Italy deserved to automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup given their status as European champions, according to head coach Roberto Mancini.

Top seeds Italy finished second to Switzerland in their qualifying group and then suffered a shock loss to North Macedonia in March's play-off semi-final.

It means Italy have missed out on successive World Cups, having also failed to reach Russia 2018, though they did win Euro 2020 in between those qualifying disappointments.

However, Mancini insists the Azzurri should not have had to go through the qualifying process for Qatar on the back of conquering their continent last year.

"Not only the European champions but the winners in every continent," he added in an interview with Corriere Della Sera. "I am saying it for football's good. 

"Likewise, who won the title in the previous edition should always be involved. It used to be like this in the past. Football does not only make good decisions for itself."

Italy moved on from their World Cup heartbreak by advancing to next year's Nations League Finals, where they will be joined by Croatia, Spain and the Netherlands.

The longer-term aim for Mancini is to reach Euro 2024 and then the next World Cup, which will take place in the United States, Canada and Mexico a little under four years from now.

Mancini, who is under contract with the Azzurri until after that tournament, said: "I stayed because I want to take revenge [by reaching the World Cup]. 

"But right now we can't look so far ahead. The 2026 World Cup is far away. Now we must focus on the Nations League Finals and the qualification for the Euros.

"I wanted to stay to chase the World Cup, but nothing is definitive in football and things can still change. We want to go to the next World Cup and hopefully win it."

Italy lost 2-0 to Austria in a friendly on Sunday and are next in action in four months' time when hosting England in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier.

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini has conceded that his 3-4-3 formation did not work as intended against Austria, as he criticised his side's poor first half display against the hosts.

The European champions finished 2022 with defeat in Vienna, where two first half goals from Xaver Schlager and David Alaba put the hosts in control.

A poor showing in the first period was improved upon after the break, but Italy could not break Austria's defence, though Mancini believes his side did enough to deserve praise.

"We were better in the second half, in the first half we had the ball and we had to score. After that we suffered, making so many technical mistakes. In the second half, all we were missing was a goal," he said post-match.

"The formation didn't go very well, we did little pressing with the strikers conceding too many spaces.

"The team was too long, we did badly and this penalised us a bit, but in the second half I saw a very good team. We were unlucky and a bit inaccurate."

Italy are not scheduled to be back in action until March, where the defence of their European crown begins with the first qualifying match against England in a rematch of the 2020 final.

Roberto Mancini has tipped Argentina to win their third World Cup as Lionel Messi and team-mates chase glory in Qatar.

Mancini's Italy side will not be involved after a shock 1-0 play-off defeat to North Macedonia in March.

Italy's absence from Qatar comes despite them being the reigning European champions, having beaten England on penalties in the Euro 2020 final.

That triumph subsequently saw them face off against Argentina in the UEFA/CONMEBOL Finalissima at Wembley in June, after Lionel Scaloni's men won the Copa America.

Argentina comfortably beat Italy 3-0, and Mancini says that performance plays a part in him ranking them as favourites for the World Cup.

"There are many strong teams," Mancini told reporters. "If I had to choose one, I'd go for Argentina.

"They really impressed when we played each other."

Italy have won their last three matches as they look to get over World Cup disappointment, most recently seeing off Albania in a 3-1 friendly victory on Wednesday. They face another game against Austria on Sunday.

Mancini is still upset about the failure to reach Qatar, but he has been pleased with his team's reaction, saying: "We immediately showed a desire to fight back, winning a Nations League group that was by no means easy ahead of Germany, Hungary and England.

"Unfortunately, we’ll have to keep this suffering until mid-December when the tournament is over. Next time, we need to be more precise."

Roberto Mancini was full of praise for Vincenzo Grifo after he played a part in all three goals as Italy came from behind to beat Albania 3-1 in Wednesday's friendly.

A crashing Ardian Ismajli header put Albania ahead in the first half, but a pinpoint Grifo cross allowed Giovanni Di Lorenzo to equalise just four minutes later before the Freiburg man put Italy in front before the break.

