Mancini Tests New Solutions as Italy Demolish Moldova in Florence

We already highlighted that almost one year ago, right after the Azzurri‘s 9-1 slaughtering of Armenia in the last game of their Euro 2020 Qualifiers: The best thing about Roberto Mancini’s Italy is that this national side has learned to take seriously every single game – as confirmed by tonight’s 6-0 bashing of Moldova in a friendly match at the Artemio Franchi Stadium in Florence.

This is a “rugby-style” version of the Azzurri, one loyal to that unwritten saying according to which the best way to respect your opponent is to give your very best until the end. We don’t know if this is really what Mancini told his boys, but the fact is that Italy didn’t stop even after putting five past the unfortunate opponents during the first half already.

These are the kind of games that, no longer than 2-3 years ago, Italy would have simply wrapped with one goal – either scoring it early and turning the remaining playing time in a boredom or managing to   break the stalemate only during the latest stages of the game.

The other good news for Mancini is that even his B-version of Italy, featuring many not-so-regular starters and even a couple of illustrious novices, was enough to dispose of the modest Moldovan side. The Italy manager welcomed back Stephan El Shaarawy, who was entrusted with the captain armband, and the Shanghai Shenhua striker repaid him by bagging his first brace with the Azzurri, scoring the third and the fifth goal.

If El Shaarawy did well on the left wing side, Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi also put together an encouraging performance on the opposite flank as he finally managed to score his first goal for the Nazionale – even if all he had to do was tapping in from a perfect Vincenzo Grifo cross to set the score at 6-0.

His teammate Francesco Caputo, on the other hand, became the second-oldest player to have made his debut for Italy at the age of 33 and embellished his first cap with a fine goal (the second in the night) that highlighted his pure striker instinct. The role of center-forward in Mancini’s lineup may no longer be a matter between only Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti.

Before Caputo’s goal, Bryan Cristante had drawn first blood for Italy with a deadly header in the 18th minute already and an own-goal by Moldova defender Veaceslav Pomac had made it four for the hosts after Caputo’s third goal.

Roberto Mancini got some good indications even from his unprecedented defensive line, featuring Manuel Lazzari and Cristiano Biraghi as full backs and a true Derby della Capitale in the middle with Romanista Gianluca Mancini and Laziale Francesco Acerbi. Both the full backs did a great job, with Lazzari running up and down his flank for the whole first half and Biraghi serving Caputo a sublime service for his finish.

The two central defenders didn’t have much to do to protect Salvatore Sirigu who could be considered one of the few spectators at the Artemio Franchi (Sirigu was eventually substitued by Alessio Cragno who thus made his debut with the Nazionale). Francesco Acerbi however put his stamp on the proceedings with a long-range pass that propitiated Pomac’s own-goal.

In midfield, Bryan Cristante played alongside Manuel Locatelli – the third Sassuolo starter tonight – and Fiorentina’s Giacomo Bonaventura. In absence of the likes of Marco Verratti and Nicolò Barella, they all showed that even the so-called “second lines” can hold their own in Mancini’s lineup.

The Azzurri will play again next Sunday in Gdansk as they face Poland in their Nations League third game and they surely seemed to be concentrated enough tonight.



October 7, 2020 – Friendly Match

SCORERS: 18′ Cristante, 23′ Caputo, 30′ El Shaarawy, 37′ Posmac (o.g.), 45’+1 El Shaarawy, 72′ Berardi

ITALY (4-3-3): Sirigu (67′ Cragno); Lazzari, Mancini, Acerbi, Biraghi (67′ Emerson); Locatelli, Cristante, Bonaventura (67′ Sensi); Berardi (75′ Kean), Caputo (75′ Lasagna), El Shaarawy (67′ Grifo) (Silvestri, D’Ambrosio, Ogbonna, Florenzi, Jorginho, Orsolini) Coach: Mancini
MOLDOVA (5-3-2): Koseliev (46′ Namasco); Platica, Craciun (46′ Mudrac), Posmac, Armas, Marandici (Reabciuk); Rata, Carp, Ionita; Suvorov (46′ Cociuc), Nicolaescu (79′ Milinceanu) (Cebotari, Graur, Racu, Caimacov, Boiciuc) Coach: Firat

REFEREE: Siebert (Germany)
NOTES: Yellow Card: Carp, Rata (M)