Italy head coach Roberto Mancini was delighted his side maintained a high level of performance, despite making eight changes to the starting XI in the 1-0 win over Wales at Euro 2020.
The Azzurri qualified for the last 16 with a perfect record of three wins from three matches in Group A, scoring seven goals without conceding against Turkey, Switzerland and Wales.
Atalanta midfielder Matteo Pessina, who was a late addition to Italy’s European Championship squad after a groin injury to Stefano Sensi, netted the winner against Wales on Sunday, showcasing the squad’s depth.
Mancini made eight changes to the starting line-up for their final group game, after back-to-back 3-0 victories, insisting he needed to inject “fresh strength” ahead of the knockout phase.
“I really like to see that we made eight changes to the team and played very well,” Mancini said during a post-game news conference.
“We deserve to score more goals. And it wasn’t particularly easy because they defended very well but that’s what I was pleased with. The players performed really well to a man.”
Italy equalled their best unbeaten run of 30 consecutive games without defeat between 1935 and 1939 under Vittorio Pozzo, while Mancini’s men have won 25 and drawn five of their last 30 fixtures since last losing to Portugal in September 2018.
He added: “I would have changed even if the game had been decisive, I needed fresh strength in the game. We had to gain some minutes.
“We are 26 [players], we need them to play and have time to play. It will be a little more difficult to make the choices, yes.
“A lot of players are used to playing big matches, it will be a shame to leave some aside, but we can count on a lot of players, that’s the most important thing.”
— Italy (@azzurri) June 20, 2021
Manuel Locatelli, who scored a double in the 3-0 win over Switzerland, was one of the players to make way against Wales, with Paris Saint-Germain star Marco Verratti getting his first start of the tournament on the left side of midfield.
“I think it’s better to have them both available for selection, unfortunately, one of those two good players won’t start,” Mancini said.
“But that’s been the case ever since day one and unfortunately the same goes for the players that didn’t make the squad. And that does hurt us all, and the same will go for when we have to make team selection decisions now.”
Italy have kept a clean sheet in each of their last 11 matches in all competitions, only going on a longer run once before in their history – 12 games without conceding between 1972 and 1974.
Juventus forward Federico Chiesa, who was named man of the match, said Italy’s best was still to come ahead of their last-16 clash with the runners-up in Group C at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
“We are very excited,” Chiesa said. “We’re here in the here and now and we’re delighted to be here.
“And of course, we will be a test for whoever we come up against in the last-16 and the best is yet to come.”
That perfect feeling How far will Italy go?
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 20, 2021
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!