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Mancini to Remain as Italy Manager Despite Playoffs Elimination

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By Martin Graham | 29th Mar 2022

Italy manager Roberto Mancini will remain in the dugout for the Azzurri, according to statements made in his latest press conference.

Italy fell to minnows North Macedonia last Thursday in the dying minutes of their playoffs match to determine who progresses to the next round of the World Cup qualifiers.

They would have set up a high stakes match with Portugal, who beat Turkey on the same night to determine who goes through to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar come November-December.

The loss came as a shock to the world, and Italy especially, who are still reeling from the fact that they will be missing their second consecutive World Cup for the first time since 1958.

A few of the team’s senior players, notably Jorginho Frello and Lorenzo Insigne have left the team’s camp as a result, despite having set up a friendly with fellow eliminated team Turkey for Tuesday to wrap up their international break.

Mancini, speaking at the press conference ahead of the match, talked about staying on as manager, how the loss to North Macedonia is still affecting the team, and how much they wanted to win the World Cup to add to their Euro 2020 victory from last summer.

“I have talked with the FIGC president [Gabriele Gravina], we agree on everything. I’m glad, we’ll talk again in the next few days,” Mancini said.

“Now we’re focusing on this match, then we’ll discuss what we need to improve in the future. That’s all.

“I feel like staying because I am still young. I wanted to win one European Championship and one World Cup, so for the World Cup I’ll have to wait a little.”

Mancini satisfied with current Azzurri squad

Mancini also defended his squad but agreed that it would be up to the FIGC president Gravina to decide on any changes to the team or coaching staff, while also adding that they have their eyes on a new generation of players.

“We will certainly add younger players, hoping they can have important experiences at their clubs because this is important. We’ll work on this and we’ll see what the general situation is,” Mancini said.

“The squad in these years deserved a lot. It has not been just the Euros but a three-year path with a streak of matches without any defeat and we need to acknowledge that.”

Veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci was also at the press conference with Mancini and he talked about the exits of some of the senior players.

He noted that his decision to stay, alongside his centreback partner Giorgio Chiellini, was to encourage the younger squad members.

“Giorgio and I felt we had to set an example to support a young squad in need of experience and of understanding that the only way is forward,” Bonucci said.

Calhanoglu: Italy has always been a favourite of mine

Hakan Calhanoglu, in Turkey’s press conference before the fixture, talked about his respect for Italy despite also falling at their playoffs game against a Portugal side who just took their chances.

Turkey and Portugal we’re almost evenly matched in the game and were only separated by their and the clinical nature of the Portuguese.

Speaking in the press conference, Calhanoglu talked about the game and mentioned his respect for Italy, the country where he plies his club football trade.

“I am aware of the responsibility of captain, I hope to wear it with pride,” he said. “Everyone should take responsibility, me above all because I have been wearing this shirt since 2015. The clock is ticking.

“I’m happy with the system with the three-man defence, I play with it at Inter and I’m used to it. Now we have to play with this system too, they all play like this in the qualifiers.

“I think the game with Italy will go well, both teams will not be able to participate in the World Cup and they are sad. The people of Konya have always been good to us and I hope they can see a good game tomorrow.

“Italy are always one of my favourites and I have always liked their system of play. They are a team that places great importance on tactics and they have quality players. I always have the utmost respect for them.”

Calhanoglu also talked about how the loss could help his Serie A season. “When I return to Italy I need to focus on my club and the league. As soon as I come back we’ll play against Juve, Milan are leading the table but we’re one game behind.

“I hope that, when I come back, we’ll be able to take the lead thanks to victories.”

Martin Graham is an MFF sports writer

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