Roberto Mancini is “completely confident” Italy can rediscover their cutting edge and seal a 2022 World Cup spot after a goalless draw with Northern Ireland denied them automatic qualification.
The European champions went into their final Group C match at Windsor Park on Monday top on goal difference ahead of Switzerland.
But Northern Ireland did the Swiss a huge favour, frustrating an Azzurri side that could not find a way past goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
Switzerland had no such trouble as they thrashed Bulgaria 4-0 to move ahead of Italy and secure their place in the tournament in Qatar next year.
Italy only hit the target with half of their 12 shots and ought to have been consigned to defeat when Conor Washington spurned a great chance in the closing stages, Leonardo Bonucci clearing off the line to preserve a sixth clean sheet of the campaign. No other European team have conceded fewer than their two goals.
— Italy (@Azzurri_En) November 15, 2021
The Azzurri must get through a play-off semi-final and final to avoid missing out on a second consecutive World Cup, but Mancini believes they will get the job done in March.
He said: “Despite controlling matches, we’re struggling to score goals at the moment. We needed to score early on tonight. It’s a shame because we should have finished things off sooner in this group.
“We need to rediscover what has set us apart until now and remain completely calm until March.
“We should have won against Bulgaria and had two penalties against Switzerland. These are games that could have finished in our favour. I’m completely confident about the play-offs.”
Since beating England on penalties in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley, Mancini’s side have won just two of their seven fixtures, with only one of those victories coming in qualifying.
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