Euro 2020: Vieri expects Italy to challenge as 'amazing' Mancini leads Azzurri resurgence

By Sports Desk June 10, 2021

Roberto Mancini is the mastermind behind Italy's transformation and Christian Vieri believes the Azzurri will be in the mix to win Euro 2020.

Italy are among the contenders at the rescheduled European Championship – delayed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic – as the 1968 winners prepare to face Turkey in the tournament's curtain-raiser in Rome on Friday.

A proud football country but a national team on its knees after failing to qualify for Russia 2018, their first World Cup absence since 1958, Mancini has overseen a drastic recovery following his appointment more than three years ago.

Banishing the nightmares of Gian Piero Ventura's dismal tenure, Italy are in the midst of a 27-game unbeaten streak – a run dating back to September 10, 2018. Heading into Euro 2020, Mancini's men have won eight successive games in all competitions without conceding a goal for the first time in their history.

Italy were one of only two teams – alongside Belgium – to win 100 per cent of their games during the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign (10/10). The Azzurri scored 37 goals in their 10 qualification matches (3.7 per game) – this was the same tally in qualification for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup combined (37 goals in 22 games).

As Italy gear up for their Euro 2020 Group A opener at the Stadio Olimpico, where they have never lost in a major tournament – they have won six and drawn two in the World Cup and European Championship combined, having not conceded a goal in each of the last seven fixtures – Azzurri great hailed the impact of Mancini.

"Mancini is one of my best friends," former Inter, Milan and Juventus striker Vieri, who earned 49 caps for Italy from 1997 to 2005, told Stats Perform.

"He did an amazing, amazing job. Getting the Italian team back together and getting all the fans in Italy to watch again because no one was watching.

"They have big players, big quality players – real quality like what we used to have 10-15 years ago. We had a situation for 10-15 years after the 2006 World Cup, we didn't have any big players. That's how it is sometimes, you don't have big players coming up.

"Now we have big players, we have experienced players. They play fantastic football and haven't lost for so many games, but they are really, really strong."

This is Mancini's first major tournament as Italy head coach. As a player, he only featured at one major final: he played four games at Euro 88, scoring the opening goal of the whole tournament during a 1-1 draw with hosts West Germany.

Italy, who will also face Switzerland (June 16) and Wales (June 20) in Group A, are taking part in their 10th European Championship finals. They won the tournament in their first appearance (1968) and have since reached the final twice without lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy (2000 and 2012).

"I told him [Mancini] I don't know if you're going to win the Euros, but you're going to get there," added Vieri, who scored 23 goals for the national team. "The team is strong, and they have big players again and everyone is following."

Another former Italy international, Walter Zenga, also lauded Mancini's work at the helm of the four-time world champions, while highlighting the quality of the entire coaching staff that includes Gianluca Vialli and Daniele De Rossi.

A three-time winner of the IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper award, ex-Inter star Zenga – regarded as one of the greatest keepers of all time – played 58 games for Italy between 1987 and 1992, including appearances at the World Cup in 1986 and 1990 and Euro 88.

"The important thing right now is we have a great coach. Not only a great coach but a great standard of staff," said Zenga, who still holds the record for going 518 minutes (five consecutive clean sheets) without conceding a goal at the 1990 World Cup.

"All the technical staff were involved in football – Vialli, De Rossi, et cetera. This helps the team to grow up and arrive at the Euros with a big chance to win."

A lot of attention will be on number one goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who has played a key role amid Italy's undefeated streak under Mancini.

There is also uncertainty over Donnarumma's future, with the 22-year-old star out of contract at Milan and tipped to join Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.

"You have to consider one nice thing in life and football: you can improve yourself every day," Zenga said when asked about the quality of Donnarumma, who debuted as a 16-year-old for Milan in 2015. "There's no one day that you say you're at the top level, especially when you're 22.

"I've met him a lot of times in Milan and his character is very strong. He is strong because either if he makes a big save, makes an unbelievable game or the worst game of his life, he looks like he is [in] complete control of himself. This is the most important thing in life. He is the top goalkeeper in Italy."

