What went wrong for Italy against Bulgaria?

by | Sep 3, 2021 14:19

Italy were held to a 1-1 draw by Bulgaria and Richard Hall explains what went wrong for the Azzurri in their first game as European champions.

The Italian headlines said it all after the Azzurri drew with Bulgaria in Florence. “Stronger guys,” wrote Gazzetta Dello Sport, “Too nice,” claimed Corriere Dello Sport and Tuttosport pointed out that Federico Chiesa was not enough. Roberto Mancini was also critical of the display, as the European Champions seemed lacklustre and showed none of the ‘Grinta’ that exhibited in the summer tournament. They will have to see this as a blip as they face second-placed Switzerland in Basel on Sunday, they cannot lapse again.

The flags were out in Florence to welcome the European Champions, whilst the Bulgarians arrived with few fans and fewer hopes, but they soon proved to be challenging for the Azzurri. The game descended into a turgid mix of misplaced passes, individual errors and the home side being anything rather than clinical. Lorenzo Insigne and Nicolo Barella were only two that missed guilt-edged chances and Mancini bemoaned this after the game. “We should have been more clinical. We created many opportunities. It was one of those games where we could have played for 30 more minutes without scoring.”

World Cup Qualifiers: Italy held by Bulgaria, but Azzurri equal Spain and Brazil record

Bulgaria were so resolute because they were down to their goalkeeper, Georgi Georgiev, who repelled Insigne, Ciro Immobile, and Leonardo Bonucci. The Juventus centre-back even took time at the end of the game to praise the keeper, saying he made good saves, although Italy showed the right spirit.

Georgiev was having the time of his life because, at 32 years of age, he was only making his seventh appearance for the national team. He did not even make his debut until 2019, but he is now making up for the lost time. He had struggled to be looked at for the national team because the goalkeeper before him, Nikolay Mihaylov, had seemed impossible to remove. Nikolay is the son of the former Reading custodian Borislav Mihaylov, the President of the Bulgarian FA until he resigned in 2019.

However, Italy could not blame it all on Georgiev, as they had missed chances and made defensive errors, notably the one that led to the goal. Alessandro Florenzi, who had not been impressive, slipped and allowed Ascoli striker Atanas Iliev to bustle past Francesco Acerbi and finish with distinction. Mancini said, “We conceded a random goal, perhaps we should have committed a foul to stop the attack.” Even so, he went on to say that it was the clinical finishing they lacked and had to address.

Media watch: disappointing Italy trio, in-form Chiesa steals the headlines

Perhaps a lot of the pressure lies on the head of Immobile, who, whilst is in blistering form for Lazio, continues to struggle with the Azzurri. Along with Insigne, Marco Verratti, Acerbi and Florenzi, he took the brunt of the newspapers anger this morning as they threw marks of 5 and sometimes a generous 5.5 at them. It felt that the Euros were a million miles away, but Italy have quality and Chiesa.

Enrico’s son is by far becoming one of the hottest properties in Europe. Considering the national team drew against the opposition they should have beaten and Juventus have started the season terribly, he has attracted much praise. His professionalism, confidence, speed and directness have seen the opposition look terrified as his impact becomes greater day by day.

The voices in the Italian camp are now as in unison as they are for the national anthem and the message is clear. Italy must win in Basel. They can be no more lethargy, no more mistakes and much more fight. The Swiss will be up for the challenge, willing to avenge the 3-0 defeat in the Euros. Italy indeed have all the ammunition in their arsenal to overcome the Swiss and they will be aware of what the nation expects. The Azzurri are still unbeaten in 35 games and have levelled with the record of Brazil and Spain, they will now want to go and beat it.



epa09443867 Italy's head coach Roberto Mancini reacts during the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying soccer match between Italy and Bulgaria at the Artemio Franchi stadium in Florence, Italy, 02 September 2021. EPA-EFE/CLAUDIO GIOVANNINI


  1. House Party

    Maybe it’s time to try some of the younger + more hungrier players. The coach obviously knows what he’s doing + has said multiple times that he wants to evolve the side. Rather than just rely on the same old, which is always a danger after a success! I’m not saying to ditch anyone, some experience is vital. But integrating youth like Bastoni, Zaniolo, Mancini, Tonali, Kean + Scammaca is too. Chiesa, Pellegrini + Immobile seem about the most in-form atm, although Ciro is getting stick for not doing it for Italy again. Maybe giving more of the young forwards an alternating shot at the no9 will help take some of the pressure off of him a bit?

