European Qualifiers. Mancini: “This is the Italy which will head to the European Championship”

The Azzurri will play in Rome on Saturday: 38,000 tickets already sold. The Head Coach: “I hope that the Olimpico will be full, it’d be important to qualify early”

Monday, October 7, 2019

European Qualifiers. Mancini:

At the top of Group J on maximum points after six wins in six (a record for the Azzurri in European Championship qualifying), Italy are preparing for their upcoming game against Greece. It could be a decisive one too: a win would secure the Azzurri’s place at the Euros. The team met up today at Coverciano, where they will complete their first training session in the afternoon. Stefano Sensi won’t be involved after picking up an injury in Inter’s match against Juventus, while Alessandro Florenzi is also out injured. “We’ll assess things tomorrow and then see if we’ll call up replacements,” said Head Coach Mancini during his press conference today. “We have an extra player on the right in Di Lorenzo anyway. He deserved his call-up. In midfield, we’ll bring in Tonali after the Under-21s have played in Ireland.”

Italy’s next stop is in Rome, where they’re set to play at a sold-out Olimpico: 38,000 tickets have been purchased so far. This is what Mancini called for. “I expect a great game against Greece, we’ll be playing in Rome for the first time in a while and I want the team to do well. I hope that the Olimpico is full and it would be fantastic to qualify early. This wasn’t a foregone conclusion given where we came from. Everyone can express their opinion – this must be accepted. We believe we’ve put together a good side.” He then jokingly added: “We asked for a group with Germany, France, the Netherlands and Spain, but they didn’t give it to us.”

Overall, Mancini’s first 15 months on the Italy bench have been positive: “A year ago, we started out with great difficulties, we’re pleased that we’ve managed to create a good team and are happy with where we are now. Among other things, the standard of Serie A has got better. During the first three matchdays, many goals were scored, but since then this hasn’t been the case. In Italy, the problem for coaches is that if you get it wrong for three matches you’re immediately called into question. Atalanta continue to do well, Roma are playing nice football, while Juve and Inter are strong and have been so for years. Juve are improving in the Champions League and always try to win away from home, as was the case in Madrid. Inter are improving, it was a matter of time and I think that they’re already an excellent team.”

The Coach also spoke about De Rossi, Buffon, Balotelli, and the latest on Donnarumma. Mancini explained: “For De Rossi, it was the same judgement that we used for Buffon for the game in Turin against the Netherlands. We were happy to give such a great player another chance to greet the fans. We wanted to do the same with him, but unfortunately he’s injured and hasn’t played recently. We’ll see if there’s a chance to do it in the future. As far as Balotelli’s concerned, he’s only just come back after months out and he’s not quite there physically yet. He did well against Napoli but he needs to play more games. Donnarumma? That’s a problem we don’t have. We have four or five other goalkeepers who are all extremely reliable. If we’re missing one or two then there’s always another great player who can step in.”

On the group: “There are players who can cover several roles, from a European point of view that’s certainly a positive. But the group is more or less decided, two or three players might come in or out, maybe. Then if someone is suddenly unavailable then we’ll see what happens, but the players who will go to the Euros are all here. We’re a bit short at left-back: Emerson is out, Spinazzola has played the last two games, Biraghi’s back but he hasn’t played a lot.”

Italy will first play Greece on Saturday 12 October at the Olimpico (20:45 CEST) before flying to Vaduz, where on Tuesday 15 October at 20:45 CEST they’ll face hosts Liechtenstein at the Rheinpark Stadion, a side who they beat 6-0 earlier on in qualifying on 26 March in Parma. Mancini still hasn’t decided on his team but mentioned he will probably continue to alternate the forwards he has at his disposal. Referring to Immobile and Belotti, he said this to say: “Yes, this will continue, letting one rest and playing the other is the right thing to do. Immobile and Belotti are in good condition, sooner or later they’ll drop physiologically. In terms of how they play, they’re different. However, they should try to be more alike. They’re at an advantage when they’re afforded space, but given what our game is – a technical one – they need to be able to help the team play.”

