Frank de Boer decided to change the Netherlands' system for their Nations League game against Italy after one training session because they looked like "young hyenas".

Italy won the first meeting of the Group A1 rivals in Amsterdam in September 1-0, with interim boss Dwight Lodeweges deploying a 4-2-3-1 on that occasion.

After beginning his Netherlands tenure with a surprise 1-0 loss to Mexico and a goalless draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina, De Boer switched to a 5-3-2 for the meeting in Bergamo in a bid to limit the impact of Italy's attacking full-backs.

Oranje fell behind to Lorenzo Pellegrini's goal in the 16th minute but quickly drew level when Donny van de Beek opened his international account.

Though the Netherlands were unable to find a winner, De Boer knew his team were ready for the new approach after a promising dry run.

"I wanted to play with five at the back so that my forwards didn't have to keep chasing back with their overlapping players," De Boer told NOS.

"Basically, it's just a question of looking very rationally at the opponent and working out what we can offer in return. In this case it meant sacrificing a player like Steven [Berghuis].

"I thought we had the better of the game, say 60 to 40 per cent in our favour, and that was because of our own quality.

"The critics would have been harsh [if the Netherlands lost], but in training I saw how the players chased their prey like young hyenas. I told them: 'If we show this in the game, it shouldn't be a problem.'

"But I am not satisfied with the result, because we want to be top of the group. Now we have to make sure we win the last two games."

The draw meant Poland moved top of Group A1 following a 3-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina, with Italy a point behind and the Netherlands two adrift.

Oranje captain Virgil van Dijk felt the visitors should have done more with their 14 attempts on goal – twice the amount mustered by Italy.

"The coach handled it well. All credit to him for that," said Van Dijk of the change in formation.

"We knew we had to do things differently to the first game. We wanted to get a result and I think a draw here is a good performance to build on.

"We did well and worked hard but we should have got more out of the counter-attack in the second half.

"We created a lot of opportunities against a fantastic team. We could have done more."

Italy extended their unbeaten run in competitive fixtures to 16 – one shy of their all-time record set between June 1997 and June 1999.

Roberto Mancini admitted he was caught off guard by the Netherlands' tactical shift but still has designs on a place in the Nations League Finals.

"It's the first time they changed to this system and it was a surprise, but we knew it was going to be a tough game," Mancini told Rai Sport.

"Opponents are there too, they can create problems and that's what happened this evening. We attacked and I think we created the most clear-cut opportunities, overall.

"The performance was tough, it was a good game, a real battle. Now we go head-to-head with Poland for the top spot. We'll win the next two and then qualify."

Roberto Mancini and Marco Verratti were united in their belief that Italy missed an opportunity as wasteful finishing saw them held to a 0-0 draw in Poland on Sunday.

Although the Azzurri were the dominant force for much of the contest in Gdansk and created some fine chances, they could not get the all-important goal.

Federico Chiesa, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Emerson Palmieri all spurned clear-cut openings, while Andrea Belotti – the striker chosen to lead the line – endured a quiet evening.

As such, Italy were unable to take a three-point lead at the top of Nations League Group A1. Defeat to the Netherlands this coming Wednesday would see them overtaken.

Mancini told reporters: "Against Poland we have always been on the attack. This is a missed opportunity.

"The pitch was in poor condition and the ball bounced badly, but I'm not looking for excuses: we should have ended the first half with at least a one-goal advantage.

"This is a balanced group, which will be decided in the last games. Poland is an excellent team, they have great champions in attack and other very good players.

"Two years ago they put us in difficulty. We are happy with the progress we have made. We want to improve further and games like tonight are part of our path, even if the draw is harsh."

Verratti was similarly frustrated, but he attempted to put a positive spin on it, adamant Italy were excellent aside from a failure in front of goal.

"We go home with a bitter taste," the Paris Saint-Germain star added.

"I agree that the pitch was difficult and made a certain type of game difficult for us. But we still had a great match – we just lacked the goal."

Robert Lewandowski is one of the best strikers in the world and any team would struggle against a player of his quality, says Italy boss Roberto Mancini.

The Azzurri will go head-to-head against Lewandowski on Sunday when the two nations meet in Nations League Group A1.

Lewandowski scored 55 goals across all competitions in 2019-20 to fire Bayern Munich to a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble and many pundits feel he would have won the Ballon d'Or this year had the award not been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He has continued his exquisite form in the early stages of this campaign, scoring five goals in three league matches for champions Bayern.

