Mancini: ‘Italy need to change our mentality with young players’

Roberto Mancini reflected on Italy’s post-pandemic work, the ongoing generational change in the squad and the goals for 2023.

The Azzurri are starting a new cycle under Mancini following their failure to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, the second successive heartbreak for the team after a brief respite at Euro 2020. Italy showed positive signs in the Nations League and have qualified for the Final Four stage, giving them a shot at the title.

Speaking from the stage of the Salone d’Onore of CONI, Mancini first discussed how he managed the Azzurri after the early stages of the COVID pandemic.

“It wasn’t an easy time, we had to prepare for important matches. Every day we did tests but without knowing if we could count on the players.

“I believe that athletes when they reach a certain level are prepared to handle certain situations. As children they leave home and start solving problems, they are already ‘vaccinated’. They are ready.

“It wasn’t all that easy, we had difficulties like making the line-up two days before the competition and then there were a couple of positive cases.”

He touched on the ongoing generational change in the Italian national team.

“In football it’s more difficult than in volleyball, basketball or water polo. In Italy we have to change our mentality and think that 18-19 year olds can play at the highest level.

“We have to give them confidence. We have to give them the chance to make mistakes and to be called up by the national teams.

“The U21, for example, arrive at the end of the two-year period with 23-year-old players and some of them don’t play with the first team, so it’s hard for us to look for talent.”

The Italy coach commented on the importance of his backroom staff.

“The staff are fundamental. You can’t do everything yourself, I delegate enough. I am democratic. The staff are made up of people who not only work but also have the opportunity to talk to the players and receive feedback that they do not share with the coach. And that can be useful.

“The meetings we have before matches are important. We spend little time with the players during the year, but if there isn’t a good relationship it becomes difficult.

“Our atmosphere for example was always extraordinary at the European Championship where we were not the best team. But we had an incredible level also thanks to a great staff.”

Finally, Mancini discussed the Azzurri’s goals for 2023.

“We must try to redeem ourselves. It will be an important year with the Nations League finals and the qualifying matches for the next European Championship, we have to make as few mistakes as possible.”

Italy’s next commitments will see them face off against England and Malta in their first Euro 2024 qualifiers. Their group also contains North Macedonia and Ukraine, setting up a tough but winnable battle for a spot at the tournament.