From the Allianz in Munich to the Allianz in Turin, just over three months later: it’s still Italy against Belgium. The atmosphere, the context, the stakes change, but this is a game that in the end is always valid, even if this time we will see the second lines on the pitch. Experiments for the future. Roberto Mancini knows what it’s worth, he reiterated it yesterday and in recent days. “We will treat the final for third place with great respect,” he says. It seems to be worth less, thanks to the first position in the ranking (Italy is currently fifth, behind today’s rivals, Brazil, England and France), for Roberto Martinez’s Belgium, who renounces Lukaku and Hazard, officially injured . In short, we are not in Munich, there is no semi-final to win, there is no European to take but let’s not call it the final. Both want to win it (twenty thousand tickets sold for the match at the Turin Stadium). Italy and Belgium, returning from defeats against Spain and France, are already looking forward to the World Cup, which will pass from qualifying matches in November, the one against Switzerland will be decisive for the Azzurri. It will count to finish first in the group and remain seeded (keeping in April, in case of qualification, within the first seven of the ranking). So, this afternoon, it’s convenient to win, no doubt, by the scores. Mancini, then, does not want the second defeat in a row, his Italy is not used to it. Neither do we. And then there is a tradition to respect.
The balance of the official matches (twenty-three in total, 15 successes for Italy) between Belgium and Italy always sees the Azzurri in the lead 4 wins against 1 success of the Belgian national team (May 13, 1972, on the occasion of the qualifiers for the European Championship) , 2 draws. Martinez – despite the absences – tries to keep the tension high and motivate the team, so that he does not let himself go too much. In the group there are those who, like goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, have largely shown little interest in today’s game. “We have been in the lead for three years, we want to preserve the ranking, it’s a fixed point”, the Belgian coach said. The first place in the Fifa rankings is jeopardized by the rise of Brazil, this is a good reason not to give up arms. «We are not yet a finished product and we have a year to improve: against the reigning European Champions, we can test ourselves. In November we will need a point to qualify for the World Championship and it is important that everyone can prove their worth. There can be no better motivation ». The Belgium of phenomena fights with failures in major competitions: from Euro 2016 onwards it has collected only disappointments. The team gets old and does not win, the phenomena are less and less phenomena and today, as mentioned, someone will be spared to give life to an experimentation on the second lines. For Martinez, therefore, a new cycle begins. Mancini, on the other hand, must work on the basis he has created in recent years, which has led him to the record of 37 consecutive useful games and to the victory of the European Championship. In view of the World Cup in Qatar, some flaws need to be corrected. The first: the central striker, a credible alternative (or owner) to Immobile and Belotti. The second: to find real solutions in defense, given that Bonucci (yesterday with Belotti went to greet his teammates) and, above all, Chiellini will have a year and a half older than the European Championship won and are already advanced in age, especially Captain. Sticks and Acerbi are reliable, will they be enough? We’ll see. We expect news in the future, with the grafts of Alessandro Lucca and Sandro Tonali. Mancini’s choices go in this direction: to win by experimenting. «We have taken a good path, our young people can play together for another 5-6 years. The Beglio? It is a match against the team that ranks first. We remember that we are the European champions and it is clear that we would have liked to have made the final. Trying someone new means giving some other players a chance to prove their worth. It is important, also because some starters may be missing and then the race is also important to consolidate our position in the ranking ». That’s why it counts.
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