Italy coach Roberto Mancini was pleased with his side's display against Spain on Wednesday despite a 2-1 defeat ending their world-record 37-game unbeaten run.

La Roja booked their place in Sunday's Nations League final thanks to two Ferran Torres strikes before half-time.

The Azzurri's cause was not helped by Leonardo Bonucci receiving a second yellow card in between the Manchester City forward's double.

Lorenzo Pellegrini halved the deficit seven minutes from full-time, but Luis Enrique's men held firm to set up a clash with either France or Belgium in Sunday's decider.

While disappointed that his side's superb unbeaten run was over, Mancini was not too hard on his players.  

"Games are like this, sometimes incidents change them. The first half could easily have ended 1-1," Mancini told RAI Sport.

"Clearly, Spain keep the ball well, but it's disappointing to lose like this, down to 10. We made a mistake that we should not be making at this level.

"To be honest, I didn't see the second card, but that's not the point. Leo should not have got himself booked in either situation.

"Playing like this, scoring a goal and not conceding more when down to 10 men was a good performance.

"We needed some fresh legs and that helped when down to 10 men. We could've used some younger players, but I think that despite the defeat, this performance gave us strength."

 

The result was only the second time Italy have conceded more than one goal in a single match under Mancini's guidance, the previous such occasion a 3-1 defeat to France in June 2018.

Veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini echoed Mancini's sentiments and believes the defeat will make them stronger.

"It's a pity the defeat came in Milan, but there is pride for this extraordinary run of results," the Juventus defender said.

"It's a necessary stage in the growth process for a team that can still do far better. We knew it was a difficult match, we called for patience and clear minds, and sometimes you have to accept the opposition is a very strong team that causes you problems.

"It's a pity, we wanted to continue this unbeaten run, but the fact is this will help our growth process. We almost got it back on level terms when down to 10 men and 2-0 down, so that shows what we’re capable of."

Italy's world-record 37-game unbeaten run came to an end on Wednesday as Spain booked their place in the 2021 Nations League final with a 2-1 win at San Siro. 

Roberto Mancini's side overcame Spain in the last four of Euro 2020 in July, but they were blown away by a Roja side who will play the winners of Thursday's other semi-final between France and Belgium in the decider on Sunday. 

Ferran Torres was their star man, the Manchester City forward delivering two superb finishes either side of Leonardo Bonucci's dismissal for the Azzurri before half-time. 

Lorenzo Pellegrini set up a dramatic finale with a breakaway goal in the 83rd minute, yet Luis Enrique's side held firm in the closing stages to progress to the final. 

Spain started brightly and went ahead after 17 minutes when Torres steered a 10-yard volley past Gianluigi Donnarumma after being picked out by Mikel Oyarzabal's sumptuous cross.

Donnarumma almost gifted Spain a second less than a minute later as he fumbled Marcos Alonso's strike onto the post, while Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne went close to restoring parity at the other end.

Italy's hopes were dealt a blow three minutes before the interval when Bonucci received a second yellow card for catching Sergio Busquets with an elbow in an aerial challenge.

Spain capitalised on their numerical advantage in first-half stoppage time, Torres again getting on the end of an Oyarzabal cross to head into Donnarumma's far corner.

Oyarzabal should have made it three shortly after the hour mark, but his header from Yeremy's cross flew agonisingly wide of Donnarumma's right-hand post. 

The excellent Federico Chiesa teed Pellegrini up for a tap-in after a lightning quick break in the final 10 minutes, but Italy were unable to find the leveller that would have preserved their remarkable undefeated streak at least into extra time. 

Roberto Mancini has insisted Italy "have to improve" ahead of their Nations League semi-final with Spain, despite the Azzurri winning Euro 2020 in July.

Italy are also unbeaten in their last 37 games - a world record - with 30 wins and seven draws across all competitions and friendlies since October 2018.

Mancini's men bested Spain in a penalty shoot-out in the last four of the European Championships after a 1-1 draw in regular time in a fixture that Spain dominated, enjoying 71 per cent possession.

The former Manchester City and Inter head coach believes Spain remain the superior side in terms of keeping the ball and feels his team can still get better in that department.

"We suffered in that [Euro 2020 semi-final against Spain]," Mancini said. "Spain put us in trouble in possession, they have been doing it for 20 years and on this, they are ahead of us.

