Finally, Azzurri get a win
Milan: Roberto Mancini got his first competitive win as Italy’s journey back from the abyss of their World Cup qualifying failure began to take shape with a last-gasp 1-0 win over Poland in the Nations League.
It was the first competitive win for the four-time world champions since a 1-0 victory over Albania in World Cup qualifiers on October 9, 2017.
That was followed by the devastating failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years after a playoff defeat to Sweden at the San Siro in November last year. Italian football has been in turmoil ever since. Although Mancini took over last May, the Italian football federation is still to elect a new president.
It was perhaps not surprising that Cristiano Biraghi’s last-gasp winner in Chorzow on Sunday night was celebrated as if the national side had won the tournament. Despite Mancini’s insistence that it would not be a drama if Italy lost the match, the League A Group 3 clash was a relegation playoff, with Poland dropping to League B. “The salvation of Italy and the turning point for Mancini,” wrote La Repubblica, hailing the win as a “birth certificate for a new national side.”
Former Manchester City boss Mancini’s only success since taking over five months ago was a 2-1 win in a friendly against Saudi Arabia before the World Cup.
“A new cycle has already begun,” said the 53-year-old former Italian international.
“We’ll go with pride to see the president of the republic,” he added of Monday’s meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in Rome to mark the 120th anniversary of the Italian FA.
“All of Italian football will be there, it’s important to go with a morale-boosting win like yesterday and for this we are proud,” said Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago.
“I see a new generation of young Italians emerging. In recent years there has been a lack of foresight.”
Mancini said a “new era has already begun”, although he cautioned that “there are no magicians”. “We simply started working, getting to know the players,” Mancini said. “I don’t like to think that the worst has passed for us, because for us it has never got that bad. There was never any specific kind of problem.”