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A Final Four place at stake against Hungary. Mancini: “We need to be more attacking than on Friday"

The Azzurri arrived this afternoon in Budapest, where they will be looking for a win tomorrow evening that would guarantee them a second consecutive Nations League Finals appearance. On Immobile's withdrawal from the squad: “He would have happily stayed, but it wasn't a risk worth taking”

Sunday, September 25, 2022

A Final Four place at stake against Hungary. Mancini: “We need to be more attacking than on Friday

At the time of the draw, when Italy was inserted into a tough group with two World footballing powers in Germany and England, few would have bet on the Azzurri fighting for top spot, and ultimately a place in the Nations League Final Four, against the surprise package of the group, Marco Rossi's Hungary, in the final round of fixtures. 37th in the World FIFA Rankings, they have shocked everyone, beating England twice, including an incredible 4-0 at Wolverhampton, and even winning in Germany on Friday evening courtesy of Adam Szalai's delightful back-heel goal, that echoed Head Coach Roberto Mancini's goal for Lazio in January 1999 against a certain Gigi Buffon for Parma. The Hungarians' run in Group 3 gives further value to Italy's 2-1 win last June in Cesena, the only defeat Marco Rossi's side have had in their Nations League campaign this year.

Tomorrow evening at ‘Puskas Arena’ in Budapest (20:45 CEST, live on Rai 1), Italy will need another three points to qualify for the Final Four for the second year running and soften the blow of not reaching the World Cup Finals. After the win over England, that also guaranteed the Azzurri as top seeds in the draw for EURO 2024 qualification on 9 October, Mancini may choose to continue with the 3-5-2 formation he used at San Siro that curbed the threat of Southgate's England: "We're analysing the best way to go to make it as difficult as possible for them," said the Head Coach in the press conference at Puskas Arena, "if we go with the same way we set up in Milan, we'll need to attack with more players. I think we need to be more attacking than on Friday. The fact that we are here fighting for top spot in the final 90 minutes of the group stages is pleasing, we'll try to get through. What are the odds? 50-50, they only need a draw." Despite the quick turnover between matches, the Head Coach isn't planning on making wholesale changes to the team that beat England: "We'll change something, we'll see how the lads are tomorrow, but we won't be changing many. We need to play the game with calmness, we'll have to defend well and take our chances when they come to us."

Italy have had the better of Hungary over the years: 17 wins, nine draws and nine defeats, while in 15 meetings in Budapest, the head-head is even with five wins for each side and five draws. If the Hungarian Head Coach Marco Rossi preached humility in his pre-match press conference, Roberto Mancini spoke about his respect for the Hungarian side under the Italian's leadership: "They are led by a former teammate of mine who has done a fantastic job. Tomorrow, they'll play in front of a full house with 70,000 spectators, and will go out to try and win. In the last 2-3 years, they have improved massively: they play good football; they attack and defend well."

The Head Coach, who voted this morning in Rome before setting off for the flight to Hungary, was asked about dealing with the many injuries encountered in this September break, with another, Ciro Immobile, also leaving the squad during camp. The Lazio striker underwent clinical tests and his results were not as they had been hoped for. Despite appreciating the player's availability, Mancini made the decision to send the player back to his parent club to continue his treatment: "It wasn't a risk worth taking, it was too dangerous. I'm sorry for him and for us. Ciro would have stayed if it had been up to him, he was with us during the first game despite knowing he probably wasn't going to recover in time. He wanted to try, he did everything is in means to make it, but we couldn't take the risk."

He was also asked if it was possible to build a side around Raspadori, and replied: "We took him with us to the Euros after not playing that many career games. He can certainly become a vital player but he still needs to develop, he has hardly any international experience. He is technically very good, and through hard work will certainly get better and become a really important player for the First Team." The main priority is a side that must represent everyone: "We have always tried to not create any problems for anyone, we've always done our duty, we'll continue to do that. The most important thing is that the Azzurri remains to be a real special thing for a player, at times we need to love it a little bit more."

Taking part in the press conference, alongside the Head Coach, was Jorginho, who spoke about his eagerness to play a second match in the space of three days: "I feel ready to start, but that's up to the Coach to decide. When there's the chance to wear the shirt and represent Italy, I always feel ready. Hungary are doing really well and are in a good moment, it's going to be a tough game. We need to go out there like we did against England at San Siro, we need to stay grounded, focused and try to win at all costs." The 3-5-2 system could be an interesting prospect for the present, but also for the future of this side: "I think the Coach is right when he says that tactics help, but what really counts is what we leave out on the pitch. The team felt good playing it, a few players are used to playing in that type of system with their clubs. We felt comfortable on the pitch and played well."