Related items

  • Des Buckingham feels heavy schedule caught up with Oxford Des Buckingham feels heavy schedule caught up with Oxford

    Oxford boss Des Buckingham felt the heavy schedule of three games in six days took its toll on his team as they were held 1-1 by Stevenage at the Kassam Stadium.

    It means it is effectively no longer in Oxford’s hands to reach the League One play-offs because Lincoln are three points behind them with a game in hand and a superior goal difference.

    Buckingham felt the decision not to award the U’s a penalty when Marcus Browne appeared to have been fouled by keeper Craig MacGillivray in the first half was crucial.

    They had to come from behind as Stevenage went in front through a Sam Long own goal in the 32nd minute, Cameron Brannagan replying from the penalty spot on 58 minutes when Carl Piergianni fouled Ruben Rodrigues – though that appeared to have been outside the box.

    Buckingham said: “To play three games in six days is a big ask.

    “We had 26 shots but couldn’t get that second goal we needed.

    “There was a clear penalty not given in the first half, and for us that’s the second game in a row that one hasn’t been given when it should have been. It was a huge moment in the game, and very frustrating.

    “The referee told me he couldn’t see it, but the linesman was only 15 yards away and had a clear view.

    “I’m delighted with the performance but ultimately we’ve got just the four points from these three home games, now we need to make sure we prepare right and get three in the last one at Exeter.

    “When we looked to rearrange the Lincoln game we chose this week because it was a free week, then Sky told us they wanted to bring this Stevenage one forward and show it on the Friday night which meant three games in six days.

    “There was nothing we could do about it, but had we known they were going to do that, we would have played the Lincoln game another week.

    “It’s going to be a tight finish – I wouldn’t rule out Blackpool either, and they’ve got to play Barnsley.”

    Stevenage had lost manager Steve Evans in the week, with Evans heading north to become Rotherham boss.

    Caretaker boss Alex Revell said: “Steve always had two clubs very much in his heart – this one and Rotherham. Believe me, making the decision was probably the hardest thing he’s had to do, he said.

    “I wanted to take today and make the players ready. I really enjoyed it because they gave everything.

    “I’m very proud of what the lads did tonight.

    “We had a great day yesterday in terms of training and getting ready and trying to get a few bits into them.

    “They came to a really tough place and worked so hard for each other.

    “In spells we created some half-chances, probably not enough, but it was about showing our togetherness as a club and our spirit.

    “I think we showed why we have caused teams problems this season, especially with our energy and our workrate.

    “The first penalty shout against us was a penalty and should have been given so we got away with that.

    “But it doesn’t mean that something that started outside the box should be a penalty. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

  • Mauricio Pochettino not expecting a vulnerable Man City in FA Cup semi-final Mauricio Pochettino not expecting a vulnerable Man City in FA Cup semi-final

    Mauricio Pochettino warned his Chelsea players not to expect to come up against a vulnerable Manchester City side when the teams meet in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final.

    City go into the game off the back of playing extra time against Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday night before eventually being knocked out on penalties, leaving less than 72 hours recovery time ahead of stepping out at Wembley.

    Pep Guardiola has had to deal with fatigue amongst his ranks in recent weeks, with midfielder Rodri admitting to needing a rest earlier this month. He was subsequently left out of the team for last weekend’s win over Luton at the Etihad Stadium but returned to the starting XI for the defeat to Real.

    They are still in contention to retain two of the three trophies they won last season, holding a two-point lead over Arsenal and Liverpool in the Premier League title race in addition to Saturday’s meeting with Pochettino’s side as they seek a third FA Cup triumph in six seasons.

    Chelsea will return to the scene of their Carabao Cup final loss to Liverpool in February, after which they were heavily criticised for failing to overcome a Reds team decimated by injury.

    Jurgen Klopp’s side triumphed in extra time despite finishing the game with four highly inexperienced academy graduates aged 21 or under on the pitch.

