Italy roar into Euro 2020 after World Cup flop
MILAN: Roberto Mancini has succeeded with stage one of his mission to bounce back from failing to qualify for the last World Cup by sealing Italy’s place at Euro 2020 with Saturday’s 2-0 win over Greece that pushed their perfect qualifying run to seven matches.
In November 2017, headlines spoke of an ‘Apocalypse’ after the four-time world champions missed out on a World Cup for the first time since 1958 following playoff defeat to Sweden.However on Sunday the Gazzetta Dello Sport gave the national side “Green light” after they qualified for next summer’s tournament in front of 60,000 fans at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, wearing green for just the second time since 1954.
“Dear Europe, here we are!” added Turin daily Tuttosport. Previous coach Gian Piero Ventura, largely seen as an uninspiring replacement for Antonio Conte who dragged Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, took the brunt of the blame for the failure almost two years ago. But the problems ran deeper, with the 2006 World Cup winners also exiting in the group stages of the South Africa and Brazil tournaments.
Former Italy international Mancini took over in May 2018 with the task of rebuilding a demoralised team around a new generation, with the ageing heroes of Berlin bowing out.
And in front of a 60,000-crowd in the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday night Italy advanced with three games to spare to a multi-host tournament they are kicking off on June 12 in Rome. The ‘Azzurri’ won thanks to Jorginho’s 63rd-minute penalty and a deflected strike from Federico Bernardeschi with 12 minutes remaining.
Mancini conceded his side “were not brilliant, maybe a little nervous at being back in Rome”, but it was enough to get past the 2004 European champions and qualify from a modest group which also includes Finland, Armenia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Liechtenstein.