"We have to improve this game situation, be faster. We have to improve, we also have young players who have to play important competitions. We have 14 important months and we have to play better and better, offensive and balanced.

"[The Nations League] is an important competition. It is clear that it comes after a European Championship and preparing in such a short time is not easy but they are two matches among the four best in Europe and we want to improve, that's for sure."

Mancini also responded to Luis Enrique's claim that the Azzurri's unbeaten streak would end eventually, agreeing with his counterpart.

"We always want to win, then we know it will depend on us," Mancini continued. "[Enrique's] right, sooner or later [we will lose]. We would like to go on like this until December 2022, but we know it won't be that simple."

If Italy best Spain again on October 6, they will face one of Belgium or France in the Nations League final at San Siro on October 10.

After 15 years without success on the international stage, Italy could win a second title in three months this week as the 2021 Nations League concludes.

That may come as a surprise to some – after all, given how recent Euro 2020 was and the fact the Nations League Finals are taking place amid a busy World Cup qualification period, it wouldn't be unsurprising if most people had completely forgotten about UEFA's secondary competition.

But here we are, it's Finals week and hosts Italy have themselves a wonderful opportunity to clinch another trophy, with Portugal winning the inaugural competition – also in front of home crowds – two years ago.

France and Belgium will contest the second semi-final, with Italy going up against Spain first on Wednesday in a repeat of their Euro 2020 last-four clash, which Roberto Mancini's men won on penalties.

Italy head into the tournament amid a world-record 37-match unbeaten run, last month's draw with Switzerland and the subsequent 5-0 win over Lithuania taking them clear of Brazil and La Roja.

Of course, the Spain team that had previously equalled Brazil's world record back in 2009 were in the throes of their most successful period ever, and Italy will hope that's a sign of things to come for them.

 

Spain's semi-final hurdle

That legendary Spain side saw their 35-match unbeaten streak – a run that included Euro 2008 success – ended in 2009 by the United States.

While the Confederations Cup was never really seen as a hugely important title, hence FIFA pulling the plug on it in 2019, the USA's 2-0 win in the semi-finals 12 years ago was a fairly big deal.

Jozy Altidore's opener was the first goal Spain had conceded in 451 minutes of play and only their third concession in 17 matches, and it was added to by Clint Dempsey.

On the 10th anniversary, Spanish publication AS referred to it as "one of the biggest upsets in football history". A little hyperbolic? Sure, but it certainly was a shock.

For starters, it remains Spain's sole defeat in five meetings with the USA, while it's still their only loss to a CONCACAF nation in 23 matches.

But perhaps the key fact from Spain's perspective was coach Vicente del Bosque's assertion of it only being a "little step backward" stood the test of time – a little over a year later, Spain were World champions for the first time and then they followed that up with Euro 2012 success.

 

That made them the first team since the foundation of the World Cup in 1930 to win three successive major international titles.

It was an iconic side that was routinely filled with players who'll always be remembered as all-time greats for La Roja.

The foundation of their ascension to greatness lay in that unbeaten run, and Italy will a similar status awaits them, regardless of how long they stay undefeated for.

Star quality

Many took for granted just how many remarkable players that Spain squad contained – it's unlikely they'll ever produce the same collective greatness in such a small period.

Xavi was the metronome and, as such, a key component. He played in all but two of the 35 matches in that unbeaten run, with Sergio Ramos (31), David Villa and Iker Casillas (both 29) next on the list.

But when it came to goalscoring, one man above all was the crucial cog: Villa.

A lethal striker for Valencia, Barcelona and – to a slightly lesser extent – Atletico Madrid at the peak of his powers, Villa scored 23 goals during La Roja's famous run, almost three times as many as anyone else. Fernando Torres was next with eight.

 

Luis Enrique's current team could do with a player of Villa's skillset, given the dearth of quality available to him in that position. After all, his squad for this week has no recognised centre-forward in it, with Ferran Torres arguably the closest to fitting the bill.

Cesc Fabregas was the man supplying the best service for Spain's goals in that period, with his 12 assists the most impressive return, while Xavi and Andres Iniesta had seven apiece.

Spain's incredible run compromised of 32 wins and just three draws, while they scored 73 times and conceded only 11.

