Italy kicks up their current UEFA Nations League campaign against old rivals Germany on Saturday evening in Bologna, after a miserable few months suddenly ended an immensely successful cycle.
Due to a humiliating playoff defeat, the European champions missed out on qualifying for Qatar 2022 and were badly trounced in midweek, while their neighbors sailed into this winter’s World Cup, when they will seek a sixth worldwide title.
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Just over two months ago, an era came to an end in Palermo, when Italy’s Euro 2020 champions made the same mistakes as their predecessors in 2017,
A excruciating 1-0 defeat to North Macedonia in the playoffs’ semi-final stage ended hopes of making the upcoming finals amid recrimination and calls from some quarters for coach Roberto Mancini to be fired – previously lauded for leading his country to an improbable long unbeaten run and winning the Euros.
Following a rather inconsequential friendly win over Turkey a few days later, Italy’s most recent get-together began in humiliating manner, with a 3-0 loss to Argentina in the ‘Finalissima’ match at Wembley, which brought together the reigning European and South American champions.
Mancini has previously said that the squad would be rejuvenated as he rebuilds after successfully assembling a side that not only won the trophy in England last summer.
Though Italy qualified for the tournament finals, they were defeated in the semi-finals by Euro 2020 victims Spain in October, and eventually finished third after defeating Belgium.
Their new Nations League campaign starts up today at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, with Mancini’s transitional team taking on League A Group 3 opponents England and Hungary.
With a frenzy of matches coming up in the next fortnight – a total of four in ten days – Italy will have to swiftly forget about their Finalissima disaster and get back on track against the most fearsome of opponents.
Germany, no strangers to being overturned by the Macedonians – who they sped by during qualification to clinch a berth in Qatar despite losing 2-1 at home – come in Emilia-Romagna full of confidence under new coach Hansi Flick.
Despite the fact that Flick’s squad finished the World Cup qualifiers with nine victories out of ten in a poor Group J – averaging three goals per game – and went on to beat Israel in a friendly, they had not faced a team from FIFA’s top ten until a draw with the Netherlands in March.
Flick, who stated that his team’s goal is to win their Nations League group, now brings his team to Dall’Ara with Germany unbeaten in their past four games against the Italians, who are undergoing a reconstruction that might equal Low and company’s before to 2014.
Few would have imagined such difficult times for the European champions so soon after their crowning success last July, but morale-depleted Italy is now a shell of its former self and is facing a difficult adjustment.
Germany is well ahead of the pack in terms of development and can score from a number of sources, so they should win their first Nations League match before facing old adversaries England next week.