Grifo added his second after half-time to kill off the match and secure a third straight win for the European champions since a 5-2 humbling at the hands of Germany in June.

Mancini was delighted with the 29-year-old's impressive performance, telling Rai Sport: "Vincenzo is an extraordinary boy. Grifo is a great player and in the Bundesliga, he is scoring many goals.

"[He is] a very good player, with important qualities. Today he scored two beautiful goals. The whole attack went well.

"You have to play in the best way whatever the moment. We have done good things by also changing the system, that went well."

It was not all good news for Italy as midfielder Sandro Tonali was taken off on a stretcher after an awkward fall in the latter stages of the first half.

But Mancini was positive after the match over Tonali's condition, saying: "He took quite a hit, but he was conscious and I hope to get him back soon."

A Vincenzo Grifo double and a Giovanni Di Lorenzo strike gave Italy a 3-1 comeback friendly victory over Albania in Tirana on Wednesday.

Roberto Mancini's men will not be at the World Cup in Qatar after a play-off defeat to North Macedonia, and they looked on course for another embarrassing loss here as Ardian Ismajli nodded Albania in front.

But Italy hit back almost immediately through Di Lorenzo, before Grifo added goals either side of half-time to secure victory.

It is now three straight wins for the European champions since their humiliating 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Germany in June, as they look to bounce back from their World Cup disappointment.

Italy started brightly, but they fell behind when Ismajli rose highest to meet Nedim Bajrami's free-kick, sending a sublime header crashing into the top right corner.

Albania's lead lasted just four minutes, as Grifo's pinpoint cross picked out Di Lorenzo in the middle to side-foot home.

Creator turned finisher for Italy's second, Giacomo Raspadori squaring for Grifo before the Freiburg man smashed superbly past Etrit Berisha to make it 2-1.

Nicolo Zaniolo hit the base of the post in first-half injury time as Italy looked to build their lead, though Albania clung on to get into the break just a goal behind.

Marash Kumbulla's header shortly after the interval tested Alex Meret, while Grifo nearly scored his second when he lashed the underside of the crossbar.

Albania then hit the woodwork twice themselves, Myrto Uzuni's looping effort beating Meret but not the upper frame of the goal before Bajrami saw a shot deflected onto the bar.

Grifo made it 3-1 after 64 minutes, controlling a cross and dispatching into the far corner to round off the scoring and cap his sensational display.

Roberto Mancini claims Italy are unfortunate not to be at the World Cup, labelling their defeat in qualifying to North Macedonia as "absurd".

The Azzurri faced North Macedonia in a play-off in Palermo in March, only to lose 1-0 thanks to a late Aleksandar Trajkovski strike, despite leading the shot count 32-4 by full time.

It meant Italy would not be present at this year's World Cup, which begins in Qatar on Sunday, but head coach Mancini has dismissed what was perceived as a significant failure from his team to get past comparative underdogs who they will also face in Euro 2024 qualifying.

"The match against Macedonia was an absurd match, which I believe happens once every 100 years and, unfortunately, it happened to us," Mancini said at a press conference on Tuesday.

"It will be a difficult month for us. In the bitterness we may feel at the moment, games have to be played, there are things to see and evaluate."

Italy will play friendlies against Albania and Austria on Wednesday and Sunday as they look ahead to Euro 2024 qualifying, where from March 2023 they will also face England, Ukraine and Malta in Group C.

"It's a pretty tough group, but there aren't any easy groups," Mancini said. "We'll have England right away and then we'll see, but we'll have to fight."

Mancini is one game away from equalling Marcello Lippi and Cesare Prandelli by taking charge of Italy for a 56th time, with only Vittorio Pozzo (95) and Enzo Bearzot (88) having led the team more often.

"I am pleased to join Marcello, who was a great coach, and Cesare," Mancini said. "We hope to do more even if it is long enough to get to the next two."

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said the future of Italy's national team is bright after Nicolo Fagioli marked his first Serie A start with a goal in a crucial Derby d'Italia win over Inter.