Mancini talked up the talents of Lewandowski in a pre-match news conference but backed his side to keep him quiet in Gdansk.

"Lewandowski is one of the best centre-forwards in the world and he has been for several years. It's a pity we never got to see him playing in Serie A," Mancini said

"He's fundamental for Poland, although they also have other great players too. It's fair to say any team would struggle against the likes of Lewandowski.

"But Italy have always had some of the best defenders in the world and that remains true today. Of course, we can improve a great deal too."

Ciro Immobile was also one of European football's hottest properties last term and finished as Serie A's top goalscorer with 36 goals in 37 top-flight matches.

The Lazio striker has struggled to match that domestic form on the international scene and has scored just three times in the Mancini era, two of those in a 9-1 battering of minnows Armenia.

Mancini explained it is harder to get into a rhythm in international football when defending Immobile's record.

"It might also be because the two teams play in very different ways," Mancini added. 

"Ciro has always done well when playing with us. If we had 38 games in a row together, he'd score 25 goals, but it's tougher when you only get together every now and then."

Marco Verratti says Roberto Mancini has brought "enthusiasm" back to the Italy squad and urged the team to continue a "beautiful journey".

The Azzurri hit rock bottom in 2017 when a play-off defeat to Sweden saw them miss out on a World Cup for the first time since 1956.

Mancini consequently took the reins and a 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia in his first game in charge was followed by just a single victory in the following seven games.

But since then Italy have triumphed in 13 out of 14 matches, including winning all of their qualifiers for the postponed Euro 2020.

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Verratti says former Manchester City boss Mancini has breathed new life into Italy.

"After the match against Sweden, thanks to the coach, enthusiasm has returned," he said ahead of Italy's Nations League clash with Poland on Sunday.

"It was a hard blow that we took together and the coach was able to get us back on the road. He was good at rebuilding and making us play well.

"We are close to France. Sure, they won a World Cup, but in the last two years we've become credible again. 

"So far we have made a beautiful journey. We must continue on this path, with humility and courage."

Verratti has been joined at PSG by two of his international team-mates in the form of Alessandro Florenzi and Moise Kean, who joined from Roma and Everton respectively.

The midfielder is delighted to have both playing alongside him domestically.

"I am happy that Florenzi and Kean have arrived at PSG. I am very close to Alessandro and I am happy to play with him," he added.

"Moise needs a further step to become even stronger."

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini admits he was hoping Emerson Palmieri would leave Chelsea during the transfer window to play regular first-team football.

The left-back has been short of playing time during his two and a half years at Stamford Bridge and was strongly linked with a return to Serie A prior to Monday's transfer deadline.

Juventus were reportedly keen to bring in Emerson on deadline day and his former club Roma were also credited with an interest in the 26-year-old.

However, a move did not materialise and he now looks set to stay in west London, although the transfer window still remains open for Portuguese clubs for another few weeks.

Mancini is disappointed Emerson, part of Italy's squad for the friendly with Moldova and Nations League games against Poland and the Netherlands, was unable to find a new club.

"I was hoping Emerson could go to a team where he can play continuously," Mancini said at a news conference previewing Wednesday's meeting with Moldova in Florence.

"We have always had a bit of difficulty - there are now fewer Italians compared to the past. But we have still put together an excellent team."

Federico Chiesa did get his deadline-day move, though, as he joined champions Juventus from Fiorentina in a deal that could be worth up to €60million.

"For us, he's an important player," Mancini said. "He was when he was at Fiorentina and he is now that he's with Juventus He still has room for improvement there."

The Juventus contingent named in Mancini's squad are late joining up with the rest of their team-mates due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

But Mancini is not bothered about their delayed arrival and has hinted he will name a strong line-up for the friendly at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

"There are no big problems. The Juventus players will probably arrive on Wednesday," he said.

"The ranking is very important for us. We can't compromise what we have done in recent months during tomorrow's game.

"We have recovered eight or nine positions and we would like to climb even further before the draw for the World Cup qualifiers. We must do well in the games that don't count too."

Roberto Mancini says Giorgio Chiellini could still teach defenders around the world how to do their job after he made a commanding return to Italy action.

The 36-year-old made his first international appearance since June 2019 on Monday, delivering an excellent performance as the Azzurri beat the Netherlands 1-0 in the Nations League clash in Amsterdam.

Chiellini had surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament last September and only managed four appearances for Juventus in 2019-20.

Mancini is in no doubt over how important the centre-back is to his plans, however.

"He has experience, quality... he could still teach many defenders around the world," said Mancini.

