The story appears on

Page A16

October 17, 2019

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Sports » Soccer

Record-breaking new era as Italy fortunes revived

At first glance, Italy’s 5-0 win over a Liechtenstein side ranked 182nd in the world by FIFA wasn’t a noteworthy result.

Tuesday’s victory in Vaduz, however, marked a historic moment for a team that has undergone a radical transformation in the 17 months since Roberto Mancini took over as manager.

It was the Azzurri’s ninth win in a row, a run of form that equalled an Italian record set by the great Vittorio Pozzo’s team 80 years earlier. “Matching Pozzo’s record is nice, but I’d rather match his record of winning two World Cups,” Mancini said after the game.

That feat may be out of reach for now, but the former Manchester City boss has nevertheless given the Italian public plenty of statistical gems to pore over during the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

Italy’s 2-0 win over Greece at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday assured it of qualification to next summer’s European Championships with three games to spare.

It was the earliest qualification Italy has ever achieved, and the outlook of Group J following the win in Liechtenstein made for more happy reading.

Italy tops the group with eight wins from eight, 25 goals scored and just three conceded.

Mancini’s side has hurdled every obstacle, coming from behind to win against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Armenia and finding a late winner against surprise package Finland during a 2-1 victory in September.

It was crucial that the manager got to work quickly when he was named as the successor to Gian Piero Ventura in May 2018.

Ventura became public enemy No. 1 in Italy after its humiliating World Cup playoff defeat to Sweden at the end of 2017, a result that confirmed its first absence from the tournament since 1958.

Mancini picked up the national team in a period of profound darkness but, piece by piece, has rebuilt the fragile confidence of the team.

“You can see there’s an Italy side with more conviction, more desire to do what the coach says and follow the very clear ideas we considered from the start to be wise,” striker Andrea Belotti said after scoring twice in Liechtenstein.

“You can see we’re doing some wonderful things on the field, especially compared to the ugliness of two years ago.”

Success wasn’t immediate, as Italy went five games without a win after the manager’s debut friendly win over Saudi Arabia.

But Mancini gradually found his strongest team and favored formation, and the results soon followed.

The euphoric mood among 60,000 fans in the Olimpico celebrating qualification to Euro 2020 at the weekend was the clearest signal yet of how far this team has come under its leader.

The idea of it being a new era for the national team wasn’t lost on kit maker Puma, which unveiled a green shirt it described as the “renaissance kit” ahead of the Greece game.

It divided opinion, as many fans were bemused by the idea of playing in anything other than the ‘Azzurro’ blue that gives the team its nickname.

But the symbolism was obvious, as the emergence of the next generation was celebrated alongside Italy’s resurgence as a force in international football.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend