LONDON — Italy are in the EURO 2020 final and their incredible rise is down to a huge shift in playing philosophy, players buying in and Roberto Mancini getting his man-management spot on.
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This isn’t the Italy we are used to watching, and that is exactly why it has captured the imagination of their fans and neutrals.
After the penalty kick shootout win against Spain in the semifinal, Mancini hailed his players for buying into his plan and that they all wanted to play a different way. You could see that.
That different style has led to an amazing EURO 2020 run, but really it started three years ago when Mancini took charge.
Amazing run to end with a trophy?
Mancini’s Italy are 33 games unbeaten, a run which stretches back to 2018, and Mancini has now won 29 of his 38 games in charge.
The way he has been able to shift this Italian team to a high-pressing, high-tempo unit has been sensational, but they did revert to type when they needed to against Spain to win the semifinal.
Italy could not control the tempo of the game and they hit Spain on the counter several times, and that was how Federico Chiesa put them ahead.
Gianluigi Donnarumma, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Jorginho then reverted to type as they sat back, soaked up Spanish pressure and Mancini admitted they knew they would have to suffer.
They did, and they got through it. Just like a staunch defensive unit has led Italy to countless moments of glory in the past.
“Almost no one believed we could do it, and yet we are into the final,” Mancini said. “There are games where you have to suffer. They can’t all be as smooth as our progress so far. We knew it would be a tough game. That is why the players and everyone who worked with us over last three years deserve great credit, because it wasn’t easy.”
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Everybody is in for the Azzurri
His players lauded their hard-working teammates and the six substitutes who came on all ran themselves into the ground and pressed as high as they could, when they could, as this new-look Italy have excited since day one of EURO 2020.
The apathy some Italians had for the national team has totally evaporated.
They have only won the European Championships once, in 1968, and they are now one win away from securing a success which has seen Mancini reinvent what it means to play for the Italian national team, at least from a playing style.
Everything else, the passion, the defensive solidity and the incredible pride, remains the same.