"It's important for us to have him on the pitch because he is a fighter. I'm happy he is back and that he managed to play without problems."

Chiellini admitted he was relieved to be back playing for Italy in a year in which the football calendar has been hugely disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We prepared well for this game and have been playing at a high level for the last two years," he told Rai Sport.

"After so many months under lockdown and a weird summer, it wasn't easy to get back on track. We beat a great team and probably deserved a few more goals.

"When we got tired towards the end, we also did well to defend. That's part of the game, too: sometimes, you have to roll up your sleeves."

Italy took the lead through Nicolo Barella's header in the first half and restricted the Netherlands to just two shots on target in the second, the best of which brought out a fine save from Gianluigi Donnarumma after Donny van de Beek fired a half-volley goalwards.

They were otherwise quite comfortable against the Oranje, despite some late pressure, something Mancini was keen to point out.

"The whole team played well. You wouldn't dominate the Netherlands at home, otherwise," he said.

"The team played perfect football, with a bit of suffering at the end. But they [the Netherlands] played long balls and only had one chance in 90 minutes, with a save from Gigio."

Roberto Mancini promised changes in personnel for Italy's clash with the Netherlands after watching his side slump to a 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Nations League.

Mancini's men had won their previous 11 consecutive games – an Azzurri record – but fell behind at Stadio Artemio Franchi when Roma striker Edin Dzeko gave the visitors a second-half lead.

Inter midfielder Stefano Sensi equalised with a deflected strike to earn Italy a share of the points in a game that saw them struggle to break down a packed Bosnia-Herzegovina defence.

Torino's Andrea Belotti started in attack ahead of Lazio's talismanic forward Ciro Immobile and Mancini may consider that position for one of his planned changes.

"The draw doesn't change our plans," Mancini told Rai Sport.

"Our game plan won't change against the Netherlands, but we'll change personnel.

"[Giorgio] Chiellini didn't play because we feared risking injury.

"It's a shame not to have won. Tiredness played a role but the boys played well."

Sensi, whose only previous goal for his country came in a 6-0 drubbing of Liechtenstein in March 2019, admitted the result fell short of Italy's expectations.

The Azzurri won just one of their four Nations League games in 2018 and will need to improve against the Netherlands on Monday if they are to pick up their first victory of this year's competition.

"I'm happy to score, but there's a lot of regret about the result," said Sensi.

"Coming back together after 10 months wasn't easy.

"It was hard to find the spaces. We should've been a lot quicker on the ball."

Italy boss Roberto Mancini insists he is not interested in returning to club football before his work with the Azzurri is complete.

Reports in Italy had claimed a number of Premier League clubs had contacted former Manchester City boss Mancini.

Mancini has also coached teams including Lazio, Inter, Galatasaray and Zenit, and he took on the Italy job in 2018 with the national team at a low ebb.

The team's failure to qualify for that year's World Cup left Mancini with a rebuilding job, and 10 out of 10 wins in qualifying for Euro 2020 suggested they were moving in the right direction.

Asked about reported interest in him, Mancini said on Sunday: "My goal is to do well in the European Championships and do well in the World Cup. It would be a regret to leave the national team to someone else.

"No one tried to hire me this summer."

The 55-year-old, who steered Manchester City to the 2012 Premier League title and Inter to successive Scudetto successes from 2006 to 2008, believes the future looks bright for Italy, with the Euros to be followed by a World Cup in 2022.

Mancini added, quoted widely in the Italian media: "We started this job two years ago with great difficulties and despite everything I think we managed to do a great job and we hope to improve it even more."

The postponement of Euro 2020 until next year has disrupted plans, with Mancini's focus now falling on the Nations League games that lie ahead for Italy.

They face Bosnia-Herzegovina in Florence on Friday, before tackling Netherlands in Amsterdam on the following Monday.

Mancini also spoke about the appointment of Marcello Lippi to the role of technical director with the Italian federation (FIGC), following speculation he was disenchanted at not being consulted.

He said: "I don't think it is such an important thing, absolutely nothing has changed. The president told me about it because it was already in the papers, but it all ended there. I didn't need any reassurance or explanation."

Andrea Pirlo is lucky to be starting his coaching career at Juventus, according to Roberto Mancini, but the Italy boss believes the club have made a good call.

Pirlo was appointed as Juve's new head coach on Saturday, a matter of hours after Maurizio Sarri was relieved of his duties.

