Euro 2020 preview, Group A – Italy: Emanuele Giulianelli breaks down the Azzurri
Our Matchday Squad will cover every nation at the Euros
For Euro 2020, we’ve assembled 24 expert journalists to give you the latest insight and tips on every team throughout the tournament.
Here, Emanuele Giulianelli gives us his take on Italy…
Give us an overview of your team’s chances at Euro 2020
No excuses. Roberto Mancini’s Italy cannot hide: the Azzurri, after years of failures and disappointments, are one of the favourites to win Euro 2020. Group A, in which they will feature in, is not one of the easiest, but they have all the skills to qualify to the knockout stage.
The average age of Italian side is young, Mancini has done an important job in his years in charge of the national team in order to foster a generational turnover. The only veterans in this Italy side now are Chiellini and Bonucci, and behind them is a good mix of young talents and players looking for their final consecration at international level.
Of course, the most fearsome opponent in the group stage will be Turkey, but Italy don’t have to undervalue the potential of Wales and, above all, of a renewed and ambitious Switzerland who are a side traditionally irksome for the Italians.
Assuming they qualify from the group, the only unknown will be the inexperience of the group to play crucial knockout matches; but the job done by Mancini and the important matches played with their clubs could help the players come the knockout rounds.
What would you say are your team’s major strengths?
With a perfect path through the qualifications, winning a maximum 30 points in 10 matches, their main strength is their winning mentality. They go on the pitch in every match with only one goal in their mind, the victory, no matter the opponent.
The 37 goals scored, with more than three per game on average, is a clear sign of an attacking line which is really prolific, with Immobile, Belotti and Insigne the leading threats.
But the traditional trademark of Italian football is the defence. Only four goals were conceded in all of the qualifying campaign, and that’s the very real demonstration of this team’s compactness and solidity, based on the experience of Bonucci and Chiellini and the talent of Gianluigi Donnarumma between the posts.
And any weaknesses?
As said before, one weakness could be the fact that this Italian side have been away from the knockout matches of the major international competitions for long time [since Euro 2016], after having been at the top of the world in 2006.
Then, after Andrea Pirlo’s farewell, there is a lack of a real playmaker in midfield, a man capable of view of play, of dictating pace, and inventing the assist.
Verratti has done a good job, but he hasn’t the skills to play that part; maybe Jorginho could step into the playmaker role. Great expectations for the Italian midfielder are placed on Nicolo Barella, who has just a had a key role in the Serie A title won by Inter.
Give us the lowdown on your team’s star player?
Ciro Immobile should be considered the Italian star player, given the number of goals scored in the last few seasons with Lazio and the Golden Shoe he won in 2020.
The 31-year-old striker has just ended his season with 20 goals scored in 35 Serie A matches. His stats with the Italian team are a bit below what he does with his clubs, in 45 matches played he has scored just 12 goals.
Euro 2020 could be the right chance for his complete consecration as one of the top continental strikers and he could be one of the favourites for the Golden Boot.
And tell us about a player from your team who could be a breakthrough star at this tournament?
One name above all: Federico Chiesa. At the age of 23, the Juventus right winger is at a crucial point of his career.
He is the son of Enrico, who was in the Italy squad at Euro ’96, and since breaking through at Fiorentina, has always been considered as a potential world-level top player.
Chiesa has maybe suffered due to the weighty expectations and sometimes has struggled to demonstrate his real value, occasionally being heavily criticized. Now he seems ready to explode and, as a potential regular starter in the Mancini’s 4-3-3 attacking line, he could be one of the best players of the tournament.
How far do you think your team can go in this tournament?
The minimum target for Italy will be to pass the group stage, after too many years of disappointments; but, of course, it won’t be enough for a side that is traditionally one of the best in the entire football world.
Considering the level of the sides competing at Euro 2020, my opinion is that Italy could rightfully aim for a place in the semi-finals. Trying to imagine how the tournament unfolds, in my opinion the other three teams competing for the title should be France, England and Belgium.
Maybe these sides, especially Deschamps’ France, have something more than Italy in their potential; but, when it will be the time to play for the final, anything could happen and the hierarchies could be easily overturned.
In the last three editions of the European Championships, Italy have always reached the quarter-finals, losing the final against Spain in 2012: considering the level of Mancini side, it’s not a crime to dream.
Easy one to finish with, who wins the tournament, and who do you think will be top scorer?
France is the favourite team to win the tournament; Romelu Lukaku could be the top scorer.