The Mancini Machine: Can Unbeaten Italy Go All the Way at Euro 2020?
Three games, three wins, three clean sheets. It’s been a perfect Euro 2020 for Italy so far, but can they go on to win the tournament? We assess their qualities and the data behind their record-breaking winning run.
Roberto Mancini has made Italy believe again. They disastrously failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and made the swift decision to axe Gian Piero Ventura, and it was decided that Mancini would be the man to chart a new course for Italy. His brief was clear: regroup and prepare for Euro 2020. He did just that, and in style.
An impeccable 10 wins from 10 during qualification for the finals set the tone, rebuilding the fragile confidence of the team piece by piece and introducing younger players not scarred by old failures to the squad.
Looking purely at results, Italy have won 26 of their 35 games under Mancini (D7 L2). His 67% win ratio is the highest of any manager to have spent at least 10 games in the dugout for the Azzurri.
After 3-0 wins against Turkey and Switzerland, followed by a 1-0 victory against Wales in their final group stage match, Italy have the form to scare any team. The facts tell the story best:
- They have equalled their best unbeaten run in their history, with their current 30-game streak level with the sequence without a defeat between 1935-1939 under Vittorio Pozzo.
- They are on a record 11-game winning run that began in November 2020.
- They haven’t conceded a single goal in these 11 wins and are now one game away from equalling the national record of 12 matches set in 1974.
- Their current run of 1,055 minutes without conceding a goal is just 88 minutes away from their all-time record set between 1972-1974 (1,143).
- They have scored 32 consecutive goals without conceding a single one to the opposition. The last goal that was scored in an Italy game by an opposition team came in October 2020 against the Netherlands (Donny van de Beek).
Having qualified for the Last 16 in advance of their final group game versus Wales, Mancini was able to give valuable minutes to players in squad. Overall, he’s already used 25 of their 26-man squad at the finals and made eight changes to the starting XI for that final game against the Welsh.
Italy no longer rely on a large proportion of players made up from the historic teams in Serie A: Juventus, Internazionale or Milan. Sassuolo’s Manuel Locatelli and Domenico Berardi have set the tournament alight with their talents so far, with the former scoring two goals in the win over Switzerland and the latter being the most creative Italian player with six chances created and 1.1 expected assists. Matteo Pessina is another example of a talent from another club outside the traditional three. His goal against Wales was his third for Italy – more than any other Atalanta player has ever scored for the Azzurri and the only one to score for his country in a major tournament.
Across Mancini’s reign as manager, 30 different players have scored for Italy. That’s more than under Cesare Prandelli (29), Marcello Lippi (27) and only fewer than under the management of Pozzo (53). He has many options to call upon for that all-important goal.
Despite the large number of players used overall by Mancini (67), this is an Italian side that are organised and play with heart. Mancini’s approach is consistent, as he’s used his favoured 4-3-3 formation in 32 of his 35 games in charge (91%).
That 4-3-3 formation has proved to be well-balanced so far at Euro 2020, with his side posing a threat through all attacking thirds of the pitch. 25.8% of Italy’s touches in the attacking half have come through the middle third of the pitch, while they’ve split their focus down either flank evenly between the left (38.5%) and right (35.7%) of the field.
In the tournament so far, Italy lead all teams for shot-ending carries (18) but have also tallied 14 build-up attacks (open play sequences of 10+ passes ending in a shot or a touch in the opposition box) – the second-most – proving that they can mix up their style to counter-attack a team at pace or build up possession before pouncing. These, coupled with a tournament-high eight shot-ending high turnovers, make Italy a dangerous opponent or any side.
No player has made more appearances for Italy under Mancini than Chelsea midfielder Jorginho (26). As one of only three players to start all three games at Euro 2020 for Italy, alongside Leonardo Bonucci and Gianluigi Donnarumma, and the outfielder with the most minutes on the pitch (255), Jorginho is integral to how the Italian midfield function.
Ball security is where Jorginho thrives. He’s averaged 67 successful passes per 90, with a team-high 42.4 of those coming in the attacking half (of players with more than 90 minutes at Euro 2020). Of 203 passes attempted overall, he’s only misplaced 13 all tournament, with just 10 coming in the opposition half across 255 minutes of action.
Another benefit Jorginho brings is his ability from the penalty spot, an asset that becomes even more important as we enter the knockout stages. The Italian midfielder has scored five penalty goals under Mancini already. Excluding shootouts, only two players have scored more penalties in history for Italy. Maybe you’ve heard of them – Roberto Baggio (seven) and Alessandro Del Piero (six).
In Italy’s third game against Wales, Jorginho was joined in midfield by Marco Verratti – and it was the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder that ran the show.
Verratti led all players in the match for touches (136), passes completed (103), chances created (five) and tackles (four), as well as assisting the only goal of the game. It was as near enough to a complete performance from a central midfielder, without a goal to their name.
Immobile. Another key player in this Azzurri side, he has 13 goal involvements (eight goals, five assists) in 16 appearances since Mancini took over in May 2018. With goals in both of his appearances at Euro 2020, Immobile became the first player to score in Italy’s first two matches at a major tournament since Christian Vieri at the 2002 World Cup. The challenge for the Lazio striker now is to take his phenomenal scoring record at the Stadio Olimpico (93 goals in 119 appearances for club and country) and replicate this as Italy go deep
With a Last 16 tie against Austria at Wembley, Italy are expected to progress and face stiffer opposition in the quarter-final in Munich. It would be their first huge test at Euro 2020 and our tournament predictor still only gives them an 8% chance of winning the trophy on July 11 – the seventh favourites, which is dented as Italy undoubtedly find themselves on the tougher side of the draw with the three favourites France, Belgium and Spain, as well as Portugal.
Only time will tell if this Italian side can keep their unbeaten run going until the end of the tournament and defy the predictions, but they’ve been pretty good at doing just that under the stewardship of Mancini so far.
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Design by Matt Sisneros.