Sarri led Juve to a ninth straight Serie A crown this season, but failed to improve their standing in the Champions League as they headed out on the away goals rule against Lyon in the last 16 on Friday.

The role is Pirlo's first as a coach and while Mancini feels the Italy great is fortunate to have landed such a high-profile job, he thinks it will prove to be an astute appointment.

"I did not expect Juventus to go out [of the Champions League]," Mancini told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I was sure they would have advanced.

"But it was a terrible, unpredictable and difficult year. Especially for those who have made changes, like Juve. Sarri wasn't able to bring through his football.

"[Pirlo] is lucky. He starts from the top and with the best team. Maybe I didn't start from the bottom, but I started at Fiorentina, not with Juve.

"Jokes aside, if I was searching, I would have been looking at Andrea. He has great knowledge of football. Like [Daniele] De Rossi. I would have liked to work with him.

"There's always a first time. Andrea opens up a new path. Let's follow him. Good luck to him."

With Juve and Napoli exiting the Champions League in the last 16, only one Italian side – Atalanta – remain in the competition.

They go up against Paris Saint-Germain in the last eight and Mancini believes Atalanta can play with full confidence against the Ligue 1 champions.

"Let's calm down and think of PSG, who are a great team and have more experience," Mancini said.

"They are certainly not at the top. They have lost [Edinson] Cavani, will not have [Angel] Di Maria, [Marco] Verratti, [Kylian] Mbappe and some others who are in doubt.

"Their championship was stopped in March, but regardless of this, Atalanta have every right to play the quarter-final with confidence."

Maurizio Sarri was like an uncomfortable guest at Juventus and his sacking was not a surprise, Alessio Tacchinardi says.

Sarri was dismissed on Saturday following Juve's Champions League elimination at the hands of Lyon less than 24 hours earlier.

The 61-year-old secured Juve's ninth Serie A title in a row in his only season in charge but lost the Coppa Italia final to Napoli, while problems instilling his style into the squad had prompted concerns about his long-term suitability to the role.

In that regard, Tacchinardi does not believe it was simply Friday's 2-1 win over Lyon - which saw the Ligue 1 side progress to the Champions League quarter-finals on away goals - that forced Juve to make a change.

Tacchinardi also feels Juve's squad planning left Sarri short-handed, with 21-year-old striker Marco Olivieri having been thrown on in the closing minutes for his Champions League debut as they desperately sought a third goal.

"I hadn't received any signals from Turin, but I don't think this defeat was necessary for Sarri to be sacked," the former midfielder, who won six Serie A titles and the 1996 Champions League with the Bianconeri, told TMW Radio.

"He always seemed like a guest who did not feel at ease. At Napoli, he was a leader.

"There were many players in a precarious condition yesterday. Juve won officially but the only won who actually won was [Cristiano] Ronaldo.

"With all due respect to Olivieri, to think Juve let someone like [Mario] Mandzukic go makes you think."

Real Madrid head coach and former Juve midfielder Zinedine Zidane is considered one of the favourites to replace Sarri, along with Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi and former Tottenham man Mauricio Pochettino.

There is also speculation Italy coach Roberto Mancini could be offered the position.

"Between Mancini and Zidane, I'd prefer the Frenchman," Tacchinardi said. "He knows Juve and knows how to be respected, but Mancini would be okay, too. I think the national team coach could come."

Roberto Mancini acknowledges Juventus have an advantage in Serie A's title run-in, but he expects the Scudetto race to go to the wire and believes Inter still have a chance.

Juve lead Lazio by a point ahead of the planned June 20 resumption of the top-flight season in Italy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bianconeri beat Inter in their most recent match on March 8, leaving the Nerazzurri - contenders for much of the campaign - nine points adrift with a game in hand.

But Italy coach Mancini has noted the unpredictable results since Germany's Bundesliga returned, with a series of shock away wins in recent weeks.

The former Inter boss believes similar surprises could follow in Serie A, potentially bringing the San Siro side back into the mix, although he thinks Juve's strength in depth makes them favourites.

"Lazio and Juve will play until the end," Mancini told Rai Sport.

"But since they started playing in the Bundesliga, the home field factor has actually been wiped out. I think that Inter can still have possibilities. In my opinion, there may be some surprises.

"But then it is clear that Juve have an advantage because they have a very large squad."

Mancini is anticipating some struggles as football returns, adding: "All the coaches will have a bit of a problem. The players have come from two months of home training.

"Returning to work on the pitch and resuming playing immediately with competitive games will not be easy.

