Italy are back at the high table of world football and there’s all the reason to feel they are a much better team than they were before the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Their elimination at the quarter final stage of Euro 2016 marked the last time the team participated in a major competition.
Weak showings at the 2010 and 2014 World Cup finals marked the high points of Italy’s decline as they failed to get past the group stages but reality hit the four-time world champions when they failed to make it to the 2018 World Cup. That image of Gianluigi Buffon in tears after failing to go past Sweden in the playoffs will be a stark reminder for years, of the lows Azzuri hit.
Now, with Roberto Mancini at the helm, all that is forgotten, but it was not an overnight transformation. An investment in the youth and blending the same well with the experienced heads has given Italy an edge they didn’t have before. While the team was known for sturdy defences, Mancini has maintained that and even added some impetus in attack, giving Italy the necessary fear factor that would come with giants of world football.
They blitzed past all teams in their Euro 2020 qualifying opponents at the group stage. Italy won all their 10 group games, scored 37 goals and conceded just four, finishing 12 points clear. Mancini’s side then went on to edge European giants in the Nations League to qualify for the semis, unbeaten.
Going to the Euros, they are in Group A and will line up against Turkey, Wales and Switzerland. While this may ordinarily be a tough group, Italy’s form in the last two years suggests they will have an easy way out.
They are the ‘traditional’ world football superpowers and looking at their route towards the competition plus the fact Roberto Mancini has committed his long term future there, leaves the team with just one job to do at the Euros.
Teams like Portugal, the defending champions, France, the world champions, England and Spain are all expected to be among the nations backed to challenge for the title and with Wincomparator expected to carry the Euro 2021 odds and previews, you can bet Italy will also feature prominently among the favorites.
The challenge is there for the team and the profile it carries to the competition counts as an advantage. They will also play some of the games at home, which should serve an extra edge and with a majority of the team being home based players they shouldn’t struggle.
The minimum expectation will be to at least see Italy top Group A, and with the defensive steel they have, as well as the firepower in attack, that should be achievable. It will be a massive bonus for Italy topping their group.
Their route at least to the quarters will be easier if they top. In that case, they would face the runners up in Group C, which has Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia. At Italy’s prime, none of the Group C teams would scare them.
It would be harder though in the quarters, with one of Belgium, France, Portugal or Germany waiting. Whoever they face, one thing remains, Italy are a revamped side and will have a point to prove at the competition.