Roberto Mancini expects to see more focus and ruthlessness from Italy when they face Switzerland after being held to a 1-1 draw by Bulgaria in World Cup qualifying on Thursday. 

In their first match on home soil since winning Euro 2020, Italy went in front through a fine finish from Federico Chiesa but were pegged back before half-time when a swift counter-attack ended with Atanas Iliev turning home. 

Georgi Georgiev did well to deny Chiesa and Ciro Immobile as the Azzurri searched for a winner in the second half, the Bulgaria goalkeeper finishing the game at Stadio Artemio Franchi with seven saves.

Despite failing to secure all three points, Italy made it 35 games unbeaten to equal the European record set by Spain.

Avoiding defeat to Switzerland in Basel on Sunday would see them match the world record for an undefeated run by a men’s international team set by Brazil between 1993 and 1996.

Mancini acknowledged his team may be fatigued by their push to defeat to Bulgaria but is demanding a more clinical display at the weekend. 

"Now the most important thing is to recover our strength for Sunday, because we attacked a lot in the closing stages and became a bit disorganised," said Mancini. 

"But we created so many opportunities. This is football. It happened today and it could happen at other times. When a team attacks, they are bound to suffer something, but the goal we conceded wasn't great. 

"But okay, we will be more focused and mean in Basel. 

"It will be a different game, also because Switzerland are a team that play. That puts you in difficulty but it also lets you play. We will have to play a great match and that's what we'll do. 

"Today, after the first goal we had to kill off the game. We will have to take to the pitch with the attitude of the second half. 

"We need to be more clinical, but the guys did well and what they had to do. We are pleased, but we would have preferred to reach 35 [games unbeaten] with a win."

Italy extended their unbeaten run to a record-equalling 35 games despite being held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Bulgaria in Florence on Thursday. 

The Azzurri, who last lost a game in September 2018, matched the European mark set by Spain despite being far from their best in the Group C clash - their first outing since overcoming England on penalties in the Euro 2020 final. 

Federico Chiesa gave Roberto Mancini’s men the lead with a powerful finish in the 16th minute, but Atanas Iliev restored parity before half-time. 

Although Italy were unable to find a winner and maintain their 100 per cent start in Group C, they can still make history by avoiding defeat away to Switzerland in their next qualifier on Sunday. 

Lorenzo Insigne had a great chance to open the scoring in the 12th minute but, after being played in by a fortunate ricochet, he was unable to guide his shot past Georgi Georgiev. 

After Kiril Despodov missed the target with Bulgaria’s first decent effort, Chiesa dribbled in off the right and lashed an excellent drive into the bottom-right corner to put Italy in front. 

Georgiev did well to keep out a powerful attempt from Ciro Immobile and Bulgaria surprisingly equalised in the 39th minute when Iliev got in front of Francesco Acerbi to turn home Despodov’s pass. 

Insigne failed to take another good opening before half-time, while Immobile rounded Georgiev but was unable to convert from a tight angle three minutes after the restart. 

Italy were back on top but a strong hand from Georgiev stopped Chiesa clipping home a second after spinning away from his marker in the 62nd minute. 

The Bulgaria keeper made another fine stop to thwart Immobile from close range and the Azzurri had to settle for a point.

What does it mean? History on Italy’s side  

Italy will of course be keen to make it 36 games unbeaten against Switzerland at the weekend. Not only would it be a new European best, it would equal the world record set by Brazil between 1993 and 1996.  

History suggests a loss in Switzerland would not have to be a bad thing, though. Spain’s 35-game streak came to an end against the United States in 2009, less than a year before they lifted the World Cup for the first time in their history. 

Ballon d’Jorginho  

Jorginho is considered a serious contender for the Ballon d’Or after winning the Champions League with Chelsea and Euro 2020 with Italy last season. His display was of the quality you would expect from such a player, with the midfielder creating four chances while 89 of his 125 total successful passes took place in the opposition half. 

King Georgiev 

Italy would have been comfortably out of sight midway through the second half had it not been for Georgiev. The Bulgaria keeper made seven saves in total, with the pick of the bunch coming from second-half efforts courtesy of Chiesa and Immobile.  

What’s next?  

Italy’s historic night could come against Switzerland in Basel on Sunday, while Bulgaria will be hoping to score their first Group C win against Lithuania. 

Italy extended their unbeaten run to a record-equalling 35 games despite being held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Bulgaria in Florence on Thursday. 

European champions Italy, who last lost a game in September 2018, matched the mark set by Spain and Brazil despite being far from their best in the Group C clash - their first outing since overcoming England on penalties in the Euro 2020 final. 

Federico Chiesa gave Roberto Mancini’s men the lead with a powerful finish in the 16th minute, but Atanas Iliev restored parity before half-time. 

Although Italy were unable to find a winner and maintain their 100 per cent start in Group C, they can still make history by avoiding defeat away to Switzerland in their next qualifier on Sunday. 

Lorenzo Insigne had a great chance to open the scoring in the 12th minute but, after being played in by a fortunate ricochet, he was unable to guide his shot past Georgi Georgiev. 

