Italy punched its ticket to the final four of the UEFA Nations League this past weekend, with crucial wins over Poland and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The final round is set to be played in October 2022. Roberto Mancini has not shied away from calling up a plethora of budding talents, naming a 41-man squad for the latest slate of games.
Gli Azzurri are currently riding a 22-game unbeaten run and have since emerged as legitimate contenders for the UEFA Nations League. Here are three takeaways from Italy’s latest training camp:
1) Domenico Berardi and Lorenzo Insigne emerge as first-choice contenders.
Mancini has called up a number of wingers in recent training camps, indicating the starting roles are up for the taking. Vincenzo Grifo, Federico Chiesa, Stephan El Shaarawy, and Federico Bernardeschi among others have all staked their claim for a more prominent role, but if Italy’s latest games were anything to go by, none of them will likely start come Euro 2020.
Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi have demonstrated they are ready to lead Gli Azzurri’s frontline, combining to devastating effect in the final third. The Sassuolo man has made the most of his opportunity, scoring goals in consecutive games this international break. Berardi has emerged as one of Italy’s elite creators with Sassuolo and should be handed a more significant role.
Insigne, on the other hand, has kicked into another gear this season, taking his game to another level. The diminutive playmaker was arguably Italy’s man-of-the-match in both of his nation’s games this past break, assisting Berardi’s goal against Bosnia and Herzegovina with an inch-perfect pass. In many ways, the left-wing position is Insigne’s to lose going into the Euro.
In any case, there are a number of players ready to step up in their absences, as Mancini has regularly demonstrated with his callups. As of right now, there is no reason why the Insigne-Berardi tandem should not start.
2) Locatelli sets himself apart from his midfield counterparts.
The Sassuolo midfielder’s recent ascent to stardom has been nothing short of meteoric, with Locatelli emerging as one of Italy’s midfield maestros. As it is the case up front, Italy has no shortage of midfield options and could turn to a wide array of options in the middle of the park. Jorginho seems to be a mainstay under Mancini and has impressed when called upon, while it is hard to argue against Nicolo Barella.
The Inter man has been in sensational form under Antonio Conte and has proven he is more than ready for regular minutes with the national team setup. This leaves the third and final midfield position up for grabs. Naturally, it is Marco Verratti’s to lose, but the Paris Saint-Germain man has regularly failed to translate his domestic dominance in an Azzurri shirt.
Manuel Locatelli dominated the proceedings in Italy’s games, indicating he may just be the missing link in the midfield. The Neroverdi midfielder offers the side some much-needed balance, both in and out of possession. While Verratti may be seen as the favourite to start going into Euro 2020, Locatelli can easily overtake him with more consistency.
3) There are still more questions than answers at #9.
Andrea Belotti spearheaded Italy’s attack in both of Italy’s games in Ciro Immobile’s absence, and frankly, did not disappoint. The Torino man led the line with great aplomb, netting an important goal against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite impressing in both games, Belotti has his limitations and is yet to take the leap alongside Europe’s elite hitmen.
If Italy is to have a shot at major trophies, Mancini will need to assess his striking options and determine his preferred number nine. Immobile and Moise Kean are in the running, while Francesco Caputo has an outside shot. It may just come down to who’s in form going into the tournament.
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