Football

Ex-Italy boss Roberto Donadoni hails Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri revival

In little more than one year in charge, coach Roberto Mancini has restored hope and brought renewed enthusiasm to an Italy side who were discredited by their astonishing failure to qualify for last year's World Cup.

Their 2-1 away win over a tough Finnish side yesterday morning (Singapore time), albeit achieved with a dubious penalty converted by Jorginho, maintained their 100 per cent record in Euro 2020 qualifying after six games and extended their winning run to seven games in a row.

Just as important was the style of their win - although the penalty was fortuitous, Italy took the game to their opponents, as has become the norm under Mancini, and created enough clear-cut chances to have won more comfortably.

"There is great enthusiasm around the national team," said former Italy coach and forward Roberto Donadoni.

"I enjoy watching the lads play with passion, determination and a group spirit.

"There are lots of lads who are developing well and acquiring the right mentality - one which gives the feeling that they don't fear the opponents, even playing away from home."

As he promised at the outset last year, former Manchester City and Inter Milan boss Mancini has not been afraid to throw young players into the mix, and their starting line-up yesterday had an average age of 25.

Perhaps more impressively, he has had the courage to bring in more experienced Serie A players who had previously been overlooked at international level.

Defender Francesco Acerbi made his fourth appearance at age 31, while Armando Izzo, 27, won his second cap. The squad also included once-capped Vincenzo Grifo, 26 and Kevin Lasagna, 27, who has four caps, and Danilo D'Ambrosio who, at 31, has won two caps.

Despite the absence of the suspended star Marco Verratti, the midfield trio of Jorginho, Stefano Sensi and Nicolo Barella produced some flowing football.

"Roberto Mancini deserves a lot of credit for bringing in precise ideas which he's helped us to put into practice over the last few months," said captain Leonardo Bonucci, who has 91 caps. - REUTERS

Football