Emanuele Giulianelli’s Italy v Austria preview: Italy should be too good after a perfect group stage
Our Matchday Squad journalist will be covering Italy throughout Euro 2020
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about Notti Magiche (Magic Nights), the soundtrack of the Italia ’90 World Cup? This song has remained in the minds and hearts of many, many Italians, who identify that competition as the best of their lives, even better than the one their side won in 2006, paradoxically.
In Italy, many media are playing with those memories and the comparison with what’s happening with Mancini and the Azzurri. And do you know against whom those magic nights in Italy started 31 years ago? Of course, it was Austria, the opponents that will try to stop Italy’s 30-match unbeaten run when they meet in the last 16 on Saturday. Excitement is brimming in Italy where, as stated by Bernardeschi to UEFA, “Mancini has brought the national team closer to the Italians”.
The coach himself is trying to throw a little water on the fire to keep his team’s concentration high: after a perfect group stage, Italy can’t hide their ambition of fighting for the title anymore. Failing to win against Austria would undo all the good things that Italy has done so far. Will the Azzurri be able to bring their qualities, their wonderful football from the magic nights of Rome, to the green grass of Wembley? My answer would be yes, Italy should win without problems against an Austrian side much weaker than them.
A few notes about the Italian line-up: the only doubts of Mancini are about the midfield. The recovered Verratti showed against Wales that his presence is crucial, but, at the same time, Locatelli has done so well as his replacement that it would be hard to keep him out. With the presence of Barella and Jorginho virtually certain, we can assume the final midfield spot will be between Verratti and Locatelli. The PSG player is likely to start, though Locatelli could be key from the bench.