Italy are back and it feels as though they never left. Winning the European Championship against England at Wembley was confirmation that Roberto Mancini’s side are the real deal, and his work has been commendable by bringing Italian football back to the top.
Having hit rock bottom just three years ago when Giampiero Ventura failed to lead Gli Azzurri to the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, things looked bleak for Italy. A lot of changes followed, both at the FIGC – the Italian federation – and around the team.
The former Inter and Manchester City boss didn’t hesitate in making changes. He has used as many as 67 players in his three years in charge, 35 of which have been debutants with the first team. Of those debutants, Rafael Toloi, Emerson Palmieri, Alessandro Bastoni, Nicolo Barella, Manuel Locatelli and Matteo Pessina have now become European champions.
All of those, though, have had their hands held by the veterans Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, who have been as important as ever for their country.
Just four months after Mancini’s appointment, Italy lost to Portugal. Since then, they’ve chained together 34 unbeaten matches to set a new record, surpassing their previous of 30 matches under Vittorio Pozzo.
Until drawing 1-1 with Spain in the semi-finals, Italy had the best winning streak in their history at 13 consecutive games. They and Belgium were the only sides to win each of their 10 qualification matches, conceding just four times and being the second top scorers in qualification.
A good impression from the start
Italy shone from the very beginning of Euro 2020. They delivered the very best that could have been expected of them, and then some.
Not a lot of people expected them to reach the semi-finals, but they stormed their way to lift the trophy at Wembley, beating Spain, Belgium and England en route.
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They scored seven and conceded none to claim a 100 percent record in their group, then they beat Austria after suffering for the first time. Then they impressed against Belgium and had to dig in against Spain to reach the final.
Now, less than 500 days before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Gli Azzurri have confirmed their renaissance by winning their second ever European Championship. Now, as if it wasn’t already known, Italy can never again be written off as dead, however bad it may seem.