Zaniolo apologises for Italy's World Cup failure as he makes Azzurri pledge

By Sports Desk June 18, 2022

Nicolo Zaniolo has apologised for Italy's failure to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar as he pledged to become a key part of Roberto Mancini's next Azzurri side.

Italy will miss a second successive World Cup this year after falling to a stunning play-off reverse to North Macedonia in March, and their misery was compounded this month when they were beaten 3-0 by Argentina at Wembley in the Finalissima.

They also won just one of their first four Nations League games, losing 5-2 to Germany last time out.

Zaniolo was absent as Mancini's men beat England on penalties to win the rearranged Euro 2020 tournament last July, and made just one appearance throughout Italy's unsuccessful World Cup qualification campaign.

The creative midfielder is desperate to become a key part of Mancini's next side, and hailed the job the former Manchester City boss has done with the national team.

"I'm sorry, because we have to wait another four years," he told Sportweek. "But let's go on. I'm used to chasing. There will be other goals in between.

"The first time Mancini called me I was very young... He came there to talk to me, to make me feel immediately at ease. Great person, professional. I will do everything to convince Mancini."

Moving forward, Italy will be without defensive stalwart Giorgio Chiellini, who won his 117th and final international cap in the Argentina defeat – matching Daniele De Rossi as his nations' fourth-most capped player.

And Zaniolo thinks the former Juventus man will be difficult to replace.

"[Chiellini] has always been the most difficult to overcome," he said. "He is physically strong and off the pitch, he is an exceptional person."

At club level, Zaniolo enjoyed a successful campaign under Jose Mourinho at Roma, making 30 appearances in all competitions as the Giallorossi won the Europa Conference League, and scored the only goal of last month's final win over Feyenoord.

The 22-year-old says he has learnt a lot from playing under Mourinho.

"He's a winner," he said. "He taught me how to get into position in the defensive phase, where we had to improve and I still have to do it. 

"He helped me to manage certain situations, in the past I would have reacted badly or worse due to exclusion from games that were very significant for me. 

"He taught me to bite my tongue, [to be] mute and work more in the field."

Related items

  • Croatia boss Dalic laments ageing squad and defensive issues for Euro 2024 struggles Croatia boss Dalic laments ageing squad and defensive issues for Euro 2024 struggles

    Croatia are on the brink of an early Euro 2024 exit and Zlatko Dalic apportions their struggles to an ageing squad and defensive issues.

    Dalic's side must overcome Italy on Monday to have any chance of escaping Group B, sitting on just one point after a 2-2 draw with Albania followed a 3-0 humbling by Spain in their opener.

    Croatia have not gone through a group stage without winning at a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup (D2 L1) as those defensive problems referenced by Dalic remain the main issue.

    They have conceded five goals in two matches so far, only letting more in at two major tournament group stages, shipping six at Euro 2004 and as many at the World Cup 10 years later.

    "We haven't started well," Dalic told reporters on Sunday. "We haven't been up to our usual standards because we've been conceding too many goals.

    "We only conceded once in the group stage in Qatar 2022, we've conceded five thus far here.

    "The players are three years older. We are also coming up against strong opposition here as well. Perhaps the main issue is that we started to concede goals this season."

    Indeed, Croatia have an ageing midfield with Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic, as well as calling upon veteran Ivan Perisic.

    Yet that experience can still prove pivotal. Modric played 64 passes in the final third against Albania, the second-most by a player on record in a European Championship match (1980 onwards), behind Mesut Ozil for Germany versus Greece at Euro 2012 (74).

    Modric also made his 34th appearance across the Euros and World Cup combined in that Albania draw, a total only six outfield European players can better.

    That in-game knowledge and quality could prove decisive when they meet Italy, in what Dalic acknowledge is a winner-takes-all clash.

    "We know it's essentially a knockout match tomorrow, and there won't be any extra time and we must simply win the game," Dalic said.

    "It's a must-win, any other result will send us home. We don't want to go home so soon.

    "We'll try to stop them from getting that draw. We'll try and stay relaxed to not lose our cool or lose our heads and not allow the opposition to get on top of us.

    "Anything can happen tomorrow night but we're ready to take it on again."

    Dalic has previously apologised to the travelling Croatia supporters for their performance against Spain, though his side are creating ample chances to win games.

    Croatia have already had more shots (38) and more shots on target (15) at this tournament than they had in their Euro 2020 group stage (30 shots, 10 on target).

    They have only had more efforts on target at the group stages of two Euros – 19 in 2004 and 16 in 1996 – with Dalic just needing fortune to fall in Croatia's favour in Leipzig.

    He continued: "Yes, there is pressure. And that comes down to the results we've had thus far and also to the thousands of fans that have been travelling and will be there in Leipzig as well.

    "So there is pressure for us to put a smile on their faces, to try to get a good result for our country. We need to show our true level. So right from the word go, we need to try to put things right."

  • Spalletti willing to switch things up after 'mistakes' in Spain defeat Spalletti willing to switch things up after 'mistakes' in Spain defeat

    Luciano Spalletti is aiming to get Italy back to their best against Croatia on Monday after admitting to not getting things right during their defeat to Spain.

    Spain secured top spot in Group B after their 1-0 victory over Italy on Thursday, with Riccardo Calafiori's own goal handing La Roja the win in the 55th minute.

    Despite the narrow scoreline, Italy struggled to test their counterparts in the final third, managing just four shots in the match, with Unai Simon only having to make one save.

    Spalletti had named the same starting line-up from their comeback win over Albania but used all five of his changes by the 64th minute.

    The head coach admitted even that was not soon enough for his team, but is confident Italy will bounce back on Monday.

    "Of course, after a game like that, there is the notion and the idea to change the team a little bit," Spalletti said.

    "I probably made mistakes in not mixing things up quicker in terms of the performance we produced, but I thought it would be a gamble to tweak anything because we saw everything that had been said in recent times.

    "Now that we have noticed that there is a bit of fatigue and rust in terms of results, we certainly will change things."

    Italy know that a win will confirm second place in the group, while a defeat will either knock them out immediately if Albania beat Spain or leave them waiting to see if they can go through as one of the best third-place teams.

    "There are certain matches which ultimately dictate whether it's been a great tale or a tale to forget, so the glory of your tale comes down to matches such as this," Spaelletti added.

    "Talk is cheap, you've got to go out there and walk the walk. We said things we weren't able to exhibit against Spain, we need to walk the walk and leave talk to one side."

  • Sabitzer focused on last-16 qualification after Champions League heartache Sabitzer focused on last-16 qualification after Champions League heartache

    Marcel Sabitzer insisted he will put his Champions League final defeat in the past as he prepares to help Austria reach the last-16 of Euro 2024. 

    The Borussia Dortmund midfielder played the full duration of their 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid at Wembley earlier this month. 

    Los Blancos secured their 15th success in the competition thanks to goals late in the game from Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Junior. 

    But Sabitzer played a starring role as Austria roared back from their defeat to France in their opening game of the competition, beating Poland 3-1 to bring it down to the final matchday. 

    Austria face the Netherlands in Berlin next Tuesday to conclude their Group D campaign, and know a win could see them finish top or second. 

    A draw or defeat could also leave Ralf Rangnick's side with a good chance of progressing as one of the four best third-placed teams. 

    "The possibilities then really open up," Sabitzer said.

    "I know that from the Champions League, especially this season. Once you're on a run in the knockout phase anything can happen.

    "The most important thing is to get through the group stage and into the round of 16 and then we'll see what happens next."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.