Friday, July 30, 2021

Mancini confident more is to come from Italy as Bonucci hails team spirit

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 15 Jun 2021

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Roberto Mancini has no doubt in his Italy side’s ability to improve during Euro 2020, despite the Azzurri starting their campaign in emphatic fashion.

Italy beat Turkey 3-0 in Rome on Friday in the tournament’s opening match – Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne scoring after Merih Demiral had put through his own net.

The Azzurri have won their last nine games, keeping a clean sheet in all of those encounters, while Mancini is closing in on Vittorio Pozzo’s record of 30 games unbeaten, with his Italy team just two shy on 28.

They will be looking to increase those respective records on Wednesday, with Switzerland next up at the Stadio Olimpico. Indeed, a win would be enough to ensure Italy’s progression from Group A.

“The Turkey game was difficult,” Mancini told a news conference. “But when we scored, they opened up. We will have to win the next one and if possible also the next one. We have to do our best.

“I am confident. This is an excellent team that can only improve. If the bookmakers say Italy are favourites, we accept it because they get it right, but the championship is still long. We have much work to do.”

Italy failed to qualify for World Cup 2018, and Leonardo Bonucci knows the squad must remain humble if they are to avoid a slip up.

“Three years ago was a real low point for us,” he said. “Humility and keeping your feet on the ground are the secrets to competing like we did against Turkey.

“We have always reset after great wins, continuing to do our duty. The desire to return to the national team is back. It is thanks to the coach, we came from a dark place.”

Yet the spirit in Italy’s camp has left Bonucci full of hope.

He added: “This is the greatest team spirit I have encountered. At no time have there been any issues in the squad. It is a very tight group and it is little wonder then that we are getting results.”

Bonucci has also been impressed by England – Gareth Southgate’s team having beat Croatia 1-0 in their Group D opener on Sunday.

“Besides the teams that still need to play – who will of course impress us because they are all top countries – England have really stood out to me,” he said.

“For the approach they showed, the way they were willing to work hard for one another, England are the team that have impressed me most so far.”

Behind Bonucci, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is looking to become the second-youngest goalkeeper in the history of the European Championships to keep a clean sheet in consecutive appearances (22 years, 111 days on the day of this game), after Russia’s Igor Akinfeev in June 2008 (22y 71d).

Donnarumma is set to leave Milan upon the expiration of his contract this month, with Paris Saint-Germain heavily linked – speculation emerging this week that the goalkeeper will undergo his medical while on Italy duty.

It is a move which Mancini believes would be good for one of Europe’s best shot-stoppers.

“I don’t know what will happen, as I haven’t talked to him about it,” said Mancini. “Donnarumma is a great goalkeeper. If he were to go to PSG, it would be a good choice, as this is a big club.”

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