June 11, 2021 by archyde
His word is rare. So when Dino Zoff speaks, you have to know how to listen to him. The former 1982 world champion goalkeeper and Italy coach at Euro 2000 – marked by defeat on the wire in the final against France (2-1) – has a hunch: “I don’t know why, but I feel that this Italy can do something ”, he confided to us when we asked him if he thought Roberto Mancini’s team, which will open the competition this Friday evening (9 p.m. on TF 1 and BeIN Sports), in Rome, against Turkey, had the trappings of a potential winner.
“A place in the semi-finals is very possible,” adds Zoff who, at the height of his 79 years, is still measured. She does not have any stars, but she has had a very good career. She is full of confidence. We do not necessarily expect it and it is often in this case that the Italians are good. Remember in 2016: Conte’s Italy had been very good (Editor’s note: eliminated in the quarterfinals on penalties by Germany). Mancini’s also pleases me. “
The Mancini method
It is indeed as a real outsider that the Squadra Azzura presents itself for this Euro where the Blues favorites are the French. But if the gap seems immense between a world champion team in 2018 at the end of a competition in which the other had not qualified for the first time in 60 years, it has undoubtedly been reduced. not in recent months.
Coach Roberto Mancini talks to his troops at the Olympic stadium in Rome. Pool via Reuters / ANDREW MEDICHINI
All the credit goes to Mancini who was able to straighten the bar in the face of a badly started situation, especially in September 2018 when his team came to concede a new defeat against Portugal (1-0). Little by little, relying as much on youth as on experience, Italy regained play and confidence and achieved a perfect course during qualifying for the Euro: ten victories in ten games.
Today, she remains on an impressive 27-game unbeaten streak. “It’s a real group, they know that no one is a star who can, alone, get the others out of trouble: to get there, they must do it together”, summed up this Thursday the ex-international Alessandro Del Piero in the “Corriere della Sera”.
The transalpine formation can rely on a central Bonucci-Chiellini of the most experienced (more than 200 selections between them), on the ardor of the rising star Nicolo Barella, the legs of Federico Chiesa but also the importance in his goal of Gianluigi Donnarumma, the young and promising goalkeeper targeted by PSG. Add in the middle the precious role of Marco Verratti whose return to competition after his right knee injury is expected in the coming days. On the other hand, Italy is not spared by the glitches in midfield. After Stefano Sensi’s package at the start of the week, it’s Lorenzo Pellegrini (AS Roma) ‘s turn, this Thursday, to have to give up.
If Alessandro Florenzi, the Parisian right-back, considered that the French were favorites “especially because they are world champions”, he also added: “They are strong, everyone knows that. But there are a lot of good teams, even Italy. We hope to do well, we work a lot and we want to make Italians happy ”.
The health crisis, an additional motivation
But it is Roberto Mancini who has undoubtedly best described what gives Italy a strength apart for this Euro. In a long letter addressed to Italian supporters, the coach relied on the impact of the health crisis and the Covid which has hit his country so heavily. “Sport can give us a lot of positive emotions,” he said. Never before have we needed it so much. Our team is aware of representing a fantastic and determined people, and for this reason, I, along with the staff and the 26 guys who will be on the pitch, will use every minute of this tournament to honor the country we represent. We know that our matches will be a moment of union for millions of Italians. (…) That is why we are going to play this event aware of the strength of the blue jersey and of the Italian people. “
The adventure begins this Friday evening at the Olympic stadium in front of 16,000 tifosis ready to make as much noise as if they had been 80,000.