History Italian national team

The best result of an Italian at the European Championship was winning Euro 1968 after a 2:0 against Yugoslavia. And of course Italy is a four times world cup winner. Last tournament Italy attended was Euro 2016, where they lost in the Quarter-Finals against Germany on penalties. Italy missed the World Cup of 2018 after losing the play-offs against Sweden. This time qualification for Euro 2020 was like a walk in the park; winning all 10 matches, ending with a goal difference of plus 33. Only Belgium did a better job in their qualification group with a goal difference of 37.

# Team Goal Difference Points
1 Italy +33 30
2 Finland +6 18
3 Greece -2 14
4 Bosnia +3 13
5 Armenia -11 10
6 Liechtenstein -29 2


The manager of Italy is Roberto Mancini, 56 year old, former manager of Fiorentina, Lazio and Internazionale in Italy. Abroad the clubs he managed were Manchester City, Galatasaray and Zenit Sint-Petersburg. In his manager career he won 4 championship titles and 6 cups. Probably the most well known championship win is the heroic last minute season winner of Aguero back in 2012.

Mancini prefers a 4-3-3 with one defensive midfielder and central midfielders more wide.

Italy National Football Team Tactical Formation

These little adjustments of positioning of the players in this formation are there because of the players Mancini can select for the national team of Italy. We will use the Freelance Football Player index to get the possible line up and rank the players in the possible squad.



# Name Age Club Position FFPlayer index
21 Gianluigi Donnarumma 21 AC Milan GK 76.6
12 Alex Meret 23 Napoli GK 72.9
1 Salvatore Sirigu 33 Torino GK 74.1
Alessio Cragno 26 Cagliari GK 72.6
Marco Silvestri 29 Hellas Verona GK 68.9
Pierluigi Gollini 25 Atalanta GK 72.4

As Buffon retired for the national team of Italy, the first goalkeeper at the moment is Gianluigi Donnarumma and according to the FFPlayer overall index that is correct. As he got the highest index of all Italian goalkeepers with 76.6. He is still young for a goalkeeper with his 21 years of age, but already has 22 caps on his tally. The second goalkeeper normally is Salvatore Sirigu, with his 33 years old an experienced goalkeeper, who is a bit out of form with his club Torino now. Because he is the only experienced goalkeeper in the squad, he probably will be selected for Euro 2020. The third selected goalkeeper last match against Bosnia was Alex Meret, but he is not playing all matches at Napoli. And Pierluigi Gollini from Atalanta Bergamo is back from an injury. Maybe we will see a change of the third goalkeeper in the squad with Pierluigi Gollini back in shape and good form.



# Name Age Club Position FFPlayer index
19 Alessandro Bastoni 21 Inter CD 71.6
6 Alessio Romagnoli 25 AC Milan CD 74.7
15 Francesco Acerbi 32 Lazio CD 76.7
Gianluca Mancini 24 AS Roma CD 71.7
Leonardo Bonucci 33 Juventus CD 78.1
Gian Marco Ferrari 28 Sassuolo CD 68.0
Angelo Ogbonna 32 West Ham CD 69.8
Giorgio Chiellini 36 Juventus CD 79.2

Chiellini missed the previous match against Bosnia due to an injury, but according to the Freelance Football Player index he is still one of the best central defenders in Europe. If he is fit enough, he will be reunited with the other side of the “Italian wall”, Leonardo Bonucci. However, he wasn’t fit enough to be selected either.

Note that Gianluca Mancini and Bonucci are the only right footed central defenders in the above list, all others got a better left foot. Ferrari is not really in the picture, as he is not that good in building up the play at Sassuolo. It looks Acerbi is the third central defender, as he got the 3rd best index with 76.7 and played last match along with Bastoni, a huge talent of 21 years old, who already plays Champions League with Interbazionale, that could be an indication that Romagnoli will lose his spot in the team if the two Juventus defenders are fully fit again. We will know it when the squads are announced and will update you via the social media.

Left (wing) backs


# Name Age Club Position FFPlayer index
3 Emerson 26 Chelsea LB 72.6
Leonardo Spinazzola 27 AS Roma LB 73.4
Luca Pellegrini 21 Genoa LWB 66.8
Christiano Biraghi 28 Fiorentina LB 69.3

At the left (wing) back can become a weak spot in the strong team of Italy, as Emerson is not a regular starter at Chelsea this season. Spinazzola has had a lot of injuries the last few years, but played a fantastic match against the Netherlands. He ran all over the left side and was unstoppable for Hans Hateboer. This led to a 0-1 win for Italy and ended up to be the decisive three points to win the Nations League poule,which results in qualification for the final four. Luca Pellegrini is a huge talent, but not yet on the level in which Italy wants to perform. Also the pressure of a European Championship is something else than playing at Genoa. Christiano Biraghi is not the type of player Manicini prefers to use as a left wing back. A solution for an injured Spinazzola or Emerson without match rhythm can be Biraghi or one of the left footed central defenders and play with a defensive left back. And play with a more attacking minded right back.