A team, no superstars

Of course, Italy's world-record effort has already proven successful, with the 37-match run including their Euro 2020 triumph.

And in certain ways, it has actually been more fruitful than Spain's, with the Azzurri scoring 93 goals and letting in just 12, though nine of those matches were drawn.

While Spain spent 174 minutes trailing, Italy have had even less time behind in matches, just 109 minutes, and 65 of those were in one match – the Euro 2020 final against England.

Italy have been much less reliant on a single goalscoring outlet as well, which is perhaps explained by the theory they are less a collection of superstars but instead a tremendous team unit.

Ciro Immobile is their top scorer over the past 37 matches, his haul of eight insignificant compared to Villa's 23, whereas Lorenzo Insigne has been their most reliable source of creativity with seven assists.

But 10 players have scored at least four times for Italy, compared to only five in that Spain team.

Roberto Mancini's comfort with rotating and being able to adapt to different groups of players has really shone through.

 

While the Spain side of Luis Aragones and then Del Bosque had 11 players feature 24 or more times, only five Italians have played that often in Mancini's run, while the most he has used any single starting XI is twice – Spain's most-used line-up was put out four times.

But the important thing most people remember when looking back at that Spain squad is not any specific unbeaten run in itself, but the wider context and history that streak was a part of.

Similarly with Italy, the vast majority of people in 10 or 15 years arguably won't give much thought to their world-record unbeaten run because winning Euro 2020 is a bigger deal.

But Mancini and Italy will surely be hoping that was just the start of a period of domination, one that Spain's unbeaten streak seemingly foretold.

 

While Nations League success isn't going to elevate them to iconic status, it does provide another opportunity to continue building on a winning mentality ahead of next year's World Cup, and the fact they are unbeaten in 61 competitive matches on home soil since 1999 is a good omen.

Succeed in Qatar and then we can start to talk about Italy's legacy.

Roberto Mancini admitted trying to win the Nations League is a daunting task despite succeeding at Euro 2020 with Italy.

Italy, who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, underwent a transformative period under Mancini, culminating in them winning Euro 2020 – their first European Championship since 1968.

The Azzurri, led by experienced campaigners such as Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, are on a 37-game unbeaten run as they prepare for their Nations League semi-final with Spain on Wednesday.

Indeed, Mancini's side required penalties to edge past Spain in the semi-finals at Euro 2020 and the 56-year-old is expecting another tough task against Luis Enrique's men at San Siro.

"Spain were the team we struggled against most during Euro 2020. They are a good team with good players," Mancini told UEFA's official website.

"It will be a good match. [Passing the ball on the ground is] something they are the best at. We didn’t have the time to master it at their level. It will be different this time.

"It would be amazing to win [the Nations League straight] after the European Championship and it would be amazing to qualify for the World Cup early, but it won't be that easy."

 

Italy were at a low ebb when Mancini was appointed and he immediately recalled familiar faces, settling on a more attacking mindset as he attempted to instil pride back in the team.

His side subsequently achieved glory – their first triumph since the 2006 World Cup – and the former Manchester City manager expressed his delight at delivering success for Italian football.

"It was great because we made many people happy, both young and old," Mancini continued. 

"So it was something for everybody. Something that made a lot of people happy, maybe also because of these times we have been living through. The fans have been enthusiastic, and we play to entertain people. It was a wonderful time.

"The best things about the Euro's? Probably the relationship we created within the team. It was a group that worked together for 50 days and that's not easy. 

"They were hard, tiring [days], but there weren't any issues. It was the chemistry and the love, that isn't something easy to obtain.

"[The perception of the Italy team] has changed, but we can't forget that Italy is a country that has won four World Cups. [We] are the European champions and have a significant history."

Gianluigi Donnarumma feels he has become a better goalkeeper since joining Paris Saint-Germain after training alongside Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

The Italy international signed for PSG on a free transfer in July after failing to come to an agreement with boyhood club Milan over a new contract.

He was one of a number of additions at the Parc des Princes during the transfer window, the highest-profile of which undoubtedly being Messi's arrival from Barcelona.

PSG already had fellow superstar forwards Neymar and Mbappe in their ranks and the duo, along with Messi, have helped Donnarumma develop both on and off the field.

