Mancini wants Italy players to 'have fun' in last-16 clash against Austria

By Sports Desk June 25, 2021

Roberto Mancini has urged his Italy players to "have fun" as they bid to set two national records in their Euro 2020 last-16 clash with Austria at Wembley Stadium on Saturday. 

The Azzurri shone in the group stage, scoring seven goals – the most they have scored across their first three games of a major tournament since 1998 – in wins over Turkey, Switzerland and Wales.

Mancini's team have won 11 games in a row without conceding a goal, their clean sheet streak lasting 17 hours and 35 minutes since Donny van de Beek scored for the Netherlands in October 2020.

One more clean sheet will see them equal their record for consecutive games without conceding (12), set between 1972 and 1974, while also surpassing the previous total of minutes (1,143) without letting a goal in.

Their run of 30 games without a defeat, meanwhile, also matches a record set under Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.

A quarter-final tie against Belgium or holders Portugal in Munich awaits should they overcome Austria, and Mancini wants his side to enjoy the occasion at one of the world's most iconic stadiums. 

"I've enjoyed my time as Italy coach and I would like to continue doing it. I thank the players, as they allowed me to have fun with this experience too," Mancini told a media conference. 

"Playing at Wembley should always be a pleasure. There are players in this squad who have never experienced it and they ought to relish this opportunity in a beautiful stadium.

"When you play football, it's because you want to do it in stadiums like this. I think this team needs to keep feeding the joy and at the same time respect a temple of football like this. I am sure the lads will play well tomorrow."

Austria have not beaten the Azzurri in their last 13 meetings, a run dating back to December 1960.

Mancini, though, has warned his players to expect a tough game against a side who are making an appearance in the knockout stages of a major competition for the first time since the 1954 World Cup. 

"We need a great performance, as Austria have quality," he added. "They are aggressive and we cannot get anything wrong.

"That's the beauty of these tournaments, you have to win and there's no other option. We have to continue playing our football, hopefully for another four games at Euro 2020."

Austria captain David Alaba, meanwhile, said it is a "dream come true" for his country to take on Italy in the knockout stages.

Alaba – who joined Real Madrid on a free transfer in May after leaving Bayern Munich – created nine chances in the group stage, at least four more than any other Austria player. 

"It is a special game and we want to do well," he said.

"I've won at Wembley, so I have very good memories of this stadium. I expect a wonderful game and I remember the atmosphere from the Champions League final, but tomorrow will be special for Austria and we can't wait to get out there.

"I don't need to tell the lads how to treat certain situations. Some might ask me for advice, but we have others who have played at this level and I am not concerned.

"This is a dream come true for Austria to play a round of 16 match in a Euros against Italy."

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