"The tempo of the matches is much slower. German football does not have the tempo that we are seeing and, in the first games, I think that even in Italy we will not have an extraordinary tempo."

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini believes Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo can develop into an "extraordinary player".

Zaniolo, 20, has impressed since arriving at Roma from Inter in 2018, although he suffered a serious knee injury in January.

But Mancini feels the five-time Italy international can become a star if he remains focused.

"If he continues to train seriously and make an athlete's life, he could become an extraordinary player," he told Roma TV.

"He is young and does not yet have many Serie A matches in the legs, so that not all responsibility falls on him.

"I think he has not yet found his role. He can do two or three. He is one of those young players who with another year will be able to improve, will recover from the injury."

Zaniolo was set to miss Euro 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic meant the tournament was pushed back to next year.

Roberto Mancini hopes Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo can become an important player for Italy.

Zaniolo was set to miss Euro 2020 after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in January, but the 20-year-old could benefit from the tournament being pushed back by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The highly rated Zaniolo has scored two goals in five games for Italy and coach Mancini believes he could develop into a vital player for his country.

"Zaniolo may be a very important player. He is also very young, he will have one more year to improve," he told Rai Sport on Friday.

"My hope is to have all the players available and have difficulty in making choices.

"I think the team can improve. We came from many games played well and won and there was great enthusiasm. It would have been great to play now."

Mancini has helped turn Italy around since taking over in 2018, leading them to 13 wins in 19 games in charge.

The former Inter and Manchester City coach had Italy as among the favourites for the European Championship, but acknowledged the postponement changed things.

"There will be difficulties because this is something that has never happened before," Mancini said.

"Starting again will not be easy."

Italy coach Roberto Mancini insists the door remains open for Mario Balotelli to make a return to the national team.

Balotelli has not played for his country since a 1-1 draw with Poland in September 2018, when he featured for just over an hour of the Nations League fixture.

The forward scored five goals in 19 appearances for bottom club Brescia before the Serie A season was halted due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, having returned to his homeland after three years in France.

Still, Mancini knows all about the player's qualities from their time working together previously, having coached him at Inter and Manchester City prior to taking charge of the Azzurri.

"If he only thinks about football and does what he has to do, the doors are open, for him as for many other players who may not have been called up," Mancini said in an interview with Sport Mediaset.

"Mario is like everyone else - he has important qualities, but it depends only on him."

Balotelli is not the only player who could benefit from Euro 2020 being pushed back due to the COVID-19 outbreak across Europe.

Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo was set to miss the tournament this year due to injury, yet now has time to recover and be part of Italy's plans in 2021.

Mancini said of the versatile 20-year-old: "He will grow like the other younger boys. Another year will be important for him.

"The first time I saw him he played as a midfielder and I think that's his position. But he has the possibility to play wide on the right, as he is playing in Rome at times. 

"If a player with important qualities can fill multiple roles without any problems, this is an advantage for him and for us."

Italy qualified in impressive fashion, running away with Group J with a 100 per cent record, giving Mancini confidence they can do well when the finals eventually take place.

"Bringing the championship back to Italy after so many years, since the last one was won in 1968, would be a magnificent thing we want to do. We have the qualities to do it," he added.

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini hopes football in the country can return as soon as possible.

Like all major competitions across the world, Serie A is on hiatus as part of efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, with northern Italy particularly badly affected by the virus.

Mancini was due to lead the Azzurri at Euro 2020 in June, but the tournament has been put back 12 months.

The former Inter and Manchester City boss believes sport can act as a social boost for a population hit hard by the events of recent weeks.

"It is a terrible thing for many families who have lost loved ones," Mancini told SportMediaset.

"I hope everything returns as before. I heard some guys [players], they are all well and I hope we can go back to playing as soon as possible.

"I hope it starts because football is also a very important social thing, then we'll see what will happen.

"And I hope this terrible thing will end soon. It will take a little more attention, but we deserve to go back to living as before. Everything that happened was unjust."

Serie A paused in the midst of a gripping title race, with long-reigning champions Juventus one point ahead of surprise package Lazio with 12 games remaining.

Mancini believes the unscheduled and lengthy break will lead to unpredictability if the action resumes, meaning he refuses to rule former employers Inter in third and free-scoring Atalanta in fourth out of contention.

"I think anything can happen because there has never been such an upheaval," he said.

"It's difficult to make predictions. Juventus are in the lead and remain the strongest, but anything can happen.

"Inter could also be back in the race and Atalanta. When you stop for so long it can change everything. Nothing is excluded."

Page 1 of 3
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.