Mancini hopes Italy avoid Portugal in World Cup play-offs

by | Nov 16, 2021 17:21

Roberto Mancini insists Italy must ‘think positive, as we’ve lost just one of the last 40 games’ and wants to avoid Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the World Cup play-offs.

The Azzurri were held 0-0 by Northern Ireland last night in Belfast, so Switzerland thrashed Bulgaria 4-0 and leapfrogged them to win the group.

That means while the Swiss go directly into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Italy must go through the new and more complicated play-off route in March, which now has a semi-final and a final.

“We thought that we had already qualified, but must learn to accept the results on the pitch even when they are negative,” said Mancini at the Social Football Summit event in Rome this afternoon.

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“We’ve still got a good chance of qualifying. We’ve only lost one of the last 40 games, so it’s important to always think positive. If we had to have a lull, I’d rather it was now than in March or when the World Cup comes around.”

Italy had been top of their group from the start, only losing out in the final game, after drawing both head-to-head clashes with Switzerland with missed penalties.

“I knew it would be difficult when we were drawn against Switzerland, but I didn’t think we’d end up in the play-offs. We had two penalties against Switzerland and made life complicated for ourselves.”

Nonetheless, the CT points out that under his tenure and indeed only four months ago, Italy won the UEFA EURO 2020 tournament and set a new all-time world unbeaten record of 37 international matches.

“This squad is very good and it’s not a fluke that we won the Euros, nor were we very defensive in that tournament. We thoroughly deserved the trophy even against the best teams.

“There are moments in which we cannot give 100 per cent and this is one of them. If we reach March without this many injuries, then we can have our say against any opponent.”

The final qualification and play-off spots will be decided this evening, so Mancini was asked who he would like to avoid.

“If I had to pick one, I’d say Portugal.”


  1. Isaac

    I will never place a bet on Italy senior team,they made me lose my bet,they are not reliable,they can disappoint you at least expected they lack consistency.they get carried away by little success.

  2. Eg

    🤣🤣- forget having to go to a play off… poor Isaac lost a bet. Let’s keep it football.. lost one in what nearly 49 games won a euro and broke a record for unbeaten games.. this is Italy, we win things and occasionally underperform, let’s just hope we make it to the WC unlike last time 🤞🏼

  3. Carlo

    10/1 on Italy winning the euros – I’m quids in – I saw it coming with our amazing unbeaten run yet the bookies and Isaac didn’t. Your own fault! Equally I saw this coming and again am quids in! Now I predict we will qualify and then win the World Cup. Mancini was right about that. You heard it hear Isaac. Put your money on now with great odds or forever hold your piece. Ciao

  4. BoB

    @Eg..finally some rational thinking. There are always ups and downs following the Azzurri..i would’nt have it any other way

  5. Andrea

    Portugal all day long! That’s who we will end up with! 🙄

  6. Uncle Z

    We should have never let it come to this. FFS Bulgaria and NI kept a clean sheet and now we are hoping. I do not want Portugal only because I see the bigger picture. We must have both nations progress to stop the England boys from launching missiles from the corners. Any country but them.

  7. Tom

    Uncle Z England will have to avoid France and Brazil who are the clear favourites to win . Sadly I don’t see Italy making it , they went from smashing teams in euro qualifying and euro to tying Bulgaria at home.

  8. Amol Ghadigaonkar

    Instead of expressing vocally his Fear for a formidable Team like Portugal, Mancini should believe that Italy’s World Cup 2022 has already begun with the two Matches, right in March and eventually he will have to face one of the Seeded Teams in the Second Match anyway. Beating Portugal will be great Opportunity to put them out of the World-Cup.

  9. Frank B.

    We can (and should) still qualify but we need a change in tactics – Mancini got it all wrong last week. In a predictable wide open game, against an opponent who wants to play football in Switzerland, he starts Bellotti when Berardi was clearly the better choice. Berardi is the best wide Italian player in the game who is capable of stretching the opposing defence out wide with quality touches, creating space in the middle for others.

    Against N Ireland, opponents looking for a scoreless draw, what we needed was someone with a physical presence in the middle – not Insigne. We had no ability to get on the end of crosses with him there – he was useless because there was no room for him to operate. Scamacca should have been given the opportunity, IN ADDITION TO BELLOTTI, from the start.

    For the love of God, why did we stick with four at the back when N Ireland wasn’t ever going to possess the ball? They weren’t interested in going forward – three central defenders would’ve been a much better strategy in a 3-5-2 as follows:





    I like the 4-3-3 against teams who want to play football. But when you have teams looking to park the bus, you need to have a presence in up front. The 3-5-2 above would’ve been the way to go. Chiesa and Berardi could’ve drawn the defenders wide and put crosses in all day with Bellotti and Scamacca wreaking havoc in the box. We would’ve surely been able to create some opportunities there, with one of those two getting a head on to it or drawing a foul. We need to have another formation, or set of different tactics, when we get into these situations. It was obvious 15 min into the game that we needed a change of tactics, but the coach stubbornly waits until 55 min almost every time before making substantive changes.

    This being said, looks like it might be time to give Lucca, the tall U21 forward, a shot. If we draw a smaller team in the first playoff game, they’ll no doubt copy N Ireland’s tactics. We need a target man, and he may fit the bill, along with Scamacca.

  10. Hanns

    This is not good. Italy will show nerves in these play off games. If the games go to penalties, it will go against them. I can’t see any of these teams beat the Azzurri though. I just don’t. I still hope -and I firmly believe – they will make it. They are definetly one of the best teams in the world right now, top 4 probably. It is also true taht this team is hopelessly overplayed. The games against spain and belgium didn’t help the cause

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