Italy manager Roberto Mancini praised his team, telling that the current crop of players can play football well. Italy’s Nations League hopes ended as they drew 0-0 against Portugal at the San Siro last night. Italy looked the better team and dominated throughout the match in possession and attempts on goal.
However, Portugal’s resilience prevented Italy from winning the match. Portugal thus became the first team to qualify for the Nations League Finals, doing so without Cristiano Ronaldo. Italy end their Nations League campaign with a win, two draws and a defeat.
Even though Italy weren’t able to qualify for the Nations League Finals, Mancini was pleased with his team’s performance. The former Manchester City manager said, “We pinned them back and they never got the ball, but unfortunately we were unable to transform that possession into a goal. Overall, I’d say it was an excellent performance. It’s difficult to press for 90 minutes the way we did in the first 50. If you score a goal, then the opposition has to open up. It is nonetheless a step forward for us, as the team proved it can play football and do it well.
We have very technical players and we went down this path because these are the strengths that we have available to us right now. That doesn’t mean we’re ruling out counter-attacks entirely, as our team must be able to do everything. We’ll slowly sort out the attack, but when we play most of the game in the opposition half and dominate possession, we’ve got more chances to score and win.
I’ll be honest, we had planned for this development stage to last longer, but with the help from the lads, we’ve been able to progress faster than expected. Now we still need to resolve that problem of scoring goals. We were unlucky in the first half, but also have to improve in front of goal. That first half performance was extraordinary and we were just missing the goal. I don’t think there’s too much that needs doing, as in some situations it’s purely about shooting 5cm one way or 10cm higher up.”
The Italian players played well against Portugal but the stand-out star of the match was PSG midfielder Marco Verratti. Mancini praised the midfielder and 21-year old midfielder Nicolo Barrella, saying, “Verratti is a great player and technically so gifted, you can’t get the ball off him. He played a lot lately and was tired towards the end. Nicolò Barella is phenomenal considering his age. I’d say Italy have no complaints when it comes to midfielders we can choose from.”
One thing that displeased Roberto Mancini was the treatment meted out to Leonardo Bonucci from AC Milan fans at the San Siro. Bonucci left Juventus last summer to join AC Milan. However, he returned to Juventus this summer in a swap deal that so Gonzalo Higuain going the other way. AC Milan fans jeered Bonucci.
Mancini said, “Those jeers should not have happened. They petered out after 15 minutes, but this is the Nazionale playing and everyone should be cheered on, regardless of club affiliation.”
Italy play their final match of 2018 against United States at Genk on Tuesday.