"Training with them makes you improve a lot. Sometimes there are battles that make you grow," he said at a news conference on Monday while on Italy duty.

"Training with all these champions helps you develop as a human and as a player.

"It's a good challenge for me. I'm happy to train with them and grow, to move forward in this new challenge of mine. I always try to give my best."

Donnarumma has started PSG's last two matches and now appears to be Mauricio Pochettino's first choice, with Keylor Navas as back-up.

The 22-year-old was previously sharing goalkeeping duties with Navas but insists he did not fear losing his place in the Italy side as a result of his lack of regular minutes.

"That's not a problem," he said. "I went to PSG to play. It's normal that it's like this at the beginning. I'm sure everything will be great.

"I have no problems with the national time. I'm continuing on my path and hope everything will go well for me."

 

Despite his young age, Donnarumma has already appeared 218 times in Serie A and Ligue 1 combined since making his Milan debut aged 16 in October 2015.

Only Samir Handanovic (219) and Inaki Williams (220) have featured more regularly in Europe's top five leagues across that period.

Donnarumma has kept 72 clean sheets in those 218 league games and has a save percentage of 72.72.

Eleven others to have played at least 100 times in that timeframe rank higher in that metric than Donnarumma, with Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak (78.87) leading the way.

Donnarumma, who is set to start Italy's Nations League semi-final with Spain on Wednesday, therefore believes there is still room for further improvement.

"There's always a way to learn and get better," he said. "My target is to go higher and higher. There's always something to learn from the goalkeeper coach.

"We try to understand what I need to work on and improve. There's an excellent relationship between us. We try to structure the training in the best possible way.

"With the new coaches, there's a different comparison and this makes me happy for my growth."

Italy confirmed on Monday, meanwhile, that injured Atalanta midfielder Matteo Pessina has been replaced in their 23-man squad by Federico Dimarco for this week's Nations League Finals.

Bryan Gil has replaced Marcos Llorente in Spain's squad for the Nations League semi-final against Italy.

Atletico Madrid announced on Sunday that midfielder Llorente suffered a right thigh injury in their 2-0 LaLiga win over Barcelona on Saturday.

It is not clear how long he will be sidelined for but Llorente will play no part as Spain aim to get some small measure of revenge over European champions Italy, who beat them on penalties in the semi-finals of Euro 2020.

Instead, Tottenham winger Bryan will potentially get the chance to feature at San Siro on Wednesday.

Bryan has already won six caps for Spain during his international career and comes into Luis Enrique's squad despite a low-key start to his Spurs career.

Since joining Tottenham from Sevilla in July, Bryan has made only eight appearances in all competitions.

Three of those have come in the Premier League and four in the Europa Conference League with the other in the EFL Cup.

Bryan has yet to find the net for Spurs and has two chances created to his name.

 

Luis Enrique has no interest in replacing Ronald Koeman at Barcelona while he is still under contract as Spain head coach.

Koeman is under growing pressure at Camp Nou following Wednesday's 3-0 defeat to Benfica, which makes it back-to-back defeats for Barca to begin a Champions League campaign for the first time ever.

The Catalan giants have now won just one of their past five matches in all competitions ahead of Saturday's trip to reigning LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid.

According to reports from Spain, Barca chiefs will consider replacing Koeman during the upcoming international break should they fall to another defeat this weekend.

Luis Enrique is rumoured to be one of the club's top choices to take over should Koeman leave, but the former Blaugrana boss intends to serve the rest of his contract with Spain, which is due to expire after the World Cup in December 2022.

Asked if Barcelona president Joan Laporta had contacted him regarding the position, Luis Enrique said: "I don't think he has my phone number.

"I'm a coach here for a second time, and it's my custom to keep my word. I'll be here until my contract ends, for sure.

"Despite my proud history with that club, I don't want to get involved in other people's business."

Luis Enrique, who won nine trophies across a hugely successful three-year spell in charge of Barca, was speaking at a news conference on Thursday after announcing Spain's 23-man squad for the upcoming Nations League Finals.

Spain face European champions Italy in next Wednesday's semi-final at San Siro, with the winners of that match to take on either Belgium or France in the final four days later.

 

The high-profile match in Milan presents La Roja with a chance to exact some revenge following their penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 semi-finals a little under three months ago.

