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Is this Italy side one to be reckoned with?

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Azzurri net eight goals in two qualifying matches.

Italy v Liechtenstein - UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifier
Leonardo Spinazzola of Italy competes for the ball with Michele Polverino of Liechtenstein during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group J qualifying match between Italy and Liechtenstein at Ennio Tardini on March 26, 2019 in Parma, Italy.
Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Is it safe to say that the dark days of FIFA World Cup qualifying are behind the Italy national team?

Following the recent international break, one might think that would be the case.

After two matches, the Azzurri sit atop Group J on six points and scored eight goals in the process. Only England have a better goal differential (+9) than Italy (+8).

But, to put it into context, Italy topped Finland 2-0 and dispatched of 10-man Liechtenstein, 6-0.

Not necessarily facing the world beaters of European football.

Nonetheless, fresh off winning just one match in the UEFA Nations League – only besting Poland in the group stage – and the disaster of the World Cup qualifying stage where Sweden bested Italy to prevent the Azzurri from even sniffing Russia – this start to the European Championships is encouraging.

One of the most impressive things about Roberto Mancini’s side is the fact that they have shown much more promise using much younger players.

In the past, Italy relied heavily on older, more experienced players and we all know where that got them last year.

Now, Mancini has elected to use a more youthful squad mixed with some experience.

Consider Tuesday’s 6-0 win against Liechtenstein where Mancini had 36-year-old Fabio Quagliarella – who scored by the way – mixed in with 19-year-old (and former Inter Milan product) Nicolo Zaniolo and 19-year-old Juventus player Moise Kean.

In fact, it was Kean and Nicolo Barella who scored in the win against Finland:

Then, Kean went on to score again against Liechtenstein.

All three players showed a lot of enthusiasm and a propensity to play together, which is a sight better than what we saw during World Cup qualifying.

As far as Inter Milan in concerned, Matteo Politano played all 90 minutes against Liechtenstein and is likely to continue his international play in June when Italy face their toughest test when they travel to take on Greece then, return home to face Bosnia and Herzegovina.

All in all, this Italy team seems poised to make a run at qualification and, because of the nice addition of youth players – six under the age of 20 – Mancini’s squad could be a force to reckon with in the future.


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