against the window.

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The year to come, really, revolves around that. Win those playoff clashes and the summer showdown planned with South American champions Argentina becomes a much more exciting prospect than Nations League matches against Germany, England and Hungary. Elimination, though, would give a hollow feeling to every other game in 2022.

The Azzurri have the players to make it to Qatar but they won’t do it by playing anything less than flat out and with everyone pulling in the same direction. The slightest doubt or hesitation – as witnessed in recent games – undermines their overall play significantly. Yes, it will be important to have as many key men back as possible but if they don’t approach these ties with the right attitude, it won’t matter a jot. Teamwork makes the dream work – or some other trite phrase along those lines.

Football fans can have short memories, but they owe it to Mancini not to forget everything he did at Euro 2020 – and before – to re-establish Italy as a major force in the global game. That victory should be celebrated for years to come as the moment the boys in blue got their international mojo back.

However, this crop of players could truly cement its reputation by making sure it gets to the World Cup too. That competition has always been the yardstick by which La Nazionale is measured and missing out again would be too painful for any words I can select to describe. Those four stars on the shirt mean a lot – and everyone who celebrated the gathering of any of them in the past will dearly hope to see a tilt at collecting a fifth when next winter rolls around.

@ginkers

 

Roberto Mancini Italy training

13 Comments

  1. Bruno

    “A first playoff showdown with North Macedonia needs to be won before tackling a mildly more tricky trip to Portugal to see off a certain Cristiano Ronaldo and company. If not a mountain to climb, then certainly a very challenging cliff face.”

    Why are you forgeting Turkey?

  2. sam

    Portugal will be underpressure since they are playing at home like England.

  3. sam

    Portugal will be underpressure since they are playing at home

  4. Franco

    Very hard to get to the World Cup and playing as they did during the qualifiers they came short! Now backs against the wall I feel the pressure will get to them and I hate to say it but ballo could be a great addition for these two games as upfront we are not good enough . Hope I am wrong but we need a performance top quality to go thru

  5. Gman1

    No, I think Insigne has delivered the finishing blow to Mancini’s and the NT’s hopes now. He is talented and was decisive in helping them win the Euros but when a player shows a level of selfishness and ignorance by deciding to play in an inferior league just for the money, I would not want the player back in my team, especially the NT. As we all know the NT has always thrived on the concept of playing as a whole, for others and your team mates not individualism and selfishness. I don’t see how you can bring back someone who has shown the complete opposite to this concept now but I also don’t see anyone that could replace his skillset and what he brought to the team.

  6. Michael

    For sure I also believe that the addition of Mario Ballotelli will be very vital for Mancini and Azzurri in general no doubt about it, Ballo, Chiesa Insigne,scamacca, Lazzari’s speed, and Sensi all those can make the Azzuri very tough to beat!

  7. rob

    Forget Turkey, bunch of Turkeys!

  8. Rob

    Scary thing about Portugal is that can dig deep for a result. If Italy doesn’t start strong it doesn’t look good. Goal scorers need to be goal scorers. The defence can’t always bring it home. I would love to make a “Siiiiiiiiii” video for @cristiano if this result pans out 😉

  9. Brandon

    Gman1,

    Keep in mind that Insigne will leave Napoli in June. As such, he will be there for the Playoffs (March). So nothing changes here. But if you are referring to the actual World Cup final tournament, OK, I understand your concern.

    Obviously not ideal. He is an older player, more mature, doubt he will develop any further. Even if he does have a few months of MLS under his belt (June to October depending if Toronto makes the Playoffs), he will really only be missing about 12, 13, or 14 matchdays of Serie A from late August to mid November. Not the end of the world. Is that really a deal breaker not to take him to Qatar, should we qualify? As was said by a pundit recently when asked, this could work ! MLS season will have been finished for a month, he takes 1 month off, joins the 1 week camp. If anything he will be one of our fresher players. All niggling injuries healed.

    Julio Cesar, Ex Inter GK, spent 7 matches in 2014 playing for the same MLS team, Toronto FC, prior to his home World Cup. This didn’t stop Brazil of all teams to deem that a stalwart of theirs was not good enough anymore. And no, none of the 7 German goals he took in the SF were his fault.

    If people and Mancio can’t get over of the MLS stigma, well. We got Chiesa on the left. Pessina to deputize for him. On the right, a tandem of Politano and Berna.

    Portugal can indeed dig deep for a Result, but so can we. Only 1 Loss in our last 40 Matches is not an accident. This could go to PK’s. I’ll take Gigio all day, every day on PK’s.

  10. Brandon

    I do think Portugal will beat Turkey but at the risk of repeating myself, this is not the same Turkey that we smacked 3-0 and The Netherlands slapped around 6-0. Stefan Kuntz has done a great job since he took over. Those Results weren’t under his watch.

  11. Gianfranco

    Why are we so negative on the Azzurri? Yes, it’s now a mess to get to the World Cup but we were on the wrong end of a couple unlucky bounces, including two missed penalties. Yes, I’ve also lost sleep over the way we let the qualification slip away from us. But let’s all band together and support the Azzurri going into March. Turkey is no cakewalk for the Portuguese and I will take our team against anyone in the world in a single game playoff. Especially when it’s a Portuguese team that hasn’t played a solid game in years. Let’s get behind the Azzurri and support them rather than already conceding that we’re living a nightmare.

  12. Frank Butcher

    Elastic Trickery

  13. Brandon

    Any update on Verratti? Should be back for PSG, no?,

    Any update on Spina? Last I heard it there was a setback.

    I really hope Mancio organizes a Training Camp during this months International Break. Just a 3 Day-thing. Watch film, etc.

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