FEATURE | Why it is time for a change in the Italian national team

After the Nations League Semi Final loss against Spain, GIFN’s Jurre van Wanrooij, who was at the stadium, shines his light on the current situation at the Azzurri and calls for a change. 

Before too much critism gets unloaded on Roberto Mancini, he deserves some praise too. The 58-year-old Mancini took charge of the Azzurri after the team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The National Team were in a bad place and Mancini managed to take them out of there. The coach built a strong squad and managed to surprise the world with a Euros win in 2021. During the tournament that was held throughout the continent, Italy beat Turkey, Switzerland, Wales, Austria, Belgium, Spain and England in the final. The last game was won on penalties.

The story afterwards is well known: Italy started their World Cup qualifiers well, but collapsed near the end and finished second in their group, behind Switzerland. The Azzurri faced Northern Macedonia in the play-offs, but lost in Palermo, which meant no World Cup for the Campioni d’Europa. The ‘Mancini-out’ camp grew and raised their voice, but the coach had gained enough credit to remain in the job. Mixed results plus some selection calls followed, which resulted in a lot of fans doubting if Mancini was still the right man for the job.

The Nations League semi-final against Spain on Thursday showed that the doubts have a valid reason. Firstly, Mancini’s squad selection for the rematch of the Euros semi-final raised eyebrows. Only Scudetto winners Napoli had a better defensive league record than Lazio, yet goalkeeper Ivan Provedel, Alessio Romagnoli and Nicolò Casale were all ignored by Mancini. There was another Biancocelesti player missing: Mattia Zaccagni. The 28-year-old winger had a great season at the Serie A runners up and deserved to be included too.

Mancini fielded at 3-5-2 formation at the Grolsch Veste in The Netherlands, where the Nations League tie was played. Leonardo Bonucci has been surpassed by Federico Gatti at Juventus, but Mancini still put the former in and sent the latter on vacation. Jorginho, who’s been on the decline for a while, didn’t lose his place in the midfield. However, Marco Verratti did as Davide Frattesi was given a chance by Mancini. Ciro Immobile, who almost always disappoints for the National Team, started alongside another surprise up front – Nicolò Zaniolo.

Even though he started with some different names, the criticism remains: Mancini sticks with the same names for too long. Bonucci made a big mistake minutes into the game and gave the ball to Yeremy Pino, who calmly finished and put Spain ahead. The 36-year-old defender was clearly not up to the standards of the game and Mancini had to take him off at half-time. It was a really embarassing game for the Juventus veteran. 

Lazio striker Ciro Immobile tried a lot and worked hard, but he also couldn’t impress, something which is usual in the Azzurri colours for him. Mateo Retegui had two goals in his first two Italy games, yet he was put on the bench by Mancini. Frattesi, the suprise pick in midfield, played well and even scored.

Unfortunately for him, the VAR intervened and cancelled the goal for offside. The Sassuolo midfielder almost scored Italy’s second goal again in the second half. After 76 minutes, he was taken off and replaced by Verratti. It was a suprising choice, as Mancini took off a midfielder with the ability to score while the game was tied. Verratti had a poor cameo and Italy conceded just before the end of the match. 

The Semi Final loss sums up Mancini’s last few months at the helm of the Azzurri. So many wrong decisions have been made by the coach of the National Team. The Azzurri need to be revolutionized, the young talent needs to be integrated in the squad. Even with all that he’s done for the team, it’s time to move on from Mancini. The Azzurri need a coach who can help them make a fresh start. The sooner the better, as missing out on another tournament would be a big hit that Italian football can’t take right now. 



Jurre van Wanrooij | GIFN

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