In the city that pays homage to the Titanic with a beautiful museum, Italy will have to avoid sinking tonight. He will have to do it by rediscovering what it was not too long ago, rediscovering that sense of union and that desire to surprise lost in the copious and well-deserved celebrations that followed the magical night of Wembley. Physiological decline, perhaps something more. Admitting one’s mistakes – psychologists say – is always the first step to become aware of them, to turn the page. And yesterday Bonucci finally admitted that this team is not the same one that won four months ago. “Unconsciously, after the victory in the European Championship we have lost a bit of the spirit that allowed us to triumph this summer”, said the man who will be captain of the Azzurri tonight as well. Band on his arm because Giorgio Chiellini will not be there and 11 others with him. . We would have to build a team, with a lot of reserve, but Mancini is not the coach looking for alibis. Nor does he want to increase the pressure on an already delicate race of his own.
Calm. No anxiety. Carefree. We play as we know. These are his messages, those of a coach who has done extraordinary things in the last three and a half years but now finds himself in an unprecedented situation for him too: after the European Championship, Italy has won two wins, three draws and lost with Spain. A more than meager booty for a team that since Mancini ct has rewritten history even with the longest consecutive streak of results ever for a national team.
Those results, however, do not take the field. That’s the beauty of football. On the pitch there will instead be a Northern Ireland that is not Switzerland but at home – in its Windsor Park – has also stopped Switzerland, in addition to Bulgaria and Lithuania. Three home games without losing or conceding goals are a message that cannot be underestimated. And in fact Mancini underlined it several times: “First of all let’s think about winning the three points, then if we manage to do it with more goals, better …” Also because these days the Azzurri are struggling to win, let alone if they can take the field thinking about goleada. It would be presumptuous, especially in a stadium and against an opponent who hides pitfalls.
Switzerland will have to think about the goleada, like it or not. Because the Swiss – if Italy does its part – will not be able to win with less than three goals to aim for overtaking at the last corner. It will be a long-distance duel, Switzerland in its stadium and Italy in the city of the Titanic but also of George Best. The one who, more than anyone else, has taken the football / entertainment combination to an extreme. That combination that Mancini wants to see on the pitch again tonight to drive out – definitively – the ghosts of the past.