Roberto Mancini’s Italy has been on a winning spree for a long time. The Azzurri have made it 10 wins in a row as they swept past the Swiss on 20th June 2021 on the third matchday of Euros 2020. They have scored a whopping 31 goals which is not a lot unless it combines with the fact that no one has scored even a single goal past them since the 31 goal rally started.
The team has run riot through a 29 match unbeaten streak while scoring 80 goals through this phase.
All of that went unnoticed.
It was crowded by the fame and success of other nations such as France winning the World Cup in 2018, Portugal winning the Nations League in 2018 and the Euros in 2016, Belgium being ranked the top team in the world by various journalists as well as sports analysts, an increase in the budding young talents of England causing the team as well as the fans to believe that ‘it’s coming home.
Italy developed, improved and stayed behind the curtains. They were not the favourites to win the Euros2020 but their display in the recent form says otherwise. Becoming the first team to qualify for the knockout rounds, they have made a statement that they are not too far behind the other nations. It is still the same Italy that was considered one of the most successful teams in the History of Football, defeated France in the final of the WORLD CUP 2006 crowning themselves champions of the competition.
Gianluca Zambrotta, who reached the Euro 2000 final with Italy, praises the team’s performance after the match with Switzerland-
“There were high expectations before tonight and there are even more now. Guys, continue to play with this attitude and to make our dream. They enjoy being out there and taking risks”
There are still some facts which are contradicting the recent winning spree of the Azzurri. In football, a match is never decided until the last whistle. A 90-minute span could alter all the predictions made about a match as there are always 2 sides to a coin and you never know which one could land, it’s all a matter of time when one measured pass, one through ball, one deflection and everything changes. The tournament favourites could become the centre of scrutiny within seconds. Hence, all these expectations from Italy could come crashing down just as easily.
The Big Boys
Italy hasn’t faced any of the big teams such as France, Portugal (The Defending Champions), Germany or any such team which would have tested Mancini’s team in a cutthroat manner. Their performance has been measured when they had the ball. In most of the group matches, they had the upper hand and had most of the possession during the game as they made the most out of it.
But the question that arises is how would they react when they ‘don’t have the upper hand’? Teams like Germany, Spain and France like to keep possession of the ball and it’s not an easy task to get it off them. Till now Mancini’s tactics has served the team but will Italy still be able to keep that stature of performance maintained through the knockout stages or not, that is the question that still hangs above the Italians.
Mancini praised his team’s performance while stating the difficulties in facing the top teams during the later stages of the tournament-
“These are the teams who have been built over several years and it’s only natural they are further along than us but everything can happen in football, you shouldn’t take anything for granted.”
Italy is not a star-studded team when compared to the likes of teams such as Portugal, Germany, France, Spain and many more. These teams on the team sheet have some of the best players in the world who have been performing on a world-class level. But as we know football is and has always been a team sport. It doesn’t matter how many legendary players are on your team unless you have the right TACTICS as well as a good TEAM CHEMISTRY that makes the players CLICK you cannot win.
A great player can win MATCHES, but a great team can win TROPHIES.
Italy has shown us by being a WINNING MACHINE through a considerable period. But could they go on to win the tournament by defying all the odds and getting through the teams who have proven themselves in recent times?
Could they penetrate the wall like the defence of Belgium, defend against the venomous strike force of France and steal possession against the calm and composed midfield of Spain???
It’ll be those 90 MINUTES which will tell us what’s going to happen.