Oooh, it’s getting closer, everyone – Euro 2020 is finally happening!
We may have been forced to wait an entire year for this prestigious European tournament, but we are now entering the final months of our miserable anticipation.
So, the time is upon us. Fetch your giant national flag out of the attic and stick it outside your bedroom window. Set the national anthem as your morning alarm, and from now on, rock up to work in your collection of international jerseys, blow-up trophy in hand.
If your flag consists of the colours green, white and red, your national anthem is called Il Canto degli Italiani, and you don’t require an inflatable trophy because your country won the European Championship in 1968, then you’re probably supporting Italy.
And if you’ve been sporting that wonderful blue jersey to work every day, you must be pretty confident that your boys are going to waltz back home with their second ever European trophy this summer. Roberto Mancini has a wealth of riches at his disposal, and it’s becoming harder and harder to see where he will fit them all into his 23-man squad.
But in the current state of play, which 23 players are most likely to hop aboard that plane to Euro 2020 and take off for the adventure of a lifetime? 90min ranks the Italy squad from benchwarmers to first-teamers, just for your pleasure.
There are a few options for the backup goalkeeper, but we’ve selected Alessio Cragno as our third-choice shot-stopper.
He’s enjoying another standout season in a poor Cagliari team, but a lack of international experience massively works against him.
This was a tough one, but in the position of utility man, who can play both centre-back and in midfield, Gianluca Mancini edges out Bryan Cristante.
The AS Roma star is playing his best football in 2021, and his aerial threat from set-pieces will be invaluable for his coach when in need of a goal. Throw him on with ten to go and stick him up front.
Davide Calabria is pushing as hard as he can to edge out his competitors in that number one right-back spot, but he might need another season or two at the top to really make it his own.
Still, he’ll get some minutes, that’s for sure.
Emerson Palmieri has been a regular in Mancini’s side, but it feels almost impossible to trust him now, given his lack of football in recent months. So what about this? Federico Bernardeschi may have lost his mojo as a winger, but Andrea Pirlo has since shaped him into a left-back, and it’s worked a treat.
He’s also able to play in centre-midfield, making him the ideal, versatile star for his coach (who remains a big fan of the Juventus flop, anyway). Everyone’s a winner!… Except Palmieri, obviously.
The attacking wildcard. Moise Kean must have wondered if he’d ever score again after joining Everton, but he’s living his best life at Paris Saint-Germain and is a consistent threat.
He can play wide or central, and could frighten any defence on his day. The last roll of the dice.
He’s back, baby! Mancini has always been an admirer of Stephan El Shaarawy, so he’ll have been chuffed to bits when the winger decided to return to Roma in January.
He’s got six months to get back up to speed, but by the looks of it, he’s already hit the ground running.
The true elite defender in this squad. If Giorgio Chiellini had enjoyed a completely injury-free season (and was maybe a year or so younger), he’d be a shoo-in to start for Italy.
That’s not the case however, and he’s desperately in need of match practice ahead of the big summer tournament. He’s important, but don’t rule out a shock exclusion if he can’t get in the rhythm.
Similarly to Cragno, Salvatore Sirigu is being kept extremely busy by a leaky defence and a generally rubbish team.
Battling relegation is never fun, but at least he’s getting plenty of practice for the summer.
Il Galloooo! This is the worst time for Torino and Andrea Belotti to be involved in a relegation scrap. Despite Il Toro’s woes and deserved place in the bottom three, Belotti has managed 11 goals in 22 matches, as well as six assists.
He won’t be leading the line, but chuck him on for the last 20 minutes and he’ll cause some chaos.
Manuel Locatelli is tearing it up with Sassuolo this season, and he cannot be ignored, even if he’s not playing for one of the big boys.
Don’t worry about that, though, he’s guaranteed a massive-money move this summer. Probably to Juventus, if we know how Serie A works.
Francesco Acerbi is not far off a starting spot, and it’s a big toss up between him and his competitors as it stands.
Lazio’s defence has not been water tight this season however, and he needs to up his game if he’s to nail down that place in the side.
Lorenzo Pellegrini has put to bed any concerns over his ability and stomach for the fight, wearing the Roma captain’s armband with pride this year.
He boasts a genuine sparkle of magic, and can change a game in the blink of an eye. Mancini may even try and squeeze him in as an inside forward to utilise his full array of skills.
No matter how little Jorginho plays for Chelsea, he will always be recognised as the metronome and heartbeat of this Italy team.
They beat faster when he decides it’s time, and he slows them down when they need a rest. Forget his current Blues, he will be a certainty for the Azzurri.
The centre-back spot is possibly the most questionable area for Mancini to address. But it’s hard to look past Alessandro Bastoni, who sits at the heart of the second best defence in Italy, and the best side in the country.
He hasn’t had too many chances at senior national level, but keep an eye out for his call-up in the next international break. He could act as an emergency full-back too, given the lack of quality left-back options at the moment.
Even amid all of Napoli’s struggles this year, Lorenzo Insigne has delivered. He is enjoying one of his most profitable and consistent seasons, even if his reputation for choking at the big moments remains.
Don’t put him on the final penalty in a shootout, please.
Is there a more consistent full-back in Italy right now? Leonardo Spinazzola is pivotal to Roma’s offensive style of play, and he enjoys the freedom of the entire left flank for I Giallorossi.
The unpredictable wing-back is incredibly two-footed and can operate on either side of the defence, making him both a deserving starter and a capable cover if one of his teammates suffers injury heartache.
The bomber for gli Azzurri. Ciro Immobile may not be the same player for Italy as he is for Lazio, but he remains the most likely source of a goal in this squad.
He’s never quite done it for his country, and there is no time better than the present to silence his critics.
Even when Alessandro Florenzi suffered the pain of leaving Roma for Valencia last season, and was deemed not good enough for the capital city club, Mancini stood by his man.
Now, the right-back is playing his best football at Paris Saint-Germain, and has recaptured the adventure and spark which made Rome initially fall in love with another son. He’ll be there, make no mistake.
Leonardo Bonucci is not the imperious defender he once was, but he’s got the nouse and the experience to lead this Italy backline. Unbelievably, Mancini must consider the centre-back spot as a weakness to this team.
The present and the future of this Italy defence. It’s insane to believe that the experienced shot-stopper is only 22, but he has been knocking around since he was 16, you know.
Frankly, there’s not another Italian keeper even close to Gianluigi Donnarumma, and his absence would be a huge concern ahead of this tournament. Key.
The most in-form forward in Italy right now, and quite rightly the first attacker on the plane.
There may be more competition for his place than Immobile, but Federico Chiesa has stepped up to the plate during his time at Juve, and is showing exactly why he needs to start for Mancini in the summer.
Marco Verratti would be the most important player for so many countries, but competition is high in this Italy squad. Not to mention, his record with injuries means Mancini must always have a backup plan, in case he’s not available.
If the 28-year-old is fit, then he’ll be a starter.
He was top of the pops last time round, and he’s still the first on the plane with only three months until the big tournament. Nicolo Barella has continued to go from strength to strength with Inter, and their place at the top of Serie A only confirms his dominance of every midfield in Italy.
He’s a superstar in the making, and could be the difference between success and failure come the summer.