Fagioli capped an outstanding Juventus counter-attack by beating Andre Onana with a deflected strike as the Bianconeri leapfrogged their rivals in the Serie A table with a 2-0 victory.

As well as making the points safe with his 84th-minute effort, Fagioli created two chances and completed a team-high 93 per cent of his passes, leaving Allegri enthused.

Asked whether Fagioli deserved an Italy call-up, Allegri hailed the 21-year-old and said Juventus' big-name absentees must compete with him and fellow youngster Fabio Miretti when they return.

"You have to ask [Roberto] Mancini," Allegri said. "One thing is certain, I believe that the national team has an important future with strong young players who need to grow, not only at Juve. 

"There is a good pool to face things in the best way in the coming years.

"Whoever is out will have to run, because these kids run. Fagioli and Miretti must be left alone. 

"Every now and then they will play less well, it is normal, but they must enjoy this moment in serenity."

At 21 years and 267 days old, Fagioli is the third-youngest midfielder to score for Juventus in a Derby d'Italia contest in Serie A, after Giacomo Neri in 1936 (20 years, 291 days) and Antonio Montico in 1955 (21 years, 115 days).

Meanwhile, Juventus have now won four consecutive league games without conceding, and Allegri hopes their improved run will breed additional confidence.

"Winning helps you win, especially because you create a team with values. You need to have important values to achieve your goals," Allegri said.

"Tonight, it was nice to see everyone participating in the match, those who played and those who didn't, with great enthusiasm. 

"We must enjoy the victory tonight but from tomorrow we must immediately think about Verona, otherwise on Thursday we risk throwing what we have done overboard. 

"We are two points from fourth place, let's see what happens in Verona."

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini is excited by the prospect of facing England in Euro 2024 qualifying, declaring "it will be nice to meet again".

England and Italy were drawn alongside Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta in a challenging qualification group on Sunday, from which the top two will qualify automatically for the tournament in Germany.

The duo met as recently as last month, when Giacomo Raspadori's goal condemned England to relegation from the top tier of the Nations League, while Mancini also led the Azzurri to victory over the Three Lions in last year's Euro 2020 final. 

England's dismal Nations League campaign meant they – alongside world champions France – were in pot two for the draw in Frankfurt.

Although Mancini claims he expected Italy to land one of those two giants, he remains content with the draw and is looking forward to meeting Gareth Southgate's men.

"I was sure we would have one between England and France, but that's okay too," Mancini told Rai Sport after the draw.

"It's a group of five, it's doable. But there won't be simple games, they'll all have to be played. 

"It will certainly be beautiful with England, with Southgate we know each other and if it continues like this we are pretty good, I don't know if he agrees. 

"By now this challenge is a classic and, although we faced each other 20 days ago, it will be nice to meet again."

While Italy have happy memories of their recent games against England, remaining unbeaten in their last six head-to-head meetings, the same cannot be said about another of their opponents.

North Macedonia clinched a stunning win over Italy in the World Cup play-offs in March, ensuring the Azzurri missed out on a second consecutive edition of the tournament.

Mancini is urging caution ahead of that reunion, adding: "It's one of those games that happen every now and then. As we saw in Palermo, all matches must be played, even the simplest ones."

The Azzurri boss was also pleased to be drawn alongside Ukraine, declaring: "There will be some emotion... but Ukraine is still a good national team."

Italy coach Roberto Mancini is already targeting World Cup glory in 2026, as the Azzurri prepare to "suffer" through this year's tournament after failing to qualify.

The European champions will be the most high-profile side to miss the tournament in Qatar after slipping to a humiliating play-off defeat to North Macedonia in March.

Italy were also absent from Russia in 2018 following a play-off loss to Sweden, meaning their exile from football's most storied competition will stretch to a minimum of 12 years.

The Azzurri also suffered group-stage exits in 2010 and 2014, meaning their most recent World Cup knockout tie remains 2006's final victory over France.

Mancini, however, is determined to end Italy's World Cup woes when the tournament heads to the United States, Mexico and Canada in four years' time, and believes their failure to reach Qatar was unjust. 

"Winning with the national team is the best thing there can be," he said at an event in Rome. 

