UEFA ranking: 6
How they qualified: Winners of qualifying Group J
Euro 2016 performance: Quarter-finals
Previous European Championship appearances: 9
Best result: Winners (1968)
Italy are back at a major international tournament, after missing out on the 2018 World Cup – Italy’s first absence at a major international tournament since Euro 1992. The Azzurri (The Blues) did it in style, winning all of their qualifying games, scoring 37 goals and conceding only 4 (joint-second best in both). There is a real feeling of team spirit around the Italy squad, with 19 different goalscorers during the qualifying campaign. Adding one of the most accomplished and experienced managers to the mix, Italy fans will be optimistic this summer.
In his playing days, Roberto Mancini racked up over 500 games in Italian football, before starting out as a manager at Fiorentina in 2001. He really made a name for himself at his third club Inter Milan, where during a 4-year spell the 56-year-old Italian managed to win three league titles, two Italian Cups, and two Italian Supercups. A big move to Manchester City came in 2009, where in the 2011-12 season he helped the Cityzens win their first league title since 1967-68. After he fell out of favour at City, Mancini had brief spells at Galatasaray and Zenit, before being appointed national team coach in 2018. Under Mancini’s leadership, the Italy national team broke their previous record for consecutive wins, after Italy beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0, setting a new record of 10 consecutive wins – this was extended to 11 only three days later against Armenia.
Italy might have scored 37 goals in qualifying, but their key player is a 34-year-old centre-back. While Giorgio Chiellini is the current captain of Italy, his defensive partner Leonardo Bonucci is the side’s key player. Bonucci featured in all but one qualifier game, skippering the team on six occasions in the absence of injured Chiellini. Italy only conceded 4 goals in qualifying with 5 clean sheets, and the Juventus centre-back played a key role in that, leading the team from the back and organising the defence. With Euro 2020 most likely being the last tournament for the defensive pairing of Chiellini and Bonucci, the two veterans will be hoping to leave a mark on the next generation of Italian defenders.
Euro 2020 Chances
Italy have been drawn in Group A alongside Turkey, Wales, and Switzerland, and on paper, the Italians should easily reach the knockout stages of this summer’s tournament. Italy are going into Euro 2020 as perhaps the most in-form team, having last tasted defeat in September 2018 against Portugal. While not clear favourites, Italy will certainly fancy their chances with a strong defence, creative midfield, and attack that can unlock the best of defences. Having only conceded one goal in their last 10 games leading up to the tournament, Italy will be the side to beat this summer.
AC Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma has fast become one of the best goalkeepers in Europe at only the age of 22, racking up over 200 league games already since his debut at the age of 16. Since his breakthrough at AC Milan, he has been linked with Europe’s top clubs, and with the Italian’s contract at the club expiring at the end of the season, these rumours have become as strong as ever. Juventus are one of the clubs strongly linked with Donnarumma, where he is seen as a long-term replacement for club legend Gigi Buffon. PSG and a host of Premier League clubs are also rumoured to be interested, and it is increasingly likely that the goalkeeper will be leaving the San Siro this summer if events of early May are any indication. It was reported that Donnarumma was left in tears, after AC Milan Ultras threatened the 22-year-old, demanding he missed the upcoming game against Juventus unless he signed a new contract. Only time will tell whether Donnarumma will stick with his boyhood club, or look for pastures new this summer.