The Azzurri went on to beat England on penalties in the final and have remained unbeaten in their three World Cup qualifiers since that Wembley triumph.

Roberto Mancini's men set a new all-time record of 37 matches without defeat in men's international football with their 5-0 win over Lithuania earlier this month, surpassing the benchmark previously set by Brazil between 1993 and 1996.

"Italy are at their peak and were deserving champions at the Euros," Luis Enrique told reporters. "They have continued with that streak since then, but the day they lose for the first time is near. 

"We were capable of beating them in the tournament, but we didn't. This game will demand a lot from us as they are a team of the highest level, which is where we want to be.

"Whichever players I select on the day, I hope it will be another spectacular game."

Leonardo Bonucci has continued to rub salt into the wounds of England after Italy's success in the Euro 2020 final, saying Declan Rice played a part in motivating the tournament winners.

West Ham midfielder Rice said ahead of the final in July that England would be 10 times more ready than their opponents for the Wembley showpiece.

Those words, and the repetitive playing of England's Three Lions song after the country's semi-final win over Denmark, fuelled Bonucci and his team-mates, who ultimately won the competition on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

"We didn't pay much attention to it [the Three Lions song] until the Spain game," Bonucci, who ridiculed England's 'It's Coming Home' catchphrase on the pitch after Italy's win, said in an interview with The Athletic.

"Then the anger inside of us began to mount. We wanted to show them that the final hadn't already been decided. That they hadn't already won. 

"Hearing that song on repeat and the comment from Declan Rice saying England were 10 times more motivated to win than us – well, they're the kind of mistakes young players make. 

"You don't say that. You should never say you want something more than somebody else, or you're better than somebody else.

"You should always put yourself on the same level as your opponent, keep a low profile and strike at the right moment. That's what we did."

 

Italy also won their semi-final against Spain on penalties, and Bonucci felt Roberto Mancini's men had the right mix of confidence and humility.

The Juventus defender added: "We never said we were going to win, just that we were an inch away from going all the way and getting the right result.

"We were never presumptuous about it. We stayed humble and that's what made the difference.

"We had a great team, a great coach and a great staff behind us. To give our country and ourselves that kind of joy was something truly special."

Italy and Argentina will face each other in June 2022 after UEFA and CONMEBOL agreed to stage a series of matches between the European Championship and Copa America winners. 

Euro 2020 holders Italy, who ended a 53-year wait for the trophy by defeating England in July, are set to take on Copa America 2021 victors Argentina next year.

While a venue is yet to be confirmed for the inaugural fixture, there will also be further games held between the respective winners after the next two editions of each tournament. 

A statement from the governing bodies said: "UEFA and CONMEBOL have today announced the broadening of their existing cooperation as well as the staging of a match between the UEFA Euro 2020 winners Italy and the CONMEBOL Copa America 2021 winners Argentina during the international window in June 2022 at a venue to be confirmed. 

"The organising of this match is part of the expansion of the cooperation between UEFA and CONMEBOL, which notably includes women’s football, futsal and youth categories, the exchange of referees, as well as technical training schemes. 

"The agreement reached by the two organisations currently covers three editions of this match between the respective continental winners and includes the opening of a joint office in London, which will be in charge of coordinating projects of common interest. 

"By reaching this agreement, UEFA and CONMEBOL express their commitment to the development of football beyond their geographical zones, as a bridge uniting people, countries, continents and cultures. 

"The UEFA Executive Committee and the CONMEBOL Council also expressed a strong willingness to continue collaborating on other issues of mutual interest going forward." 

The agreement signifies a strengthening of the working relationship between the organisations, both of whom have openly opposed FIFA's plans for a biennial World Cup. 

With UEFA and CONMEBOL improving relations between one another, it could prove vital for knocking back FIFA's proposed changes, which remain in the pipeline with their Chief of Global Development Arsene Wenger leading the charge. 

European champions Italy are on a world record 37-game unbeaten streak, but they remain lodged at number five in the FIFA rankings.

The world governing body published its new list on Thursday and the only change in the top five saw England jump to third, nudging France down to fourth.

England were runners-up to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, losing on penalties at Wembley after a 1-1 draw, and two wins and a draw from World Cup qualifiers in September have seen Gareth Southgate's team edge ahead of Les Bleus.