"Giving Italians such joy is incredible, now we have to wait four years. We will aim to win the next World Cup in America.

"We are working, unfortunately we will suffer until December - the disappointment of not qualifying for the World Cup does not pass me. 

"It was totally unfair, but the defeats must be faced. We did not deserve to stay out of the World Cup, but unfortunately, that's how it went."

Asked why he chose to continue as Italy coach following their play-off embarrassment, the former Manchester City boss added: "Honestly, I don't know, at that moment I just wanted to turn the page because it went badly. 

"But winning the European Championship gives an incredible joy. Now we have to wait a few years and then we want to try for those emotions again."

Italy have since salvaged some pride by winning their Nations League group, finishing above Hungary, Germany and England to reach next year's finals.

And Mancini was keen to emphasise the difficulty of that achievement, adding: "It wasn't easy, the boys put everything in. 

"England are a danger to win the World Cup, they have an incredible squad and Hungary are a very physical team."

Italy will contest friendlies against Albania and Austria when elite club football pauses for the World Cup in November. 

Roberto Mancini was not entirely satisfied by Italy's Nations League win over Hungary, while Marco Rossi hailed Gianluigi Donnarumma as the "best goalkeeper in the world".

Goals from Giacomo Raspadori and Federico Dimarco saw the Azzurri leapfrog their hosts to top Group A3 and qualify for next year's finals, alongside Croatia and the Netherlands.

Yet the visitors were forced to weather a late onslaught from Hungary, kept in the game through Paris Saint-Germain keeper Donnarumma, who lived up to his reputation with a string of impressive saves.

That gradually eroded control over the match frustrated Mancini, who felt his side rested on their laurels too much across the closing stages of Monday's encounter.

"It was a difficult game," he told RAI Sport. "It was all perfect until the final 20 minutes.

"We really need to improve in our ability to control the game for 90 minutes, as we worked so hard to be 2-0 up, so suffering like that in the final 20 minutes just makes no sense.

"We should have kept pushing for a third goal. I lost my voice because I was shouting so much in the final 20 minutes."

Rossi, who played alongside Mancini in a brief stint with Sampdoria almost three decades ago and embraced warmly at full-time, was more philosophical on his side's defeat.

However, the Italian was fast to praise countryman Donnarumma, who after something of a mixed first year at PSG following his Euro 2020 heroics, looks back to his best this season.

"It would have been nice to perform a miracle tonight, but when you play against teams like Italy, you have to make zero mistakes and hope the other side get it wrong," Rossi said in his post-match press conference.

"Even when we did have the chances, we were kept out by the best goalkeeper in the world. It's no coincidence that PSG signed Donnarumma."

Rossi also hailed Hungary's supporters, praising their "great respect and civility" for their opponents in Budapest.

"I've been in football for many years," he added. "I've seen packed stadiums and fans on their feet, but never anything like the passion you can feel when Hungary play on home turf."

Italy boss Roberto Mancini says he is "pleased" to see Hungary thriving under former team-mate Marco Rossi, as the pair face off for a winner-takes-all Nations League clash.

The two sides meet in their final match in Group A3 on Monday, with the Azzurri needing victory in order to leapfrog their hosts into next year's finals in Budapest.

In a group that also included 2014 World Cup winners Germany and Euro 2020 finalists England, Hungary had been written off as easy pickings for relegation from the A tier of the Nations League.

But wins over both nations has catapulted them to top spot, and Mancini said he is delighted to see former Sampdoria team-mate Rossi showcasing his skill, stating that he is under no illusion of the task at hand.

"Playing in Hungary is never easy, but I am pleased that they have done so well in the Nations League, especially as their coach is my former team-mate," he stated.

"I see it as 50-50, because they can also count on a draw to go through. The fact we are here challenging for first place with 90 minutes to go is already pleasing, so we'll give it our all."

Italy will be without Ciro Immobile for the trip despite the striker making the journey to the airport, only to be left behind when the squad flew to Hungary.

