Roberto Mancini believes Italy’s rivalry with England has become a “classic” as they prepare to do battle in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier on Thursday.
The Azzurri won the last European Championship by beating Gareth Southgate’s side on penalties in the final at Wembley in 2021.
Italy and the Three Lions then played out a goalless draw in the Nations League last June, before Giacomo Raspadori secured a 1-0 victory for Mancini’s men in their last meeting three months later.
England will get another chance to gain a measure of revenge in a Group C clash at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona this week and Mancini is expecting an almighty challenge in Naples.
He said: “For me, it’s become a classic. England and Italy seem to meet a lot, a bit like Italy and Germany in the past.
“For a long time now they’ve become a fantastic team, full of talented players, with strength and technique. It’ll be a tough game just like all the others have been.
“They have more choice than us for many reasons, but in Naples we want to play a good match, play well and start these qualifiers well.”
Mancini: “#ITAENG has become a classic” #ITAENG #Azzurri #VivoAzzurro pic.twitter.com/slnkk46g0G
— Italy (@Azzurri_En) March 20, 2023
Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar last year and head coach Mancini says they are in a rebuilding process.
“Unfortunately there was the difficult interlude of the World Cup, but apart from a few games, the team has always done well,” Mancini continued.
“We arrived twice in the Nations League finals [they face Spain in a semi-final in June], this means that there is value [in the team]. We have to rebuild something important because to win there must be solid foundations. There have been some good things in the Nations League.”
Mancini expects his players to do Gianluca Vialli – who was Italy’s head of delegation when they won the rearranged Euro 2020 two years ago – proud after he died at the age of 58 in January.
He added: “I’ve already talked about it with the boys, it will be important for us to remember him, as if he were here with us. He had his space and it’s not easy for us, we have to try to do well for him.”
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