23 June 2022
Mancini: “I’ll play fresh players against Germany”The final game of an intense period awaits tomorrow. The Head Coach confirms that he’s looking to hand Scalvini, Luiz Felipe and Caprari their debuts. Raspadori: “We’re regaining enthusiasm and don’t want to stop here”
Monday, June 13, 2022
London, Bologna, Cesena, Wolverhampton and now Mönchengladbach. It’s been an intense month for Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri, who, tomorrow evening (20:45 CEST kick-off), will play their final match of the latest round of international fixtures. Their opponents will Germany, who they’re facing again ten days after the draw between the sides in Bologna on matchday one of the third edition of the UEFA Nations League. Italy are unbeaten after the first three matchdays and sit top of Group 3 on five points, one ahead of Hungary, two in front of Germany and with a three-point advantage over England.
“I’ll send out fresh players,” said Roberto Mancini in his pre-match conference. “It’s the last game and won’t be easy. Germany play good football, perhaps even better than in the past. They have many talented players and are excellent in possession. They hold the pitch well, stay high and press. They’re one of the best teams.” The new Italy cycle, which began the day after the team’s defeat against Argentina in the Finalissima at Wembley, is going better than the Head Coach expected. In the games against Germany, Hungary and England, the Azzurri were determined, courageous and eager to regain lost ground after the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup in Qatar.
“It’s been good couple of weeks to, above all, get work done. The team have done excellent things and I’ve seen lads who can have a great future. I was disappointed with the Argentina defeat, but it was the first time since France four years ago that we didn’t play well and rightly lost. Doing poorly in two matches across four years is OK.”
The Head Coach has focused on youth, giving nine players their debuts and getting excellent responses. The need to make plenty of changes – an inevitable consequence of having to play every three days – hasn’t disrupted the identity of a National Team that continues to play proactive football consisting of sharp passes and quick balls forward: “It’s crucial that the youngest players have been able to train with more experienced heads. There’s room for improvement in terms of their character. However, I thought they might struggle a bit more. We’ve done some good work, but there’s still a lot that needs to be done.” Scalvini, Luiz Felipe and Caprari are still to make their debuts: “I’ll try to play all three. Scalvini is very good; he has a good physique and can play in two roles. He just needs to gain experience. He will become a great footballer. Luiz Felipe can become important, as can Caprari, who has been injured for 15 days.”
One source of frustration is a lack of goals: the Azzurri have only bagged three in their last four games, all of which were scored by midfielders (two from Pellegrini and one from Barella). A clinical streak has been missing, as was the case when Frattesi, Tonali, Scamacca and Di Lorenzo squandered chances in Wolverhampton: “When we are dominant and doing better with our chances, we’ll be a step forward. The midfield must be very attacking, and when there is one player covering, the others must attack. They did it often against Hungary but a little less against England. Scamacca has to learn how to move, to be connected with the team. Given his physique, he has to help us get up the pitch. He has to start making decisions in the penalty area, understanding where the ball can end up. If he stands still in the area, he won’t get on the end of much.”
While Scamacca is still on the hunt for his first Italy goal, Giacomo Raspadori is aiming to add to his tally tomorrow. The 22-year-old, who was part of the Azzurri’s Euro-winning squad, has bagged three times for his country and, unlike many of his young peers, has become a regular starter in Serie A: “For us strikers, scoring is the most important thing; it’s what we live for. We feel the responsibility on our shoulders but don’t let it get to us. Many of us haven’t played together, and these matches help us grow together. I can adapt to several roles and get on well with everyone. We’re players who possess characteristics that complement each other, allowing us to express ourselves well together.”
Missing out on the World Cup is still an open wound, but the Azzurri have shown they have the character to bounce back: “It isn’t easy to respond to such a big disappointment. We’re regaining enthusiasm and there’s the desire to rebuild and go again. We don’t want to stop here.”
At this moment in time, Germany seem to be further along the road than Italy, who, however, matched Hansi Flick’s men in Bologna and even came close to winning: “You could say they are stronger than us,” continued Raspadori. “They have many experienced players who have played many more international fixtures. Therefore, I’d say they are superior, but, in football, you have to go out on the pitch and prove it.” One very experienced head is Thomas Müller, a champion who some people compare Raspadori to: “I certainly appreciate that some compare me to him, to his way of playing. He’s a fantastic player who I have often admired at both club and international level due to his charisma and the way he’s able to play all roles and always be helpful.”