Mancini delighted to prove Italy doubters wrong
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Roberto Mancini feels Italy have proved their doubters wrong after booking their place in the final of Euro 2020 by virtue of a penalty shootout victory over Spain in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
The Azzurri have enjoyed a major upturn since former Manchester City boss Mancini was appointed as head coach in the wake of their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
A huge rebuilding project lay in front of the 56-year-old, but he has certainly risen to the challenge, as he has masterminded Italy’s current 33 match unbeaten run, which is the third-longest in international football history and just two off the overall record shared by Spain and Brazil.
The latest result from that unbeaten sequence came on Tuesday, as Italy defeated three-time European Champions Spain, the side that thrashed the Azzurri 4-0 in the final of Euro 2012, 4-2 on penalties after the match had ended 1-1 following extra time.
Mancini was certainly delighted to steer his side through to what is their fourth European Championship final and he feels they have proved their doubters wrong, as not many people had considered Italy among the pre-tournament favourites.
“Almost no one believed we could do it, and yet we are into the final,” a jubilant Mancini told reporters.
Italy had been one of the dominant sides in the competition prior to the semi-finals, taking maximum points from their group before seeing off Austria and Belgium in the knockout stages, although they were taken to extra time by the former in the last 16.
Mancini’s side also led on Tuesday thanks to a superb counterattacking goal from Federico Chiesa, but they were largely on the backfoot against Spain, with Alvaro Morata’s third goal of the tournament sending the contest into extra time.
Spain also had the better of the additional 30-minute period, but it was Italy that held their nerve during the shootout, as misses from Dani Olmo and Morata handed Jorginho the chance to send the Azzurri through, an opportunity to Chelsea midfielder never looked like spurning.
After the match, Mancini conceded his side had to suffer during the semi-final, while despite his obvious delight, he was also keen to shift focus to Sunday’s final against either Denmark or England at Wembley.
“There are games where you have to suffer,” Mancini added.
“They can’t all be as smooth as our progress so far. We knew it would be a tough game. That is why the players and everyone who worked with us over last three years deserve great credit, because it wasn’t easy.
“We are delighted to have provided this wonderful evening’s entertainment to the Italian people. We still have one game to go.”
Italy are now potentially just one game away from being crowned European champions for just the second time, with their only previous triumph in the competition coming on home soil against Yugoslavia in 1968 – a final that had to be decided on a replay after the initial match ended in a draw.