Rivalry renewed for Martinez, Mancini: Richard Buxton
Italy coach gets chance to avenge City's FA Cup final defeat in 2013, when they lost to the Spaniard's Wigan
Italy coach Roberto Mancini will finally have a chance to right some wrongs of his managerial past.
As Manchester City boss, an FA Cup final defeat by Roberto Martinez's Wigan Athletic in 2013 remains a blot on his resume.
Eight years on, Martinez and Mancini's paths will cross again, after the Spaniard led Belgium into the Euro 2020 quarter-finals with a 1-0 win over Portugal yesterday morning (Singapore time).
But the roles are going to be reversed this time around when Italy meet Belgium in Munich on Saturday morning.
No longer does Mancini occupy the position of being the slain Goliath against the plucky underdogs played by Martinez's Wigan in 2013.
One of the greatest upsets in the history of the world's most famous club cup competition created a domino effect which placed its protagonists on a collision course.
The Catalan won the battle but lost the war as the Latics bowed out of the English Premier League after eight seasons.
He still managed to land jobs with Everton and later, the Belgian national team whose stock was on a skyward trajectory.
Mancini, meanwhile, saw his 3½-year tenure at the Etihad Stadium unceremoniously ended with that Wembley ignominy, although the wheels had been set in motion long before his players stepped out beneath the stadium's iconic arch.
A hard road back to the top saw him take in stints at Galatasaray, Inter Milan and Zenit St Petersburg, before receiving the call to lead his homeland on the international stage.
Now it is Martinez who stands at the mercy of the masses, with Belgium's golden generation losing a layer of shimmer with each major tournament that passes.
Romelu Lukaku's fascination with Michael Jordan's Netflix show "The Last Dance" makes even more sense, after the Red Devils' hard-fought victory dethroned Fernando Santos' reigning holders in Seville.
For the world's top-ranked side, this is their ultimate "now or never" moment.
They had to ride their luck to dump out Portugal's fading force, withstanding a late onslaught which has kept their European dream alive for another 90 minutes at least.
Injuries, however, threaten to be a dampener with Kevin de Bruyne limping out due to an ankle problem, while Eden Hazard slipped further into brother Thorgan's shadow as he was substituted due to a muscle issue.
EDEN'S FITNESS AN ISSUE
The Real Madrid forward's issues with his fitness are as concerning as his clear downturn in form. His appearance against Finland at the end of the group stages heralded the first time in 19 months that he had completed a full game for either club or country.
Belgium are by no means a one-man team, yet they remain reliant on the mercurial talents in their squad.
Losing Hazard as well as de Bruyne would leave them bereft of creativity.
If those worst fears are confirmed in Munich this weekend, Mancini's hopes of exacting revenge on his former EPL adversary will automatically become a far easier prospect.
His eye-catching touchline attire is matched by a smart tactical acumen, with Italy already showing great versatility in tailoring their game plan to match the occasion.
They substituted their group-stage flair for a steelier approach at the Finals' business end; sitting tight against Austria in a round-of-16 clash which they won 2-1 in extra time.
Mancini's willingness to consider a more attack-minded selection could also see Federico Chiesa thrust into the limelight at the Allianz Arena following his Wembley heroics.
Securing a swift return to England's national stadium in the semi-finals would cement the Azzurri's credentials - as well as restore their manager's previously wounded pride.