Right (wing) backs


# Name Age Club Position FFPlayer index
23 Giovanni di Lorenzo 27 Napoli R(C)B 72.6
16 Alessandro Florenzi 29 PSG RB 73.3
2 Danilo D’Ambrosio 32 Inter RCB 71.6
13 Davide Calabria 24 AC Milan RB 69.9
Mattia de Sciglio 28 Lyon RB 71.5

On the right side there is the possibility to use a wing back like Allesandro Florenzi and di Lorenzo or more defensive oriented (centre) backs like D’Ambrosio or Calabria. Only Mattia de Sciglio is a bit out of the picture from coach Mancini because he isn’t a regular starter at Lyon, after failing to impress at Juventus. His last selection was in November 2019, where he played his 39th cap for Italy. I don’t think Calabria already got the level Italy is aiming for, so probably he will drop out of the squad.

Due to the absence of Chiellini, Florenzi captained Italy to two wins in the previous matches. He is back on a decent level of play at Paris St. Germain. With 40 caps, he is an important player for the Italian National team at the upcoming UEFA Euro 2020. 

Defensive midfielders


# Name Age Club Position FFPlayer index
8 Jorginho 29 Chelsea CDM 76.2
4 Sandro Tonali 20 AC Milan CDM 68.5
5 Manuel Locatelli 22 Sassuolo CDM 71.9

In front of the defense, Mancini has the choice between three playmaking defensive midfielders. Even though Jorginho is already 29 years old, it will be his first big tournament with Italy. His trademark is the run up before taking the penalty. The hop, skip and jump run-up is often successful, but lately he is missing some, but he still is the number one penalty taker for Italy. Tonali was called up and is in good form at AC MIlan. He replaced Verratti in the previous match, but was on the bench for both matches. Probably Locatelli and Tonali will fight for one place to be selected for the last 23 players who will attend UEFA Euro 2020.

Central midfielders


# Name Age Club Position FFPlayer index
18 Nicola Barella 23 Inter CM 74.9
17 Matteo Pessina 23 Atalanta CM 68.1
14 Roberto Soriano 29 Bologna CM 70.8
Marco Verratti 28 PSG CM 79.4
Lorenzo Pellegrini 24 AS Roma CM 73.7
Stefano Sensi 25 Inter CM 72.7
Bryan Cristante 25 AS Roma CM 71.2
Roberto Gagliardini 26 Inter CM 72.0
Giacomo Bonaventura 31 Fiorentina CM 71.1
Nicolo Zaniolo 21 AS Roma CAM 72.2

Marco Verratti is the highest ranked player of the Italian squad with an index of 79.4. Due to a slight injury, he missed the previous 3 matches and he also missed Euro 2016. The only big tournament he played with the Italian national team was World Cup 2014, which ended in the Groupe phase.

It’s too bad Nicolo Zaniolo is injured now and probably will be fit around April, which should be in time for the European Championship. However he got plenty of competitors to reach the squad. Pessina made his debut in November 2020 in a friendly matches against Estonia, Roberto Gagliardini assisted in that matches, Soriano also earned an extra cap, after being selected again since 2015 and is in good form at Bologna assisting and scoring goals, but as the index already shows, they are not on the level like Pellegrini (who suffered from the corona virus during the November international break) or Sensi (who will be back soon after an injury). Giacomo Bonaventura has only been in the squad against Moldova in September 2020, so will not be the first choice. With Verratti, Barella and Jorginho probably in midfield, Italy got a very good centre of the field.

Left attacking midfielders


# Name Age Club Position FFPlayer index
10 Lorenzo Insigne 29 Napoli LW 77.6
Stephan el Shaarawy 28 Shanghai Greenland Shenhua LW 73.6
Vicenzo Grifo 27 Freiburg LW 70.4

Without any doubt, Lorenzo Insigne is the main man on the left wing. His natural play is coming inside the field to the centre to shoot with effect from long distance showing his fabolous right foot. He also masters the dribble along several opponents. At Italy his runs behind the defence are a great weapon. He wasn’t a starter in previous tournaments, so he will be eager to show himself as a starter in Euro 2020.

Stephan el Shaarawy hasn’t been able to impress in China and is willing to come back to Europe. His choice for minutes of play could be very important to be selected or not for the upcoming tournament. He still got the level, but he should be in good shape and form to earn a call up.

Vicenzo Grifo scored twice against Estonia and got very decent statistics in the Bundesliga in previous years; 23 goals and 34 assists in 110 matches. Normally he will not be in the last 23, but in a busy season and with covid-19 everywhere, he could make a difference as a sub who scores goals or provides an important assist during Euro 2020.

