Nazionale A

Azzurri fly to Konya to take on Turkey. Mancini: “Need to start afresh, we’ll bring through the youngsters”

Florenzi and Politano are also unavailable and have returned home. Bonucci: “The basis for a rebirth, we want to continue this process with the coach”

Monday, March 28, 2022

Azzurri fly to Konya to take on Turkey. Mancini: “Need to start afresh, we’ll bring through the youngsters”

There will be no World Cup qualification up for grabs tomorrow evening in Konya, where Italy and Turkey will play a friendly after the two teams lost their play-off semi-finals to North Macedonia and Portugal respectively. Yet there is still a fixture to be honoured, given that it is a game that has implications for the FIFA rankings. Furthermore, the Azzurri will be hoping to turn a page following the bitter disappointment at the Stadio Renzo Barbera five days ago.

 “We need to start afresh,” said Roberto Mancini at the beginning of today’s press conference. He then went on to respond to the inevitable questions on his future: “We’ve spoken with the FIGC President and we’re aligned on every issue. We now need to focus on this next calm and then we can calmly take stock of what we need to improve. I wanted to win the Euros and the World Cup – the latter will have to wait a while longer. I love this job and I want to go through a big rebuild together with the boys. Despite the disappointment, we move forward.” The building block of the coming Italy team will be the younger players, in whom the Italy head coach has always firmly believed: “We’ll definitely bring through some of the younger guys in the hope that they can also build up some experience with their clubs because that is essential.”

Verratti, Berardi, Mancini, Jorginho, Immobile, Insigne and Luiz Felipe all left the camp over the weekend. The names of Florenzi and Politano were also added this morning to the list of unavailable players and both of them will return to their clubs in the coming hours. “I told them to leave because if I can do something for them and for their respective clubs, I will do so,” Roberto Mancini said. “They wouldn’t have played and some of them weren’t fully fit. The boys deserve a lot of credit for what they have done – not only at last summer’s Euros – but throughout this three-year period, including that brilliant unbeaten run. We’ve built a great squad and not only have we won but we have also tried to play good football, and we did that.”

Mancini then returned to the topic of missing out on World Cup qualification – despite finishing the group stage unbeaten. There are a lot of regrets: “We should have won our great with at least a two-point lead over Switzerland, maybe even four. We should have won 3-0 in Basel and we should have bagged a hatful against Bulgaria. The team played well in all of their games. They could have been a bit more clinical but that is football. It didn’t go as we had hoped but it is useless to search for excuses. What’s done is done and we need to accept it.”

Tomorrow, meanwhile, Italy will need to find the strength to pick themselves up against a similarly-wounded Turkey side, who Italy beat 3-0 last June at the Stadio Olimpico to kick off the Euros. “Turkey have always had technically-sound players. I know these guys well, though they were a lot younger when I was the Galatasaray coach.”

Alongside Mancini in the press room was Leonardo Bonucci, who was out injured for the North Macedonia game. That defeat will cost Leo an appearance at his third World Cup; he was in the squad for 2010 but never got on the pitch and he played one game in Brazil in 2014 – against Uruguay. “I want to continue to be an example for the young players that put on this shirt,” he said. “Those 48 hours after failing to qualify were excruciating; for a group that is usually so upbeat, we were just in silence. We then tried to ease the situation for the young players, telling them that they would get another chance to play at a World Cup, while for us it was our last chance. Then, the coach drew a line under the past and we reconnected on the present and future. We have the basis for a great rebirth.”

After the seals of approval given by Chiellini and FIGC President Gabriele Gravina in recent days, Bonucci too has now come out in support of Mancini. “What he has done for us in these three years has been incredible in the sense that he has created a positive atmosphere rarely seen at Coverciano. For us, the logical next step is to continue with Mancini. His ideas and his human touch are not up for debate. In a straight knock-out game, the outlook can change so quickly but those who are here every day want to continue down this path.” The Juventus defender then addressed the topic of criticism levelled at the Azzurri for the state of the dressing rooms at the Barbera after the game: “We want to apologise for that and we’ll take more care in the future. It was a moment of disappointment and we didn’t take notice of these little details, which do make the difference.”

Squad list

Goalkeepers: Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint Germain), Pierluigi Gollini (Tottenham), Salvatore Sirigu (Genoa);
Defenders: Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Mattia De Sciglio (Juventus), Emerson Palmieri (Lione);
Midfielders: Nicolò Barella (Inter), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Manuel Locatelli (Juventus), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Stefano Sensi (Sampdoria), Sandro Tonali (Milan);
Attackers: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Joao Pedro (Cagliari), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo), Gianluca Scamacca (Sassuolo) Mattia Zaccagni (Lazio), Nicolò Zaniolo (Roma).