    And Pochettino insisted there will be no easy ride for his players as City lick their European wounds.

    “The good example is Liverpool,” he said. “People were talking about too many injured players, how many young kids they had playing. Look what happened after.

    “From our point of view, we are going to compete against Manchester City. If you ask me about their situation, I can give my opinion, but we are not talking about that. We are going to compete against them.

    “Today we were preparing, doing meetings, about the Manchester City that played against Real Madrid, that played against us in the Premier League.

    “We are not talking about playing one (City line-up) or playing another. For me, the strength of Manchester City is that they keep the same idea and the same philosophy.

    “In the last five, six, seven years, even with different players, they play in the same way, they have the structure to dominate and to create chances and to win games and to win trophies.

    “I understand the situation is tough for them after playing 120 minutes in the Champions League. Emotionally, you expend a big energy. It’s about how they recover now.

    “They are going be competitive and they have an amazing staff that look after the players. They’re going to put 11 players that will play with full energy to try and win the game.”

    Pochettino will have Enzo Fernandez available for selection after he missed Monday’s 6-0 demolition of Everton.

    The manager said the World Cup winner’s fitness will be carefully managed following reports this week in Argentina that he requires a hernia operation.

    “We are not looking for heroes,” said Pochettino.

  • Pep Guardiola says Cole Palmer is one of the players of the season Pep Guardiola says Cole Palmer is one of the players of the season

    Pep Guardiola admits Chelsea’s former Manchester City starlet Cole Palmer has been one of the players of the season.

    The City manager has also revealed the 21-year-old England midfielder had been trying to leave the Etihad Stadium for two years prior to his £42.5million switch to Stamford Bridge last summer.

    Palmer, who was considered one of City’s brightest Academy products, has been Chelsea’s most influential performer since he moved south in search of more first-team opportunities.

    Palmer has scored 25 goals this season, 11 of which have come in his last six appearances.

    He heads into Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final showdown with former club City at Wembley fresh from a four-goal salvo against Everton on Monday.

    Guardiola said: “Cole has been the decisive player, maybe of the season, in many aspects.

    “He’s an exceptional player. We knew that when he was here.

    “We know how he’s proving (himself), but he has had a lot of minutes. I said many times, I didn’t give him the minutes when maybe he deserved it. He wanted the minutes he now has at Chelsea.

    “I understand completely. I’m happy for him because he’s a lovely guy, a shy guy. He has an incredible potential, otherwise he would not have been here.

    “He’s playing good. He’s an incredible threat. He’s playing fantastically.”

    Palmer was a member of the City squad that won the treble last season and he began the current campaign strongly with goals for Guardiola’s side in the Community Shield and European Super Cup.

    Yet despite attempts to persuade the Wythenshawe-born player to stay with his hometown club, his mind to move on before the end of the summer transfer window had long been made up.

    Guardiola said: “So what can I say? The decision has been made for many reasons. He was asking for two seasons to leave.

    “I said, ‘No, stay’. At the end, (he said), ‘No, I want to leave’. What can we do? I said in pre-season, ‘Stay because Riyad (Mahrez) has gone’. He said, ‘No, I want to leave’.

    “After two seasons, what can you say? So go there. Playing at that level is exceptional. Everybody knows it.”

    City’s hopes of winning a second successive treble were dashed on Wednesday as they suffered an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.

    Their focus is now on defending the domestic double, a feat no side has previously achieved, but Guardiola prefers not to view the targets in those terms.

    Guardiola said: “We were close again (to the treble) but it didn’t happen.

    “So my advice about trebles or doubles or these things is, why are we not focused on Chelsea? It’s enough of a target to think about.

    “When you have one or two games left to the end of the Premier League and you are already in the FA Cup final, I can answer you perfectly.

    “We’ve felt, two times, how strong Chelsea are. They are really, really difficult.

    “So, win that game and see what happens the next three, four, five games in the Premier League and after we will see.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.