It is the first time since 2012 that England have reached the top three, and third place remains the highest position they have achieved in the rankings.

Didier Deschamps' France could only manage two draws and a win in this month's international break, while Italy were held by Bulgaria and Switzerland before landing a 5-0 victory over Lithuania.

Italy have been a roaring success under the leadership of Roberto Mancini, who inherited a team that failed to qualify for the last World Cup and had plummeted to 21st in FIFA's rankings.

They set the record for the most games unbeaten at international level during their run of September games, staying in control as leaders of World Cup European qualifying Group C.

With FIFA's rankings offering significant weighting to World Cup tournament performance, Italy could make a significant leap should their strong form under coach Mancini continue into the Qatar 2022 finals.

Belgium remain top of the FIFA list, with Brazil in second. Copa America winners Argentina stay sixth.

 

Roberto Mancini is wary about the prospect of the World Cup taking place every two years, with Italy's Euro 2020 winning boss calling for talks to weigh up the FIFA proposal.

The current men's international match calendar ends in 2024 and former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is seeking to shape a new schedule in his role as FIFA's chief of global football development.

However's, the plans being pushed by Wenger have been met with opposition, with CONMEBOL and UEFA both coming out vehemently against his core idea.

The World Cup has traditionally been a tournament that has been held once every four years, and there are worries players could be overburdened and the competition devalued if it switches to a biennial event.

Mancini has not outright come out against the idea, but he wants it thoroughly examined.

"The World Cup every two years is something to be evaluated," Mancini said, quoted widely in the Italian media.

"The World Cup is fascinating because it comes once every four years. If you play every two, it would mean a World Cup, a European Championship, a World Cup, a European Championship. I don't know, we need to talk about it."

For now, Mancini is looking to build on his team's success in the recent European Championship, when they beat England on penalties in the final to be crowned kings of the continent.

The success put former Inter and Manchester City boss Mancini in the spotlight, and he has affirmed his commitment to Italy ahead of next year's World Cup in Qatar, ruling out a return to club management before that tournament.

Italy are closing in on a place in the finals, leading the way in Group C with four wins and two draws, extending their unbeaten record to an all-time record of 37 matches.

"Going back to coaching a club? Now there is the World Cup and then let's see," Mancini said. "We have to stay focused on the World Cup, we have to quickly secure qualification and we have to try to win the Nations League.

"I don't think about clubs and I am concentrated on the national team. Coaching the national team is the best thing."

Roberto Mancini was pleased with Italy's response to their weekend draw with Switzerland as they cruised past Lithuania 5-0 to set a new all-time record of 37 matches without defeat.

The Azzurri equalled Brazil's record with an underwhelming 0-0 draw against Switzerland on Sunday but they moved clear of the Selecao with a resounding win at Mapei Stadium on Wednesday.

Moise Kean was the star of the show, the Juventus man scoring twice in a pulsating first half that also saw an own goal from Edgaras Utkus and a Giacomo Raspadori strike – the Sassuolo man's first in international football.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo scored after the break as the European champions moved onto 14 points at the top of World Cup qualifying Group C, six points clear of second-place Switzerland after their goalless draw with Northern Ireland.

Mancini made eight changes from the side that drew with Switzerland and he was pleased with how his new-look starting XI acquitted themselves.

"Despite losing so many players over the last couple of days, the lads reacted well. Obviously, the opponents weren't of the highest quality, but you can't always score five or six goals, so they did well," he told RAI Sport.

"Anyone can make a mistake [the result with Switzerland], the important thing is to stay calm, not lose our heads, and it will be fine."

Kean and Raspadori took their chances to shine and Mancini insisted both players will be given more opportunities to impress.

"We already brought Raspadori to the Euros, we saw he has quality, but he is young and needs to gain experience," the Italy boss added.

"Of course, it's all in their minds and their feet. If they do what they need to do, work hard, remain organised on the field, then it depends on them, but they can have their chance."

 

Kean did not make the cut for Italy's triumphant Euro 2020 squad, but he shone in Reggio Emilia.

The 21-year-old scored with both his shots on target and was full of running as Italy swept their sorry opponents aside with ease.

Kean, who is back at Juventus after a torrid time in the Premier League with Everton, acknowledged it was not easy to watch his country's success from afar but said he is delighted to be back in the fold.

