For a footballing nation like Italy, missing out on any major tournament is a significant deal, but when it’s the World Cup major red flags are raised. In 2018, the Azzurri had to watch yet another European country win the World Cup in Russia while Italy sat home after missing the competition.
Since former Italian manager Gian Piero Ventura was sacked during Italy’s failed World Cup qualifying run, there’s been a renaissance of sorts happening under current coach Roberto Mancini.
His presence has led the Azzurri on an astounding run since 2018, putting his side in position to go unbeaten in 34 consecutive matches -- one away from tying Spain and Brazil for the all-time record.
In the time that passed after Italy’s 2006 World Cup title over France the Azzurri had struggled to find an attacking identity and for that reason they largely weren’t competitive in the biggest competitions except for Euro 2012 -- where they suffered a significant 4-0 beatdown against Spain in the final.
Since Mancini has taken charge of the Italian national team though he’s brought an adjusted attitude and a clear vision for what the Azzurri should be not just at Euro 2020 but moving forward towards the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and beyond.
Mancini hasn’t been afraid to take risks during his tenure, something that Italian teams of the past have sometimes been criticized for.
Make no mistake, Italy has been a consistent force at the defensive end of the pitch for decades, with Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and Fabio Cannavaro among the top players to man the back line for the Azzurri.
That trend of having stellar defensive play was evident throughout the Euros, with Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci manning the center of the back line.