Mancini leads Italy into Nations League with long-term plans

Possibly far from top form after a disarrayed season and shorter than usual vacation, the Azzurri get back to work with Nations League duty under the guidance of a focused Roberto Mancini.

The Nations League is a step on a path that Roberto Mancini plans to continue as Italy coach through the delayed Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup, despite the mooted return of Marcello Lippi within the domestic federation (FIGC).
Mancini said he looks forward to resume working with his Azzurri squad to prepare Friday's Nations League match against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Florence, to be followed by Monday's visit to the Netherlands in the top-flight group A1, which also includes Poland.
“My objective is to do well in the European Championship and at the World Cup. It would be a pity to leave the Italy job to someone else,” Mancini said with FIGC reported to be in talks with veteran Lippi, who steered Italy to the 2006 World Cup win, for a job that should be as mere coordinator of the various Azzurri squads, with no influence on the first team.
“I’m very happy to be back at [La Nazionale's camp in] Coverciano and to be back with the guys after so many months,” Mancini said. “... we’ve done the medical tests [for coronavirus] and fortunately all the results came back negative, so we’re satisfied and ready to get down to work.”
A large group of 35 footballers was summoned to the camp outside Florence, with Chelsea midfielder Jorginho also due to arrive after negative tests as youngster Sandro Tonali is said to be completing a quarantine period.
Mancini, 55, took over in May 2018 and a year later finished second to Portugal in the group phase of the Nations League's first edition, which the Portuguese went on to win.
He also convincingly clinched a place for the postponed Euro 2020, winning all qualiying games, with a 37-4 goal record boosted by the last outing in November - a 9-1 hammering of Armenia.
“We’re restarting with even more drive. With the fact we haven’t played for so long there’s even more desire to get back on the pitch and see that beautiful Italy side we left all those months ago,” he said about the break forced by the pandemic.
The roster includes veteran captain Giorgio Chiellini, who played sparsely in the league season after tearing a knee ligament a year ago.
“I was pleased to be called back up to the Azzurri squad,” the 36-year-old Juventus defender said.
“There were a few doubts in my mind, but the coach has been in touch a lot over these months, he’s always been close to me and I can only be grateful to him for that. Wearing the Italy shirt is always a great feeling for me. I needed to be back in these colours.”
Chiellini praised Alessandro Bastoni, a 21-year-old defender from Inter Milan, who had a trial with the Azzurri in 2019 and is one of three newcomers with Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli and Francesco Caputo.
Bastoni said he “studied loads of [Leonardo Bonucci's] and Giorgio’s performances,” also referring to the other Juve international.
In a 10-man pack of forwards, Golden Boot winner Ciro Immobile is likely to lead the attack after bagging 36 goals for Lazio in the Serie A season.


Wednesday, September 2nd 2020
By Alberto Cagliano, dpa

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