Time and patience are required as new Italy coach Roberto Mancini attempts to rebuild the Azzurri after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Since his appointment in May, the 53-year-old has obtained a victory, draw, and defeat in his first three matches and he used those friendlies to experiment with the new generation of players at his disposal, making it difficult to utilise free bet offers for UK markets.
Over the course of those matches, Italy showed that they have a long way to go if they are to become one of football’s strongest national teams again.
Not only is the team lacking in experience but it is devoid of leaders who can inspire them when things are not going their way and this is the first time that these players have played together at the international level.
Unfortunately, most of the veterans in the Azzurri squad before Mancini was appointed are now in the twilight of their careers and there are not enough stars who are at their peak so introducing the youth is a necessity despite the rawness of the players.
The former Inter, Manchester City, and Zenit St. Petersburg tactician started his tenure with a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia on May 28 thanks to long-range effort from Mario Balotelli on his international return and Andrea Belotti added the second after a corner.
Saudi Arabia’s consolation goal was clearly the most negative moment of the match when Chelsea right-back Davide Zappacosta played a careless pass in defence and Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma charged too far outside of his penalty area to win back the ball, allowing Yahya Al Shehri to find the back of the net for the Middle Eastern team.
Mancini made changes for the friendly against France on Friday, which Italy eventually lost 3-1 in Nice, and Les Bleus demonstrated their greater experience and quality over the 90 minutes.
Although the Azzurri created some scoring chances of their own against the French, the Italian defence could not handle Atletico Madrid superstar Antoine Griezmann and Les Bleus starlets Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe while Corentin Tolisso and N’Golo Kante controlled the midfield.
Torino goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu was another player who made his Italy return under Mancini but his positioning and reactions were disappointing. The defeat prompted the new Azzurri coach into making further changes to his starting line-up and they got a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands on Monday evening.
It was a match that Italy dominated and should have won but Domenico Criscito was sent-off after Simone Zaza scored and that allowed the Dutch back into the contest. Mancini used the 4-3-3 formation like he had done in the previous two friendlies and while the finishing was not up to scratch, the Italians displayed some neat ball control and confidence on the ball.
Despite the mixed results, there are still some positives to take out of the three friendlies. Mattia Perin demonstrated that he should be the first choice between the posts thanks to his awareness and reflexes, Daniele Rugani defended with confidence despite limited game time at club level, Balotelli looked lively in attack, Federico Chiesa provided both effort and quality on the wings, and Jorginho and Giacomo Bonaventura showed that they can dictate the play.
After seeing Italy miss out on the World Cup for the first time since 1958, Azzurri fans cannot expect the national team to quickly bounce right back and similar rebuilds took place after the 1974 and 1986 World Cups with many great players emerging during those times so there might be light at the end of the tunnel after all.
For the time being, Roberto Mancini and his players should be allowed to work and grow together without any great demands and expectations from supporters who might have unrealistic goals or they are stuck in the past.