How Mancini Revived a Fallen Nation: Five Key Aspects Behind Italy’s Triumph

The 13th of November 2017 – the Italian national team hit rock bottom after failing to advance to the 2018 World Cup following a playoff defeat at the hands of an average Sweden team. Less than four years later, Roberto Mancini led Italy towards its most spectacular triumph since 2006, after emerging victorious from dramatic shootout in front of a shell-shocked English crowd at the famous Wembley stadium.

Obviously, such an enormous change can’t be attributed to one or two aspects, but rather a complete overhaul. Nevertheless, we’ll try our best to reduce it to just five key points.

Embracing the Change

As any calcio fan would tell you, Italian football has gone a long way from being a defensive-based league, with more and more attacking sides emerging in the current era.

Whether it’s Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli, Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta or even Roberto De Zerbi’s Sassuolo, Serie A has been blessed with some truly exciting teams recently, which helped in inserting a different mentality in the heads of the Italian players.

Mancini took notice of the change, and decided to adopt it, as he presented to the world an Italy team that shattered the old stereotypes by playing entertaining football, rather than the toothless and bland version seen during Giampiero Ventura’s doomed tenure.

Maintaining Old Roots

Despite what we mentioned in the previous paragraph, the Azzurri never fully abandoned the old ways, as we mentioned in a previous article following their Semi Final victory over Spain.

Facing La Furia Roja – who are the true masters of possession based football in this age and time – Mancini reverted to his nation’s defensive roots, relying on a solid back-line, plus the talent and the pace of the Italy strikers on the counter attacks.

This approach came to fruition when Federico Chiesa broke the deadlock, and it was almost enough to seal a win within the first 90 minutes.

Therefore, the former Inter manager proved that he has all the new tricks up his sleeve, but still holds the older tricks up the other one.

Meritocracy and Trusting Talent

During Ventura’s reign, we’ve seen players maintaining their spots in the lineup despite the fact that others would have clearly made better choices.

Nonetheless, the picks of the Sampdoria legend were highly-approved by fans and observers in Italy alike – even if some questioned the absences of the likes of Moise Kean and Gianluca Mancini.

Thus, players were selected even if they played outside of the traditional big teams, with Atalanta, Sassuolo and Torino each having at least two representatives.

Moreover, the former manager had always chosen one between Jorginho and Marco Verratti (believing that they would make an incompatible duo) whilst Lorenzo Insigne was often left on the bench. But since the arrival of Mancini, all three stars have been ever-present in the lineup, and their talents have combined to produce an exciting result.

Keeping the Old Guard

Although renovation was needed following the 2017 disaster, a reckless revolution could have damaged the team even further.

Therefore, the calm and collective Mancini was able to introduce fresh names to the lineup, but at the same time kept hold of his old senators.

Gianluigi Buffon had already announced his international retirement – and rightfully so – but his longtime teammates, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, became more important than ever, as they were the only ones left with vast experience at this stage. We all saw how they turned out to be the difference makers in the last stages of the tournament.

Retrieving the Famous “Grinta”

Speaking of Bonucci and Chiellini, asides their great experience and their defensive masterclass, their presence re-installed a certain fighting spirit (the Italians simply call it grinta) that had been sorely missed in the previous regime.

However, we must also give credit to the younger players – the likes of Verratti, Leonardo Spinazzola and Federico Chiesa – who all displayed a great character throughout Euro 2020.

The unique charisma showcased by this team during every match – from the national anthem until the final whistle – made the fans fall in love with Italy once again, and this might just be Mancini’s greatest achievement.

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