After Kiril Despodov missed the target with Bulgaria’s first decent effort, Chiesa dribbled in off the right and lashed an excellent drive into the bottom-right corner to put Italy in front. 

Georgiev did well to keep out a powerful attempt from Ciro Immobile and Bulgaria surprisingly equalised in the 39th minute when Iliev got in front of Francesco Acerbi to turn home Despodov’s pass. 

Insigne failed to take another good opening before half-time, while Immobile rounded Georgiev but was unable to convert from a tight angle three minutes after the restart. 

Italy were back on top but a strong hand from Georgiev stopped Chiesa clipping home a second after spinning away from his marker in the 62nd minute. 

The Bulgaria keeper made another fine stop to thwart Immobile from close range and the Azzurri had to settle for a point.

Jorginho has not yet received a contract offer to extend his stay at Chelsea as he targets playing for as long as possible.

The midfielder won the Champions League with Thomas Tuchel's side last term and then Euro 2020 with Italy, leading him to be named UEFA Men's Player of the Year.

His club and country double saw him become just the 10th player to achieve the feat of winning both competitions in the same year, though his long-term future at Chelsea remains unclear with two years left on his current deal.

"One thing at a time and in the end they come to terms," Jorginho told reporters on Tuesday, as he prepares to face Bulgaria, when asked if he could possibly see out his career at Stamford Bridge.

"On the contract, I say that I didn't have any offer and now I don't even think about it, honestly.

"But at 29 you already talk to me about finishing my career, but I want to play until 40. If they make me a ten-year contract, then yes."

Jorginho insisted his focus was on one game at a time, with Bulgaria, Switzerland and Lithuania all to come in World Cup qualifiers.

The 29-year-old was a standout performer for Italy at Euro 2020, leading the charts for recoveries (48) and interceptions (25) after carrying his Champions League form into June and July.

Jorginho's 484 successful passes were bettered only by Spain's Aymeric Laporte (644), as he created seven chances for his team-mates. Only international colleague Lorenzo Insigne (40) was involved in more shot-ending sequences than his 38.

With one individual award already under his belt, the former Napoli midfielder refused to be drawn on the Ballon d'Or race while also insisting Italy will now face a different challenge in the aftermath of their European Championship success.

"Now [it] becomes difficult, Italy is no longer a surprise," he continued. "It is in the place it deserves to be and all those who come to play against us will do it in a different way.

"After what we have done we are happy, but we must always remain humble.

"On the Ballon d'Or, I let you speak, I try to live in the moment. There are still a few months left for that decision and I think about the present, I want to enjoy this moment with those around me. We'll see what happens."

France head coach Didier Deschamps confirmed Karim Benzema suffered a "knock" that will require further assessment after the world champions finalised their Euro 2020 preparations.

Benzema was withdrawn during the first half of France's 3-0 victory over Bulgaria, having fallen awkwardly after challenging for a header in the pre-Euros warm-up fixture on Tuesday.

With France's opening game at the rescheduled European Championship just a week away – against Germany on June 15 – the sight of Benzema limping from the field represents a major worry for France.

But Deschamps gave little away in his assessment of the blow, telling TF1: "It's a knock on the knee, which also affects the muscle. He felt he was getting stiff so he asked to be subbed.

"The medical staff are taking care of him."

The good news for France is that they have a ready-made replacement for Benzema in Olivier Giroud, who led the line during their victorious 2018 World Cup campaign.

Giroud netted the 45th and 46th goals of his international career late in the second half to move within five of all-time top scorer Thierry Henry's 51 – all despite Deschamps not expecting to use him much against Bulgaria.

"Taking into account the situation in which he arrived, psychologically and especially physically, I had planned to bring him in for less time," Deschamps added.

"He's still a scorer, with a foolproof mind. I'm not going to complain, and the squad will need it too. We will need all our strength. He is part of it too, [that's] good for him and the France team. 

"I think he has played more tonight than the last three months combined."

 

France earned a 3-0 victory over Bulgaria in their final warm-up game ahead of Euro 2020 but face a nervous wait on Karim Benzema after his withdrawal through injury.

Antoine Griezmann's deflected overhead kick gave the world champions the lead just before the half-hour mark and substitute Olivier Giroud wrapped things up with two close-range finishes late on.

But it is the first-half loss of Benzema to what appeared to be a thigh problem that will dominate manager Didier Deschamps' thoughts in the aftermath.

Recently recalled after a six-year exile from the national team, the Real Madrid forward looked lively prior to his early departure, setting up Kylian Mbappe for a powerful shot that was well saved by Daniel Naumov.

Unfortunately for the Bulgaria goalkeeper, there was nothing he could do about an acrobatic effort from Griezmann shortly after, which took a nick off Ivaylo Chochev before hitting the back of the net.

Only more Naumov brilliance stopped Griezmann from doubling his tally before the break after a flowing team move, and he was also sharp in keeping out an Mbappe effort after the restart.

