FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Roberto Mancini will stay on as Italy coach despite the team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup again.
Italy, which won the European Championship only eight months ago, lost to North Macedonia 1-0 in the playoffs on Thursday and will now miss a second straight World Cup. The previous failure led to the dismissal of coach Gian Piero Ventura and the appointment of Mancini.
However, the Italian soccer federation this time has decided to stick with the coach who revitalized the national team and led it to the Euro 2020 title. The 57-year-old Mancini was given a contract extension through 2026 in May.
“We need to start again,” Mancini said Monday. “I talked to the president, we’re in agreement on everything … we’ll have time to discuss what we need to improve.
“I’m still young and I wanted to win a European Championship and a World Cup, we’ll have to wait for the second a little bit. I like this work and I know that with the players we can organize again something important. Apart from the disappointment, everything else is moving forwards.”
Mancini introduced an exciting brand of soccer after taking over from Ventura.
His team also broke several records, including setting a run of 37 unbeaten matches (before losing to Spain in the Nations League finals). And, as Italy prepares to start from scratch again, veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci believes Mancini is once again the right man for the job.
“What the coach has given us in these three years is something unique,” Bonucci said. “He has created an empathy that is rare to see at Coverciano (the Italy team’s headquarters).
“For us continuing with the coach is just the logical thing to do: his ideas, his human value are unquestionable. The result of a one-off match can change opinions, but those who live this every day only want to continue this path.”
Instead of preparing for a playoff final against Portugal on Tuesday, Italy will play Turkey after that team lost to the Portuguese on Thursday.
Nine of the Italy players called up for the World Cup playoffs returned to their clubs over the past three days after struggling with physical issues: Marco Verratti, Jorginho, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Domenico Berardi, Gianluca Mancini, Luiz Felipe, Alessandro Florenzi and Matteo Politano.
That should give some of the less experienced a chance to play.
“We need to start again with a new cycle. We have important matches coming up,” Mancini said. “We will certainly introduce younger players already in June for the Nations League. I hope they will get experience in their club. That’s fundamental.”