Euro’s Surprise Package: Italy

Despite a rich history at international tournaments, Italy have failed to live up to expectations in recent years. However, under the guidance of Roberto Mancini, they are quietly working their way back to the top. They’re 26 games unbeaten, a record which stretches back to September 2018. Could an Italian team combining youthful talent with experienced leaders go the distance and surprise everyone this summer? 

The one-year delay of the Euro’s has allowed Mancini some extra time to put his philosophy into place and it will have huge benefits this summer. Mancini has implemented a 4-3-3 system with one player sitting in a holding role accompanied by two midfielders in the Mezzala role. Italy are spoilt for choice right across the team and such squad depth will be a big bonus going into a tournament which is running off the back of an incredibly congested and tiring season.

Mancini has given a lot of opportunity to youthful players, going against the traditional Italian model of relying on experienced figures like Buffon and Chiellini. He’s given debuts to 33 players and his own personal shift in approach towards integrating youth has paid off. Barella, Tonali, Berardi, and Locatelli are just a select few of an elite group of emerging talents that have now become established senior players for their country.

The 4-3-3 set up suits the current crop of Italian players much better than the previous 3 or 5 at the back formations had. The midfield duo of Nico Barella and Marco Verratti is exceptional, both players are incredibly comfortable in and suited to the role Mancini wants them playing. Further forward, Lorenzo Insigne is in his prime and will be a key man for Italy while the likes of Chiesa, Bernadeschi, Berardi and Pellegrini will all compete for the inside right forward role.

In defence, Italy have some impressive options. The experience of Leonardo Bonucci will be pivotal to any success Italy may enjoy while the likes of Acerbi, Florenzi, and Bastoni are all great options too. In goal, they’ve got Donnarumma who will be performing at the highest level as he looks to find his next club as a free agent this summer.

Ciro Immobile will be backed up by Andrea Belotti and the pair can certainly be relied upon for goals this summer. Together they scored 33 goals in the Serie A this season and are also capable of providing assists. They’ll be supplied plenty of chances from the progressive-minded players in midfield and will be a tough task for any opposing defence in the tournament.

As for their pathway to the final, they should have it fairly easy until the quarter-finals. They’d be expected to top their group, although they will be challenged by Turkey. You’d expect they would make fairly comfortable work of Wales and Switzerland, with all due respect to both those sides. If they do win that group, they’ll then face off against 2nd place from Group C, which assuming Holland top that group, will be one of Ukraine, Austria, or North Macedonia.

However, after that they’ll most likely come up against Belgium assuming they top their group and beat one of the 3rd placed teams in the round of 16. Obviously beyond that point it’s hard to assume who they’ll come up against but with the level of quality throughout the entire tournament, it won’t be easy. Fortunately for Italy, they’re more than equipped to compete against the top teams. Let’s see how far they can go…

featured image credit sky sports