"It was important to get back in this shirt and give 100 per cent for the jersey, as it means so much to me every time," he said.

"It was not easy to be at home watching the Euros, but I was always in front of the television cheering on my team-mates. They brought home the trophy for Italy and that's what matters.

"It's all about hard work, how professionally I approach it. My team-mates gave me a warm welcome, I am working every day and returned with new objectives, a new mentality, and I'm always ready to help my team-mates."

Italy set a new all-time record of 37 matches without defeat as a Moise Kean brace helped them thump Lithuania 5-0 in World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.

Roberto Mancini's side equalled Brazil's record, set between 1993 and 1996, with a 0-0 draw against Switzerland at the weekend and the European champions moved clear of the Selecao in some style at Mapei Stadium.

The game was over as a contest by half-time courtesy of Kean's double either side of an own goal from Edgaras Utkus and Giacomo Raspadori's maiden international strike.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo rounded off the scoring early in the second half as the Azzurri moved onto 14 points at the summit of Group C, six points clear of second-placed Switzerland.

 

Italy wasted little time stamping their authority on the game, Mancini's men racing into a 2-0 lead after just 14 minutes.

Kean put them ahead with a clinical finish after a sloppy pass from Arvydas Novikovas, before Utkus inadvertently diverted Raspadori's 20-yard drive past Ernestas Setkus.

Sassuolo striker Raspadori did open his international account after 24 minutes, though, powering into the roof of the net from six yards, while Kean added another five minutes later, the Juventus man steering home a sumptuous volley from Federico Bernardeschi's lofted pass.

Di Lorenzo made it five nine minutes into the second half, the Napoli full-back scoring his first goal for his country with a cross that looped into Setkus' far corner. 

Gaetano Castrovilli thundered against the post from 18 yards in the closing stages as Italy cruised to a record-breaking three points with the minimum of fuss.

What does it mean? Fresh faces deliver for Mancini

Mancini shuffled his pack after admitting his players were "tired" following the draw with Switzerland and his new-look starting XI were anything but sluggish during an electric opening 45 minutes.

They slowed down after the interval, but the damage had been done against a sorry Lithuania side who have now lost all five of their Group C matches.  

Resurgent Kean shines

Kean doubled his international tally with two first-half strikes, the second of which will have had Juventus fans licking their lips at the prospect of what he can achieve this season after a torrid time in England with Everton.

Quiet game for Jorginho

Captaining his country for the first time, Jorginho endured a subdued game. The Chelsea midfielder failed to take a shot or play a single key pass during his 61 minutes on the pitch.

What's next?

Italy face Spain in the Nations League next month before wrapping up their qualifying campaign against Switzerland and Northern Ireland in November. Lithuania, meanwhile, face Bulgaria and Switzerland in Group C in October.

Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Ronald Levy and compatriots Stephenie-Ann McPherson and Shanieka Ricketts were among the winners on Sunday at the Meeting Citta di Padova in Italy where American Sha’Carri Richardson ended up on the podium in the 100m.

Levy, who ran 13.10 to win the bronze medal in the 110m hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics last month,  clocked 13.34 to win the event ahead of Italy’s Paolo Dal Molin.

The Italian clocked 13.45 while Brazil’s Rafael Pereira was third in 13.66.

McPherson, in her first race since she suffered an injury in the final of the 400m at the Olympics, ran a smart 50.78 for victory in the one-lapper. Authorised Neutral Athlete Polina Miller finished as the runner-up in a time of 50.96.

Junelle Bromfield made it a Jamaica 1-3 as she took third in 51.19.

Ricketts led a Caribbean 1-2-3 in the triple jump that she won with 14.74. Standout Dominican jumper Thea LaFond was second with her best effort of 14.57m while Cuba’s Liadagmis Povea took the final podium spot with 14.35.

Meanwhile, Sha’Carri Richardson, who has had more bark than bite in recent races, was a close second-place finisher in the 100m. The 21-year-old American, who was ninth in the 100m in Eugene last month and fourth over 200m in Brussels on September 3, clocked 11.19, the same time as winner Javianne Oliver.

It was an American 1-2-3 as Candace Hill finished third in 11.26. Olympic relay gold medalist Briana Williams finished fifth in a pedestrian 11.44.

 

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.