Right attacking midfielders


# Name Age Club Position FFPlayer index
20 Federico Bernardeschi 26 Juventus RW 72.3
11 Domenico Berardi 26 Sassuolo RW 73.7
22 Riccardo Orsolini 23 Bologna RW 70.3
Federico Chiesa 23 Juventus RW 74.2
Manuel Lazzari 27 Lazio RM 73.1

With more than 20 caps Bernardeschi and Chiesa are the most experienced right wingers in Italy and are probably sure for a spot in the squad, even though Bernardeschi is not a regular starter at Juventus this season and also plays his minutes on the left wing. Chiesa is another type of right winger that plays from the sideline, but all five options are coming inside. He scored twice against AC Milan in January with coming inside from the right wing. He was slightly injured during previous Italian matches. For Orsolini this European Championship will probably come too early, as with 70.3 he is not yet on the level Mancini is aiming for, but his finishing skills are top notch. Maybe he will get into the team next tournament after transferring to a bigger club in Italy than Bologna. Lazzari is not the man who makes the numbers in goals and assists, but is the most consistent in for example his passing (82% this season). I don’t see him being selected now, as the right side is already extra defensive with a right back. With Berardi in good form this season, captaining Sassuolo to a sub top spot in the Serie A, there are three good options for Mancini to choose from and not much differences in the quality of performing.



# Name Age Club Position FFPlayer index
9 Andrea Belotti 26 Torino ST 73.7
7 Kevin Lasagna 28 Udinese ST 67.2
Ciro Immobile 30 Lazio ST 79.0
Moise Kean 20 PSG ST 66.8
Francesco Caputo 33 Sassuolo ST 72.2
Pietro Pellegri 19 AS Monaco ST 60.3
Stefano Okaka 31 Udinese ST 66.7

It took some years and transfers for Immobile to become a stable goalscorer at Lazio Roma. That makes him the second ranked Freelance Football Player index of the Italian National Team with 79.0. His ability to shoot accurately and with power is impressive. He set himself in a great position to score by being mobile up front and coming behind the defense line to play one-on-one with the goalkeeper. If he can improve his link up to the same level at Italy as he does at Lazio Roma, he can make the difference between winning the Euro 2020 or losing against a team which plays better together as a team. If Immobile can’t get to his Lazio Roma level of play or does not get the space to come behind the defense, Targetman Andrea Belotti can come in and make the difference up front, like he did in the European qualifiers and Nations League matches. His club Torino is in a very bad form, but he still continues to score and provide assists. Hopefully for Mancini Immobile and Belotti are fit to play and fulfill the words of the manager: “We can win the Euro 2020, even if it’s played in 2021.”   

Playing style


Built up from defenders, diagonal passes to or wing back or the wingers also passes behind the defense. This can be an early cross from the side line or a central defender who passes towards the wingers who are on the sideline. Bonucci has proven to have an incredible long ball in his right foot. If there is no space up front, Italy tries to create triangles via playmaker Jorginho or Verratti coming into the space which the wing back let. Both wingers of Italy prefer to come inside to link up the play with the striker. . Insigne and Immobile are important with runs behind the defense in the left half space. Due to the fluid attacking style with a lot of running also in the back of the defenders, this can lead to disoriented defenders and put Immobile or Insigne one on one with the goalkeeper or some space and time on the ball for midfielders or wingers to show their creativity.

Transition attack to defense

Direct counter press after losing the ball and block passes through the center of the field. With one of the backs (mostly the right back) more tight during the play, they mostly form a back three just after losing the ball. This extra central defender allows one of the two original central defenders to step out forward aggressively to the man on the ball, with two players covering the space behind. This tactic stabilizes the center even more.


Compactness is key for Mancini in defense, to keep counter-pressing on the opponent. To keep the distance short between the players, the last line of defenders are positioned high on the field. This will lead to having midfielders more on the ball than running after it, as all three midfielders (Verratti, Jorginho and Barella) prefer to be on the ball, rather than fighting to get the ball back. With the Italian wall (Bonucci and Chiellini) behind them, there is not a big problem if the opponent is able to play under the pressure or plays a long ball. With the extra defender coming inside from the back, the defense of Italy is solid.

Transition defense to attack

Italy used to play on the counter attack, but with Mancini who loves to attack, a new era started. When recovering the ball, the first thing the midfielders or defenders are looking for all the gaps between or behind the defence of the opponent. If not found, they prefer to play on possession, until there is enough space for an attacking midfielder to play between the lines or a winger on the sideline (mostly on the right) or a forward running behind the defense. 

Set pieces

Corners and free kicks Isigne for Italy

Insigne’s corners and free kicks, aiming before the first post or penalty spot.

Corners from left and right are taken by Biraghi and Bernadeschi without a recognisable pattern. They often just cross it into the box with the left foot. Sometimes Insigne takes it short on the left and Bernardeschi on the right side. If Insigne puts it in front of the goal, he crosses it around the first post and the most far was to the penalty spot with his right foot. Biraghi or Insigne takes the free kicks from a distance and swings it into the penalty area. If these players do not play, Sensi, Locatelli, Tonali, Bonaventura, Pellegrini or Berardi also are taking set pieces, but without a recognisable pattern. 


With a talented goalkeeper, the Italian wall, creative midfielders and wingers and one of the best managers in the scene… Italy is one of the teams who can win the UEFA Euro 2020. However, a lot of players don’t have experience with playing a tournament with the National Team and if one of the above mentioned players are injured or one of the strikers can’t make the difference in this playing style, Italy is not the top favourite. Let’s wait until the club season is over and Mancini made his choices.

We can win the European Championship even if the finals are rescheduled for 2021 because of the corona virus pandemic.

by – Roberto Mancini