Italy coach Roberto Mancini during the press conference. Photo: Dado Ruvic/Reuters
Italy coach Roberto Mancini during the press conference. Photo: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Mancini's Italy want to stay perfect in last Euro 2020 qualifier

Time of article published Nov 16, 2019

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ROME - A convincing and upbeat Italy look to preserve their maximum point tally when they close the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign by welcoming Armenia to Palermo on Monday.

With first place in Group J already secured, the Azzurri moved to 27 points from nine games by beating hosts Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 on Friday.

Group I leaders Belgium are the only other side on a perfect record ahead of Saturday's visit to second-placed Russia.

The win at Zenica was the 10th straight for Italy boss Roberto Mancini, who broke a record set 80 years ago by Vittorio Pozzo.

"It's nice to have gone ahead of a legend like Pozzo, but he won five trophies, including two World Cups (in 1934 and 1938)," the low-key Mancini said of his predecessor.

Pozzo also led the Azzurri to an Olympic gold medal and twice won the Central European International Cup, a precursor of the current European championship, which Italy lifted only in 1968.

"The road is still long but we're happy. The guys have been good, they've done well technically from the start. Everyone played well today, you don't win 3-0 otherwise," said Mancini, who was appointed in May 2018, six months after the four-time world champions failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.

His only defeats in a 12-4-2 record were 3-1 in a friendly at world champions France and a 1-0 to European title holders Portugal in the Nations League.

While savouring the Bosnia win and record, Mancini urged the squad to keep their focus until the end of matches.

"At the end, we dropped back too deep and we need to improve on that. When you start to tire, it's better to defend higher up," he said.

Andrea Belotti, who closed the scoring to tally his ninth goal with La Nazionale, agreed that there is room for improvement.

"Ten wins from 10 is good for a side that had to start again (after missing out on the World Cup)," the Torino striker said. "It's nice because winning helps you to keep winning. We'll take the record but we want other records and have other dreams."

With tactical tweaks expected against Armenia, Belotti is to give way to Lazio's Ciro Immobile, who has one less goal with the Azzurri, but tops the Serie A chart on 14 from 12 games.


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