An encouraging Italy performance once again failed to deliver any goals, as the Azzurri were held to a 0-0 draw with Portugal at the San Siro on Saturday.
The result means Fernando Santos’ men are through to the finals of the Nations League, while Roberto Mancini will have to settle with avoiding relegation with his young Azzurri side, who once again failed to turn their play into concrete results.
The first half saw Italy dominate proceedings, as they had 68 percent of the possession and completed 372 passes to Portugal’s paltry 98.
Despite the impressive numbers, the Azzurri failed to convert them into an advantage, though things did start brightly. Lorenzo Insigne tested Rui Patricio from distance, but Ciro Immobile fired the rebound over the bar from a tight angle.
The Lazio man had another great chance to open the scoring later in the half after being sent in alone by Marco Verratti, but Patricio was up to the challenge and stopped the effort with his leg.
Leonardo Bonucci headed wide from close range, while Ruben Neves and Mario Rui were both booked, ruling them out for Tuesday’s match with Poland, as the two sides went into the tunnel goalless.
Italy started the second half much like the first, with Federico Chiesa coming close to opening the scoring. Verratti’s ball found Cristiano Biraghi on the wing and his cross found the Fiorentina man, but his shot was deflected just inches wide of the near post.
The Azzurri’s advances stagnated from there – despite their possession reaching as much as 73 percent at one point.
Portugal eventually responded, first with Joao Mario, who fired over the bar from inside the penalty area. Their best chance came minutes later, as the ball fell for William Carvalho outside the box, and his low strike was saved by an outstretched Gianluigi Donnarumma.
It proved to be the last real opportunity of the contest, as Italy’s tired legs could do little to stop Portugal from earning the point they needed to make it through to next summer’s Nations League finals.
Immobile squanders golden opportunity
Reports indicated Mancini was weighing up whether to start Immobile or Domenico Berardi for this match, and the Lazio man did little to justify his inclusion.
Two wasted opportunities and a general lack of involvement in proceedings will do little to quell the notion that Immobile just isn’t cut out to feature for the Azzurri on a regular basis.
Mancini slow to change things up
With Italy needing a result and clearly slowing down after the restart, Mancini waited until the 74th minute to make his first substitution – Kevin Lasagna for Immobile.
While the decision to bring on the Udinese man is a debate in and of itself, one has to wonder why the tactician waited so long to make a change given the Azzurri were tiring and unable to find a breakthrough.
It’s a criticism many have levelled at Mancini before, and unfortunately, it doesn’t appear he’s shaken that attribute just yet.