Nicolò Zaniolo insists Italy ‘must go to the Euros not just as a cameo, but as protagonists, as reigning champions’ after securing the point they needed against Ukraine.
The Aston Villa forward had been on the bench for the 5-2 win over North Macedonia on Friday, but stepped into the starting XI in place of Domenico Berardi this evening.
He seemed to hobble off with an injury at the top of the thigh muscle during this 0-0 draw with Ukraine in Leverkusen.
“We knew this was a tough game, as Ukraine are strong, they have a lot of experience. We had to fight it out, we had the right motivation, as Italy must go to the Euros not just as a cameo, but as protagonists, as reigning champions,” Zaniolo told Sky Sport Italia.
“The coach had warned us this would be a different game to the one at San Siro, as everything was at stake. It was more physical in the second half, there was less room to pass the ball around, but we stayed united and fought hard to earn qualification.”
Zaniolo was picked for the Italy squad by Roberto Mancini before he had even made his Serie A debut, so it was a bit of a shift when Spalletti took over in September.
“My rapport with the coach is a very honest one. I haven’t known him for long, but he is very open, blunt, he tells you what he needs to and tells you to your face. It didn’t matter how many minutes I played, the important thing was to qualify.
“I have been in the Nazionale for five years, more or less. I never saw players hold back, because we do not just play for a team, we represent all the millions of people who are in Italy.”
The Azzurri won the EURO 2020 trophy by beating England on penalties at Wembley Stadium, though it was only played in the summer of 2021 due to the pandemic.