But the latter should have done better than to drag a shot wide when played in one-v-one by Paul Pogba soon after.

Given the low-stakes nature of the fixture, it was no surprise France's dominance led to some understandable complacency, and they were handed a huge let-off when Birsent Karagaren shot wide after finding space in the area.

However, the win was effectively secured eight minutes from time when Giroud produced a trademark front-post finish from a delicious Benjamin Pavard cross.

And the Chelsea forward was at it again in the final minute of normal time, tapping in an unmissable low ball across the box from fellow substitute Wissam Ben Yedder.

What does it mean? Benzema injury takes shine off

After taking a stunning gamble in recalling Benzema to his squad, Deschamps will now be praying that injury does not deny him the chance to make a big contribution at the Euros.

The 33-year-old did not appear overly concerned by what looked on first viewing to be a dead leg but that won't stop his manager worrying ahead of a likely scan on the issue.

Griezmann shines

He may have endured a forgettable season at club level with Barcelona, but Griezmann is primed to shine again for France at a major tournament.

As well as scoring the opener in impressive fashion here, the 30-year-old took three shots, laid on one key pass, and provided six crosses in a showing full of promise.

Mbappe blank no concern

A striker of Mbappe's class is never pleased to draw a blank, particularly in a game featuring so many France chances.

But his six shots, four of which found the target, and five key passes suggest he is in line for a big say in the Euros.

What's next?

France kick off their European Championship campaign with a mouthwatering group-stage clash with Germany in Munich in seven days' time. Having failed to qualify for the competition, Bulgaria must wait for the resumption of World Cup qualifying for their next outing.

Italy were far from at their best against Bulgaria on Sunday, but Roberto Mancini did not expect anything different from his side.

Mancini's unbeaten run as Italy boss was extended to 24 games – one shy of Marcello Lippi's longest streak and just six off the all-time record, set by Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s – as goals from Andrea Belotti and Manuel Locatelli sealed a 2-0 win in World Cup qualifying.

The victory took Italy, who beat Northern Ireland in their opening fixture, level on points with Switzerland at the top of Group C.

A much-changed Italy team dominated possession (67.6 per cent), and had 22 attempts, albeit 12 of these were blocked and only six were on target.

Indeed, the tight nature of the game is reflected by the fact that Federico Bernardeschi – who came on as a 76th-minute substitute – registered a game-high three chances, having entered the fray when the match was more of an open contest.

It was 1-0 at that stage, with Belotti's first-half penalty having opened the scoring. Locatelli was then on hand to curl in his first Italy goal – four of the last seven goals scored by the Azzurri have now been netted by Sassuolo players – and put the result beyond all doubt.

While they may have faulted at times in attack, Italy were rock solid in defence, keeping a sixth straight clean sheet on the road, which is their longest run.

In no mood to pick fault with his side, Mancini told RAI Sport: "All games are difficult, especially against teams like Bulgaria who put everyone behind the ball and just wait for the counter-attack.

"Until you find the breakthrough, there are no spaces and it makes life difficult.

"We are at a moment of the season where the players are a little tired. We didn't allow a single chance in the first half, and we only did in the second after we wasted numerous opportunities to extend our lead.

"As I said, there is no such thing as an easy match. The other teams don't give you space and instead just try to neutralise you. Until you get the opening goal, that's at a deadlock.

"I still think we put in a very good performance in the circumstances. We tried after the second goal tonight to score a third, which is what we should've done against Northern Ireland.

"I don’t see other sides winning 7-0 or 8-0 either this week. We know goal difference is important, but the points mean even more and we hope to beat Switzerland."

Andrea Belotti was on target and Manuel Locatelli netted his first international goal as Italy continued their perfect start to World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 win over Bulgaria.

Roberto Mancini's men dispatched Northern Ireland 2-0 in their Group C opener on Thursday and joined Switzerland on six points with a routine victory from a rather stale contest in Sofia.

Belotti, who scored on his last Italy appearance in November, put them ahead – his penalty breaking the deadlock in the 43rd minute.

Italy's number nine missed two chances to put the result beyond all doubt but, with Bulgaria hardly offering a threat going the other way, Locatelli's superb finish wrapped up the points late on.

Federico Chiesa snatched at the only opening of a cagey opening half-an-hour, the Juventus winger flashing wide after latching onto Marco Verratti's pass.

Despite failing to register a shot on target, Italy got a chance to go ahead when Belotti was bundled over in the 42nd minute.

Taking the penalty he won, the Torino striker made no mistake, planting a firm finish into the bottom-left corner.

Bulgaria were furious not to be awarded a penalty of their own 11 minutes after the restart, with their appeals for a handball from Stefano Sensi dismissed.

Gianluigi Donnarumma had to make a superb save in the same move, though Birsent Karagaren was subsequently flagged offside.

Belotti twice went close as Italy pressed to settle the contest, hitting the post with a deft lob before lashing over on the rebound.

Yet there was little chance Italy would be left to rue Belotti's profligacy, and any lingering Bulgaria hopes were dashed when Locatelli curled in his maiden Azzurri goal.

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