Reports that Lazio's president Claudio Loitio ordered him to remain behind owing to a slight thigh issue were not commented on by Mancini, though he admitted the forward was not worth the risk.

"We tried and Immobile did everything right in trying to stay with us, but this morning we decided it wasn’t worth the risk," he added.

"It was disappointing for him and for us. Ciro would happily have stayed, and he did during the first game, but it was too dangerous to risk it.

"He wasn't in awful shape, but hasn't trained with us for three days. We met up when arriving in Milan, but his absence had already been discussed."

Roma's Leonardo Spinazzola has revealed he chose to miss Italy's Nations League fixtures to conduct individual training this month, as he continues his recovery from a serious Achilles tendon injury.

Spinazzola enjoyed a breakthrough on the international stage during Italy's successful Euro 2020 campaign last year, impressing as an attacking left-back for Roberto Mancini's side.

However, he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during the Azzurri's quarter-final win over Belgium in July 2021, returning to feature in just three Serie A matches before the end of last season.

The 29-year-old has appeared in all seven of the Giallorossi's league games this campaign, but revealed his previous injury continues to have an impact after opting to skip Italy's Nations League matches against England and Hungary.

"Not to go to Coverciano was my request to Roberto Mancini, the coach understood and allowed me these 10 days to get back in shape and do specific work for the calf," he told the club's media channels.

"I think mine is one of the worst injuries for a player, especially given my characteristics. I still lack some support and speed."

Roma are four points adrift of early Serie A pace-setters Napoli and Atalanta, but the arrival of Paulo Dybala and influence of coach Jose Mourinho have seen them tipped as potential title challengers.

Spinazzola spoke highly of the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss, adding: "We are with him, whatever he says, we do. If he told us to go to war, we would do it. 

"That's right, he has this gift. Then everything he says, for the most part, comes true.

"But he is very calm in training. I don't know how he was in the past, but he's really calm. Sometimes he just observes from above. 

"He likes to observe how you move, how you move your body, your body language, he observes a lot of these things."

Roma were beaten by Atalanta in their last league outing, and will face a huge test of their Serie A credentials when they travel to another of Mourinho's former clubs Inter on October 1.

Roberto Mancini praised Italy's new generation following a 1-0 victory over England in the Nations League.

Giacomo Raspadori's strike at San Siro condemned the Three Lions to relegation to League B, while Italy will face off against Hungary on Monday to decide who will advance to the Nations League finals.

Having failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, Mancini has looked to younger players for the future as the likes of 22-year-old Raspadori have made an impression for the European champions and hailed the displays of his young guns.

"We rebooted in June and were always in the running in this Nations League group. Clearly, we need these games, these wins, so we can grow," he said.

"I expected a good performance and knew it would be difficult, because many of tonight's lads are inexperienced at this level, with not even 30 per cent of England's caps, but I think we won deservedly."

Mancini was then asked why Italy are seemingly more effective when under pressure than in games where they are clear favourites but disagreed that this was the case.

"I don't think we threw anything away, football has an element of luck to it. We won the Euros on penalties, we deserved to win it, then failed to qualify for the World Cup after two games we dominated and did not win against Switzerland," he explained.

"We made mistakes too, that is obvious. I don't know if today was our best performance of the Nations League, we did well against Hungary and Germany too."

As for England, Mancini remains confident that Gareth Southgate's side can be contenders at the World Cup in Qatar and played down the significance of relegation from the Nations League.

"It's always satisfying to beat England, but especially after the difficult time we've had recently, it takes a little pressure off and that is important," he added.

"In my opinion, England are one of the best teams in the world and will have a good chance at the tournament. I don't think they will care too much about the relegation."

Roberto Mancini believes reaching the Nations League Finals could help to ease the "suffering" coming Italy's way when the World Cup begins.

Italy have failed to qualify for the World Cup for the second time in succession, with their disappointment magnified this time after they won the delayed Euro 2020 in July 2021 but then flopped in the final stages of Qatar 2022 qualifying.

On Friday, the Azzurri tackle England in Milan, a repeat meeting of the European final that Italy won on penalties at Wembley.

