Almost three years after Italian football experienced its worst nightmare, the national team has smiled again.
The Azzurri cheered with joy as they celebrated in Sarajevo after securing their ticket to the Nations League finals. They did it without having their technician present: Roberto Mancini had to stay in Rome, isolated after testing positive for the coronavirus.
An assistant held the phone for Mancini, via video call, to congratulate his players on the 2-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina. His message was met with a raucous celebration from the campus.
It was a scene diametrically opposed to what was experienced in 2017, when the players threw themselves to the floor in disbelief after losing to Sweden in the playoffs to stay out of the World Cup.
Gian Piero Ventura was fired as coach after that meeting and was replaced by Mancini months later.
“I can only thank all the guys and the collaborators,” Mancini said in a television interview after the game, connected to a computer. “The boys who were there and also those who weren’t, who like me had to stay home, that led us to where we are.”
“In two years they have done a great job and they have been fantastic.”
Mancini has made a comeback at the Nazionale, changing tactics and style. It is no longer the rigid equipment of its predecessor. Even one commentator enthusiastically said Wednesday that “it’s like watching Brazil.”
“Because we rarely see each other, we only work on the game scheme when we train and not on the physical, since they arrive after having done that with their teams,” Mancini said.
His players believe that he is being very modest, especially after getting the best out of several players who did not stand out with Ventura.
Lorenzo Insigne has turned out to be the best example of Ventura’s failure. Inexplicably, the Napoli forward barely played 15 minutes in the round-trip tie against Sweden, and out of his natural profile.
Italy’s performance against Bosnia – and against Poland and Estonia last week – was all the more impressive given the problems they have had in recent weeks. More than 20 players were ruled out due to the virus or injury.
But Mancini has hit the mark, bringing out the best in his established players and inserting a new brood that has rejuvenated the team with his energy and enthusiasm.
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