Former Juventus and Fiorentina goalkeeper Alex Manninger is hopeful that his native Austria can cause Italy problems in the last 16 of this summer’s European Championship.
Gli Azzurri face their neighbours at Wembley on Saturday after an impressive group stage in which they won each of their three games, extending their unbeaten run under Roberto Mancini to 30 matches.
But Manninger has faith that Austria have enough to have a chance in the first knockout round, although he recognises Italy’s strengths.
“It’s something historic what we have achieved getting out of the group after nearly 40 years,” Manninger told The Italian Football Podcast. “We won two games and we deserve to be where we are.
“We have a coach who knows how to make the players hungry. All 26 players in the squad can be proud, just like us supporters.
“With Italy, we have probably drawn the most organised team in the tournament. My hope is we can take the game into extra time and then you don’t know what could happen. It could go both ways.
“Alaba is one of our leaders. He is the most experienced, won so many titles, played for the best club in Europe in the last 10 years. He needs to perform and guide the others. Our force and weapon is the whole team. They have a good staff, management, well-coached.
“Arnautovic up front, Sabitzer in midfield can cause damage but the team as a whole is the weapon.
“I hope we can make it an exciting football match. I hope we can make it exciting to the last minute of the game. Whether it be 90 minutes, 120 minutes, or after penalties. I hope it is an exciting evening. And if Italy beat us, they know they are only two games away from the final.”
— ForzaItalianFootball (@SerieAFFC) June 22, 2021
With Gianluigi Buffon recently having returned to Parma in Serie B, Manninger took the opportunity to heap praise onto the veteran goalkeeper.
“I would say he is the greatest goalkeeper of all time, even if he didn’t win the Champions League,” Manninger said. “I think he created the perfect goalkeeper. He is the perfect model for all young goalkeepers.
“I am proud to have played with him and to be the same age group as him. He gave a lot to me and to so many others.”
— ForzaItalianFootball (@SerieAFFC) June 19, 2021