Roberto Mancini insists Italy ‘can’t wait to play’ against Northern Ireland this evening, but if they do have to enter the World Cup play-offs, it won’t be ‘shameful’ for the Nazionale.
It kicks off at 19.45 GMT at Windsor Park in Belfast.
The Azzurri are joint top of their World Cup qualifying group with Switzerland, leading on goal difference at +11 to +9.
“We can’t wait to play, as it feels like time is dragging on and we want the game to get here quickly,” Mancini told RAI Sport this afternoon.
“Northern Ireland are a tough side to break down on home turf, they allow very little, defend very well and are a very physical side.”
Considering that Italy set a new all-time world unbeaten record at 37 international games and won UEFA EURO 2020, did Mancini expect them to struggle so much in this World Cup qualifying campaign?
“I always thought that Switzerland would make life difficult for us, from the moment we had the draw. It should already have been over now, because over the two games with Switzerland we fully deserved to get at least one win, but this is football.
“We need to show our strength even during the difficult moments and know that we still have it in our hands to qualify.”
Would it be shameful for Italy to go into the play-offs for World Cup qualification, especially after missing out on the 2018 tournament?
“No. The important thing is to reach the World Cup, it doesn’t matter how we get there.”
Ciro Immobile is out injured, with Andrea Belotti likely to be left on the bench in favour of Lorenzo Insigne in a False 9 role against Northern Ireland this evening.
“Some things might change, but the lads do their best and give their all for the team, so it doesn’t matter who plays, it’s about the mentality we have as a unit.
“I hope this is an evening we will conclude feeling very happy on the flight back to Italy.”
— RaiSport (@RaiSport) November 15, 2021