The teams have met since that occasion, slogging out a goalless draw at Molineux in June in their initial Nations League clash.

Mancini is hoping this latest reunion stirs something in his players that carries them to victory, given they have ground to make up on Hungary and Germany in Group A3, where England sit surprisingly bottom after four games. The Finals will be contested next June.

“There is enthusiasm for such a beautiful match and something that gives us a reminder," Mancini said. "I think winning the European Championship after 50 years was quite important.

"Getting to the Finals would give us joy, since from mid-November to mid-December there will be suffering.

"Tomorrow we have a very tough match against one of the best teams in the world, full of talents. We will need that team spirit that has always distinguished us. And then we will have to try to play well. Playing in a simple way is always the best thing."

Italy are without the injured Marco Verratti, Sandro Tonali, Matteo Politano and Lorenzo Pellegrini, but even with his midfield resources stretched, Mancini seemingly ruled out a change of system.

"If changing the game system ensured victory, then we would always change it. I don't think it changes much," he said. "Our national team has an identity that is what has led us to do well for a long time."

The game will see Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci line up against England once more, having scored the equaliser that preceded Italy's penalty shoot-out success at Wembley in last year's Euros.

Excluding penalty shoot-outs, England have only lost two of their past 26 matches, both against Hungary in June 2022 (W18 D6). The Three Lions are winless in four matches, however (D2 L2), last having a longer winless run in June 2014 (five matches), with one of those games being a 2-1 defeat to Italy at the World Cup.

Bonucci is hoping Italy can harness memories of Wembley to boost their prospects at San Siro.

The Italians need a pick-me-up after conceding 13 goals in their previous seven matches, including a 5-2 mauling by Germany last time out, the first time the Azzurri had shipped five in a game since a 1957 game against Yugoslavia. Italy had conceded only 15 goals in their previous 40 games before the recent sharp decline.

Bonucci said: “We must not forget the beautiful emotions we experienced. I believe that this national team does not lack enthusiasm, even if it must be amplified with victories.

"Tomorrow is an important match to understand where we are on this new path. There is no better match than this to build something important."

Giorgio Chiellini believes Manchester United "require too much" from Harry Maguire due to the centre-back's hefty price tag.

Maguire has been named among the substitutes for United's past four Premier League games after being dropped by Erik ten Hag.

The England international, who joined United for a record £80million fee for a defender in August 2019, paid the price for defeats to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford.

While Chiellini does not regard Maguire as being in the same category as legendary United defender Rio Ferdinand, he feels the ex-Leicester City player is unfairly judged.

"I am sad for Maguire's situation because he's a good player," Chiellini, who retired from international duty in April with 117 caps to his name, told The Times.

"They require too much of him. Just because they paid £80m for him, he has to be the best in the world every match? It's not right.

"The value of the market is dependent on many aspects you can't control. It's not your fault. Okay, Maguire maybe is not Rio Ferdinand but he's good enough."

Maguire has played 190 minutes for United across their six matches in all competitions this season, which is only the 13th most of all their players.

Despite his lack of playing time, the centre-back is part of Gareth Southgate's England squad for the upcoming Nations League matches with Italy and Germany.

England's clash with Italy in Milan on Friday is a repeat of the Euro 2020 final, which the Azzurri won 3-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time.

The Three Lions enter the game out of form, though, having failed to win any of their first four Nations League matches – their longest winless run since June 2014 (five games).

That includes a heavy 4-0 loss to Hungary last time out – their worst home defeat for 94 years – but Italy head coach Roberto Mancini rates Southgate's side highly.

"I think England are one of the best teams in the world. They're full of talent, especially the forwards," said Mancini, whose side played out a 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture.

"They have many players apart from Harry Kane, who is an extraordinary player, but the young players around him can make a difference. So it will be a very hard match for us."

England are bottom of Group A3 ahead of facing Italy, who are three points better off in third despite a heavy 5-2 loss to Germany in their most recent match.

Mancini added: "It's a game we face at a particular moment for us. They are in better shape, but we have the enthusiasm and we can play a good game."

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