September 22, 2021

SportsOnly

Football and other sports news

Mancini sets Italy semi-final target

3 min read

Roberto Mancini struck a confident note as he set his Italy team the target of a semi-final berth on the eve of the European Championship.

The Azzurri will contest the very first game of the tournament when they face Turkey at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Friday.

As a result of their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, it is in fact five years since the Italians featured at a major tournament.

But, having avoided defeat in their last 27 outings, Italy are among the favourites to go all the way at the tournament.

And the former Manchester City boss was in no mood to play down their chances, preferring instead to set his sights on a trip to Wembley in the last four.

“I think after everything we have gone through, now is the time to try and put a smile back on faces,” he told reporters.

“That will be our aim over the next month, we want people to enjoy themselves and have fun. I think it will be a wonderful time for everyone over 90 minutes, we will give it everything.

“The opening match is the hardest one, above all at the start of the tournament. We have to be free and try to have fun, that should be the aim.

“I was confident three years ago and I am more confident now. We have worked very well, we have excellent players and have forged a great team spirit.

“We have been working together for a long while and have enjoyed ourselves and want to go on enjoying ourselves. Come the end of the tournament we would love to make it to London.”

Italy’s hopes were dealt a blow on Friday when it emerged that Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini had been forced out of the squad by injury.

Asked about that news, Mancini added: “We are gutted for Lorenzo because he is an important player and could operate in several positions.

“It is disappointing how it came about as he was on form. We’re very disappointed for him as a player and a person and it’s sad to leave the Italy squad on the final day.”

Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini still bears the scars of the 2017 play-off defeat to Sweden that confirmed he and his countrymen would not be at the last World Cup.

And he is determined to exorcise the ghosts of that disappointment by putting on a strong showing at the Euros.

“We are very keen to bounce back and play a starring role in a major competition,” he said.

“That defeat to Sweden at San Siro is still with us and we can’t erase that, but we have been able to transform that disappointment into enthusiasm and a desire to do well.

“That feeling is not just in us but with all the national team fans. You wouldn’t believe how many friends and family are galvanised by the national team, waiting for this game that has been missing for five years. We are aware of that and can’t wait to get out there and experience those emotions.”

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