Italy face their first true test since winning Euro 2020 this week when Roberto Mancini’s side host the Final Four of the Nations League with three of Europe’s best ready to pounce.
The Azzurri face Spain in the first semifinal today, with the San Siro awaiting a repeat of the Euro last-four clash with Luis Enrique’s side which ended with a penalty shoot-out victory for Italy.
The other semifinal, on Thursday, features world champions France and Belgium, ranked the planet’s best side despite also being eliminated from the summer’s European Championship by the Italians.
Italy have been on a high after beginning a memorable summer of sport for the Mediterranean nation by beating England in the Wembley final of the Euro.
Mancini has largely stuck with the heroes of that tournament for the Final Four, initially picking 22 of the Euro squad and adding in-form Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellgrini.
He has since been forced to drop starting striker Ciro Immobile who has picked up a thigh injury and has drafted in Juventus striker Moise Kean, who shone in Italy’s last match, a 5-0 hammering of Lithuania during last month’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Rafael Toloi of Atalanta is also out injured with AC Milan’s Davide Calabria called up.
France go into the tournament still smarting from their last-16 exit at the hands of Switzerland in the Euro and underwhelming performances in last month’s World Cup qualifiers.
Their 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Finland last month was their first victory after a run of five draws, not what is expected of a team packed with some of the world’s best players.
Coach Didier Deschamps will be without midfield lynchpin N’Golo Kante who contracted Covid-19 in the run up to Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat at Juventus last week. – AFP