31 MATCHES UNBEATEN, Is Italy Up to Something?
Italy’s form in the EUROs 2020 tournament has been impressive so far. The Azzurri are currently unbeaten in the competition and have only conceded 1 goal, scoring 8 goals so far in their 4 matches played. Their unbeaten run and clean sheets in the group stage put some spotlight on them but sports pundits still suggest that they are yet to face a top team. Roberto Mancini’s lads are now 31 matches unbeaten but do not get enough credit for it as they have not played top-tier teams to truly test their ability. The last team to get the better of them was Portugal in September 2018.
The Italian squad understands that no success ever comes smoothly in football. Some games test more of your character than your quality. From the record. their best Italian squads start with some deeply unconvincing displays, which gave rise to the old truism that Italy always starts slowly.
With their impressive start in the tournament, their game against Austria became a moment of difficulty for them. It was the first time when things did not flow as easily as they were used to. Any fancy ideas that they could just run their way through the tournament were dismissed. Certainly, no side has ever had it that easy, not even the best of teams at their prime.
Although their game against Austria turned out to be a huge test, most sports pundits still suggest that Italy has not been tested by a top-tier team. Austria was much better than most expected and made things difficult for Italy, but they are still way off a top-tier team that many will want Italy to Encounter. Austria put Italy through an emotional mill which was a good test for the players before a more exacting quarter-final opponent, It was really important for them as it equips them on how to adapt to mid-game situations when things are not going smoothly as planned especially as they approach more unforgiving opponents with big players in the big games.
Their next game against Belgium will be a trust test for their players to decide if they are a top-class team as many have refused to accept. Mancini is a well-experienced manager and is going to prep his lads for the big games. He has noted in the past that he is more interested in winning trophies than being unbeaten. He also has some big decisions to make to aid his teams development, and one of them revolves around his greatest star.
The manager made a huge decision by starting Marco Verratti over Manuel Locatelli but was brave enough to switch it back. It is still true that there is no player with the star profile of Verratti on the Italian side.
But is Verratti’s presence and aura on the pitch affecting the tactical purity of the team which is full of hungry young players?
Italy was not too fluid in midfield in this game, with the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder occasionally complicating things for his team.
This will be one of the big decisions the Manager will have to make going into the quarter-final fixture against tougher and unforgiving opponents but also knowing that Verratti’s experience can be an advantage on the pitch.
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