Leonardo Bonucci has confirmed he will not retire from international football, while backing Roberto Mancini after Italy failed to qualify for a second straight World Cup.
Bonucci was part of Mancini’s Azzurri side that responded to not making the 2018 World Cup in Russia by winning Euro 2020 late in July last year.
Italy also embarked on a world-record 37-game unbeaten run, which came to an end against Spain in the Nations League semi-final in October, as they aimed to reach Qatar 2022.
However, Mancini’s team could not top their World Cup qualifying group and succumbed to a late 1-0 loss against North Macedonia as Aleksandar Trajkovski delivered the decisive strike in the play-off semi-final on Thursday.
That led to speculation over Mancini’s tenure and doubts over whether the national team’s senior players would continue into the twilight of their careers, but Bonucci has committed his future to Italy.
“I don’t know what Giorgio [Chiellini] will do. On my end, I want to continue to be an example and guide the younger players coming through wearing this shirt,” he said at a news conference on Monday.
“The hours after the elimination was tough. We remained quiet during our moments together, like team lunches or dinners. We tried to play down the disappointment by saying that young players will have other opportunities.
“After the coach spoke to us, we put the past behind us and looked to the future. The future is now so we must start to rebuild and get what we didn’t achieve. We have a solid base to come back.”
— Italy (@Azzurri_En) March 24, 2022
Italian Football Federation president Gabriele Gravina has suggested he would like Mancini to remain in charge, and Bonucci echoed his sentiments as he praised his manager.
“What the coach has given us in these three years is something unique,” he continued. “There is an empathy that is rare to see at Coverciano [Italy’s headquarters], continuing with Mancini is the only logical decision.
“His ideas and values are not under question. Anything can happen in a game and opinions can change, but we have been with him every day and want to continue it.”
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!