Ninety minutes to get rid of the ghosts in the playoffs. In Belfast, the only city in Europe where a wall exists, Italy must overcome its own obstacle built by rivals and fear. In fact, Roberto Mancini’s possibility of a direct entry into tomorrow’s World Cup in Qatar, and the key to success is clear in his head: “Don’t repeat the mistake we made with Switzerland in the beginning: Anxiety. We avoid resorting to playoffs, against Northern Ireland, who have never lost in their home qualifiers, at Winsor Park.
When the defeat at the same stadium 63 years ago led to the first and most painful defeat in qualifying for the World Cup, it was heavier than ever. “I’m not going to review the news, but I know the story: we can avoid going back so long.” To be a little tired of any thought that is not the mantra of play and entertainment.
With the Belfast match, in fact, in Lucerne, the ‘Nati of Yakin’ tied with the Assyrians will try to beat Bulgaria by several goals to cancel the last remaining small advantage +2 networks. “It doesn’t matter if there are nine right or wrong – Mancini says – but play with the right mindset from the first minute.
This requires another Italy than the one after the European conquest. “This great team had a special spirit at the European Championships – says Captain Bonucci.
To defend his group, Mancini also spends words in this sense: “For three years, this national team has done something unthinkable and no one believes in it: now comes the first moment of real difficulty, but the boys never forget it. What did they do?” The game begins: “They are tall and big, we are normal: long passes and crosses are useless: you have to play the ball on the ground and at speed, so you win.
The eight absences that have accumulated since the start of the retreat have prompted the Italian coach to make some changes, even in relation to the Olympic competition (“you must be lucky”), and Bellotti still faces the slog of injury, a candidate for a starting position like Tonaldo Berardi, who may even have won a penalty in Rome. Tomorrow, by chance, Captain Bonucci will arrive on the scene. Considering the emergency full-back (Zapacosta total after the return of Biragi and Calabria), the defense confirmed that the game was strong. In midfield, Mancini assures him that he saw a barrel coming out of exhaustion as he arrived at the retreat. “He’s well, he’s well: better than Switzerland.” For Tonley, “He’s been doing important things lately, yes, I think he’s starting from the beginning.
“The boys are recovering after Friday, especially the fatigue,” Mancini concludes. In short, it looks like the national team is looking for a spark to rekindle the magic of the past two years. “Who’s going to take the penalty for Giorgino’s mistake? No, I’m not going to be the first to take the penalty – Bonucci explained – we decided to leave everything unchanged, then we ‘ll see. In this case, there’s a 90’ thrill between Ireland and Italy.
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