Mancini rekindles Italy’s love for Azzurri
Roberto Mancini turned time back for Italy, reviving the 1990 World Cup atmosphere the country hosted, with a 1-0 win over Wales crowning a perfect run in the group stage of Euro 2020.
Three years after taking over from Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, Mancini brought the Azzurri back to the fore with force.
The song “Notti magiche” (Magic Nights) popularized at her World Cup at home 31 years ago, when Italy reached the semi-finals, sounded at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, where she played all her matches.
After a perfect run in European qualifying, Italy kept that form in the group stage, beating Turkey and Switzerland, both 3-0, before victory over the Welsh sealed the top spot in the group A. It was an 11th straight win without conceding a goal.
“It was nice to hear the Stadio Olimpico sing ‘Notti magiche’ (Magical Nights),” said Mancini, 56.
“It took us back to a few years when we were all younger and we felt an extraordinary love for the national team.
“That’s why I want to dedicate this victory to them.”
He added: “We say Ciao Roma and thank them for what they have done.”
Italy will face the Group C finalist at Wembley, where the semi-finals and final will also take place.
Italy extended their unbeaten run to 30 games – 25 wins and five draws – a feat last achieved under two-time World Cup winner Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.
“I would like to look like one of the coaches who won the World Cup,” said Mancini, who has coached four-time world champion Italy for 35 matches.
“Pozzo won a lot of other important things. We are always late. “
Another record awaits us: a 12th consecutive victory. This was achieved by Ferruccio Valcareggi, who led Italy to its only European title in 1968 and a second place in the World Cup two years later.
Mancini brought new legs against the Welsh, with eight changes from the Swiss game, but the result was the same as a side with an average age of 27 again dominated their rival.
Mancini conceded the race was perfect as Italy tied their unbeaten group streaks in three previous world and European tournaments in 2000, 1990 and 1978.
“We couldn’t have done better,” said the former Manchester City manager.
“Changing even one or two players doesn’t change anything because everyone knows what to do and the product doesn’t change.”