Italy captain Bonucci aiming to start Azzurri rebuild against Messi's Argentina

By Sports Desk May 31, 2022

New Italy captain Leonardo Bonucci hopes to start laying the foundations to rebuild the Azzurri when they face Argentina on Wednesday.

Italy won their first European Championship since 1968 by defeating England on penalties last July at Wembley.

Roberto Mancini's side return to Wembley to meet Argentina in the 'Finalissima' between the Euro 2020 winners and Copa America champions.

Italy have struggled since their last visit to England's national stadium; missing out on a second straight World Cup after falling to a stunning play-off defeat against North Macedonia.

Bonucci has replaced Giorgio Chiellini as skipper of both Juventus and Italy, with his defensive partner heading for the exit door in Turin and announcing he will retire from international football following the game against Argentina.

The 35-year-old Bonucci is relishing the challenge of facing Lionel Scaloni's side.

"They are among the best in the world, Argentina hasn't lost in 31 games and it's no coincidence," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"We need maximum commitment and respect. We must start again and lay the foundations to bring Italy back to the top."

Argentina captain Lionel Messi suggested Italy would have been favourites for the World Cup should they have appeared in Qatar, and Bonucci expressed his gratitude for those comments.

"The fault is ours, it took very little to be able to play in something truly unique for a player's career," he added.

"We thank Messi for the kind words he said about us; tomorrow two winning national teams will meet and we want to put on a show to take the trophy home."

Bonucci hailed Messi, who will aim to guide Argentina to their third World Cup win and first since 1986.

"For a player who has won so many Golden Balls it is difficult to find words to described him," the Juve defender continued. 

"He was, and still is today, with Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the best in the world – great respect will be needed."

As for Chiellini's international retirement, Bonucci hopes to give him a fitting send-off as he outlined his own plans for captaincy.

"We must enjoy this last day with him, he was a great companion on the pitch and in life," he said. "From the day after tomorrow I will continue to do what I have always done, to be an example.

"From Chiellini I learned the ability to work out difficult situations in a short time and find the solution.

"That is the secret that made Giorgio a great person and a great captain, I'll try to smooth out the flaws. My team-mates will have to help me too, just as we helped Chiellini and [Gianluigi] Buffon."

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