Zaniolo apologises for Italy's World Cup failure as he makes Azzurri pledge

By Sports Desk June 18, 2022

Nicolo Zaniolo has apologised for Italy's failure to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar as he pledged to become a key part of Roberto Mancini's next Azzurri side.

Italy will miss a second successive World Cup this year after falling to a stunning play-off reverse to North Macedonia in March, and their misery was compounded this month when they were beaten 3-0 by Argentina at Wembley in the Finalissima.

They also won just one of their first four Nations League games, losing 5-2 to Germany last time out.

Zaniolo was absent as Mancini's men beat England on penalties to win the rearranged Euro 2020 tournament last July, and made just one appearance throughout Italy's unsuccessful World Cup qualification campaign.

The creative midfielder is desperate to become a key part of Mancini's next side, and hailed the job the former Manchester City boss has done with the national team.

"I'm sorry, because we have to wait another four years," he told Sportweek. "But let's go on. I'm used to chasing. There will be other goals in between.

"The first time Mancini called me I was very young... He came there to talk to me, to make me feel immediately at ease. Great person, professional. I will do everything to convince Mancini."

Moving forward, Italy will be without defensive stalwart Giorgio Chiellini, who won his 117th and final international cap in the Argentina defeat – matching Daniele De Rossi as his nations' fourth-most capped player.

And Zaniolo thinks the former Juventus man will be difficult to replace.

"[Chiellini] has always been the most difficult to overcome," he said. "He is physically strong and off the pitch, he is an exceptional person."

At club level, Zaniolo enjoyed a successful campaign under Jose Mourinho at Roma, making 30 appearances in all competitions as the Giallorossi won the Europa Conference League, and scored the only goal of last month's final win over Feyenoord.

The 22-year-old says he has learnt a lot from playing under Mourinho.

"He's a winner," he said. "He taught me how to get into position in the defensive phase, where we had to improve and I still have to do it. 

"He helped me to manage certain situations, in the past I would have reacted badly or worse due to exclusion from games that were very significant for me. 

"He taught me to bite my tongue, [to be] mute and work more in the field."

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