  2. Token Bubble

    Let’s not be dramatic about last nights performance as Italy are notoriously poor in September fixtures (possibly as they’ve only had two rounds of Serie A played and lack sharpness) . If anything the performance was there, we lacked that cutting edge only.

    Immobile remains a frustrating enigma, how can he continue to bang in goal after goal (inc a hattrick a few days back) for Lazio but cannot hit a barn door for Italy! I get why he gets picked, but maybe it’s time to try a different option.

    Also, with 3 games coming up (With the bigger fixture being Sunday) and players having varying fitness levels at this stage of season, I get why he chose the squad and if you look at the stats, they should have won really.

    However, my only criticism of Mancini last night is that we had no real cutting edge on the bench, as a fall back he should have included Zaniolo, Locatelli and Kean and he should of also fielded Pellegrini a lot sooner than what he did as i am certain those players would have unlocked the stubborn Bulgarian resistance.

  3. d REda

    For all that Ciro does in Serie A, why is doesn’t translate into the international play is a puzzle. Yesterday they needed a big presence in the box and Immobile is not that. The aerial attack was non existence. I think Kean or Scammaca needs to be incorporated into the team more. Lastly, I didn’t know how much this team would be missing Spinazzola. Their lack of attack on the left flank made it easy for Bulgaria to defend. Teams are learning to clog the middle on Italy. Italy is at their best is when we use our winger to spread team’s defensive line.

  4. Italy For ever

    I wonder if Immobile can’t score goals for the team due to the way Italy plays compared to Lazio. I don’t watch Lazio but I feel that the way they play probably provides more space behind the defense which fits Immobile’s style more. Compare that to Italy, they possess the ball and press the opponent in the last third of the field so not enough space for a player who relies more on running behind defense.

  5. joey

    Take away what Immobile does for Lazio, can anyone please give a good reason how he is on this team? Even that the Euro’s, his performance was terrible, aside from the 2 goals he scored, which were both in blow out games. He’s awful. The same can be said about Florenzi, Belotti and Berardi. I would have rather seen their minutes go to players like Kean, Raspadori, Bastoni, or frankly anyone else rather than them.

  6. who me

    its crazy how theres literally 2 different Ciro Immobiles… theres the golden boot winning, top 5 goal scorer past 4 seasons, serial goal scorer, THEN theres the non existent Ciro when it comes to the azzurri starting 11. its as if hes not even on the pitch most games i think its time to try / start Berardi, Belotti, Scamacca in his place.
    yes maybe its just the way Lazio play him compared to the National team, but Mancini is a very clever coach if he cant figure a way to utilize him or replicate his club performance then its never gonna happen.

  7. Kruizer

    I agree with Token Bubble. It was not a bad performance, but there was no cutting edge. I felt this game needed Locatelli / Pellegrini sooner by 60 minutes, and Zaniolo on the bench. Having both Verratti and Jorginho start is probably not needed against this opposition. They would do well against Spain to help maintain possession and relieve the pressure, but in this type of match with everyone behind the ball, Locatelli / Pellegrini / Zaniolo or even Bernardeschi would do better as they would shoot more. There were too many passes and not enough shots on target.

  8. stevie_bk_ny

    For everybody calling for Loca, he was not on the bench due to suspension for accumulation of yellow cards in the March qualifying wins. I also felt Mancio should have made changes sooner to freshen things up. Why didn’t Di Lorenzo start or come on?


    Why is kean even mentioned in any comments useless player that PSG gave him back to Juve for free.

  10. Bob

    Bulagaria was terrible.. one chance and it only happened because Florenzi was awful on that play then the CBs screwed up their assignment too… No clinical finish… no presence in the box.

    If they lose to Swiss on Sunday, this could be a disaster… MUST WIN

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