ITALY VS. GREECE. The atmosphere is sure to stir up memories of the ‘Magic Nights’ at Italia ’90 as Roberto Mancini’s side will play in Rome for the first time in four years following the 2-1 win over Norway that came in October 2015. It will be the 59th match in the capital, making the city the one that has hosted the most Azzurri fixtures, with Milan on 58 after being the venue for Italy vs. Portugal in the Nations League. Overall, Italy have won 34, drawn 17 and lost 7 in the capital, scoring 105 goals and conceding 47. However, this will be the first time that Greece visit Rome to face the Azzurri: the two sides have had ten previous encounters, with Italy winning six and drawing three. Their only loss against the Greeks came 47 years ago in Athens (2-1 in a friendly). The last five fixtures hosted in Italy between the two countries have taken place in Milan, Florence, Turin, Bari and Bologna.

PARTNERSHIP FIGC – ‘BAMBINO GESU’ PAEDIATRIC HOSPITAL. This is not only a vital match for the Azzurri, but will also be an opportunity to help the young patients of the ‘Bambino Gesù’ hospital, as part of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the children’s hospital in Rome, a real institute of excellence in the international field of children’s healthcare. After patients, doctors and nurses spent a day with the Azzurri at Coverciano in June, the side will visit the hospital in Gianicolo and split up to visit as many young patients as possible. A delegation of 5,500 from the hospital will then be guests of the FIGC at the Stadio Olimpico for this important qualifier. It will possible to help the hospital by sending a text to 45535. The FIGC has also started an online auction with a variety of exclusive benefits on offer such as VIP experiences and signed shirts to raise money for the cancer department.

LIECHTENSTEIN VS. ITALY. The two nations have crossed paths on three previous occasions: twice in 2018 World Cup qualification and once already in the ongoing European Qualifiers. The current record is entirely in Italy’s favour, with three wins and a total of 15 goals to none. The Azzurri’s 6-0 win against this opponent in the last European qualifiers was their most emphatic win for 57 years (the same result coming against Turkey in 1962). The preceding match to that between the two sides ended 4-0 to Italy in Vaduz, with all of the Azzurri’s goals coming in the first half.

Squad list

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Pierluigi Gollini (Atalanta), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino);
Defenders: Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Cristiano Biraghi (Inter), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Danilo D’Ambrosio (Inter), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Armando Izzo (Torino), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Alessio Romagnoli (Milan), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma);
Midfielders: Nicolò Barella (Inter), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Frello Filho Jorge Luiz Jorginho (Chelsea), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain). Nicolò Zaniolo (Roma);
Forwards: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Stephan El Shaarawy (Shangai Shenhua), Vincenzo Grifo (Friburgo), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli).

National Team schedule (all times CEST)

Monday 7 October
Meet-up at Coverciano by midday
13:45 – Press conference (Roberto Mancini)
17:00 – Training (first 15 minutes open to press)

Tuesday 8 October
Sponsor day
13:45 – Press conference, Museo del Calcio
14:00 – Meeting with the press (player)
17:00 – Training (open to press)

Wednesday 9 October
13:45 – Press Conference FIGC Partner
14:00 – Meeting with the press (player)
17:00 – Training (first 15 minutes open to press)

Thursday 10 October
11:00 – Training (behind closed doors)
15:50 – Departure of chartered train from Campo di Marte to Rome
17:20 – Arrival in Rome and subsequent journey to the Bambino Gesu Paediatric hospital
18:00 – Visit to Bambino Gesu Paediatric hospital

Friday 11 October
17:00 – Press conference
17:30 – Training at the Stadio Olimpico

Saturday 12 October
20:45 – Italia vs. Grecia at the Stadio Olimpico. Following the match, a meeting with the press and subsequent journey back to the hotel

Sunday 13 October
11:30 – Training (behind closed doors)

Monday 14 October
10:30 – Chartered flight from Rome to St. Gallen (Switzerland)
18:00 – Press conference
18:30 – Training at the Rheinpark Stadion – Vaduz

Tuesday 15 October
20:45 – Liechtenstein vs. Italy at the Rheinpark Stadion – Vaduz. Following the match, a meeting with the press and subsequent journey back to the hotel

Wednesday 16 October
10:00 – Chartered flight from St.Gallen to Milan Malpensa (11:10) and then journey to Rome (13:00)