Italy put in a virtuoso display on Monday evening as they humiliated Armenia 9-1 in their final Euro 2020 qualifier in Group J and this performance was the icing on the cake for Roberto Mancini and his Azzurri revolution.
After the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the former Inter and Manchester City coach needed to rebuild the Azzurri squad. Since taking the Italy role in May 2018, the 54-year-old has integrated many youngsters and encouraged them to play attacking football.
Italian teams of yesteryear would score a couple of goals and then relax against a team like Armenia but this young Azzurri side were relentless in Palermo and there was a relatively even spread of goalscorers.
ITALY CAN WIN AND DO IT IN STYLE
Traditionally Italian football has been associated with a result-orientated orientated approach and building teams around established or experienced players. Coaches would encourage their teams to defend in numbers, score a goal or two from a set-piece or counterattack, and then conserve energy.
Mancini’s Italy are a young team that play proactive football and although Armenia had recently changed coach and were also missing star midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, this collection of starlets deserves credit for playing until the final whistle instead of becoming complacent.
The 9-1 victory was the Azzurri’s greatest win in a competitive fixture since they won 9-0 against the USA at the 1948 Olympics in London. Italy were typically solid in defence, conceding just four goals in their 10 Euro 2020 qualifiers, but they boasted attacking prowess as well, scoring 37 times.
MANCINI HAS SCORING OPTIONS AROUND THE PITCH
Despite scoring 37 goals in 10 qualifying fixtures, the Italians did not include the leading scorer in Group J. That honour went to Teemu Pukki from Finland with 10 goals and the highest-scoring Italian was Andrea Belotti with four.
The positive aspect of that is Mancini does not have to rely on a couple of star attackers for goals and he can get players from a variety of positions to contribute instead.
Seven changes were made by the Italian coach to the team that started the 3-0 victory against Bosnia and Herzegovina but Italy clearly bettered the performance from Friday night in Zenica.
Lazio striker Ciro Immobile and Roma midfielder both scored braces against Armenia but Inter midfielder Nicolo Barella, Chelsea playmaker Jorginho, AC Milan defender Alessio Romagnoli, Bologna winger Riccardo Orsolini, and Fiorentina forward Federico Chiesa also added to the tally.
AZZURRI NOT DEPENDANT ON JUVENTUS CORE
Many of Italy’s successes on the international stage have involved Juventus providing the nucleus or core of players that Azzurri coaches could build their team around. The 1934 and 2006 World Cup-winning squads had five players featuring in each final while the 1982 squad had six.
This has earned the Azzurri the unaffectionate moniker of ItalJuve, especially when results don’t go Italy’s way. Winger Federico Bernardeschi played against Bosnia and Herzegovina but only captain Leonardo Bonucci played against both Armenia and the Bosnians.
Despite not being able to select a certain group of players from one club, Mancini has been able to look throughout the Italian peninsula for players and they have been able to embrace his philosophy.
Most of these players are in their early 20s so they have plenty of time to mature together.