Italy coach Roberto Mancini is already targeting World Cup glory in 2026, as the Azzurri prepare to "suffer" through this year's tournament after failing to qualify.

The European champions will be the most high-profile side to miss the tournament in Qatar after slipping to a humiliating play-off defeat to North Macedonia in March.

Italy were also absent from Russia in 2018 following a play-off loss to Sweden, meaning their exile from football's most storied competition will stretch to a minimum of 12 years.

The Azzurri also suffered group-stage exits in 2010 and 2014, meaning their most recent World Cup knockout tie remains 2006's final victory over France.

Mancini, however, is determined to end Italy's World Cup woes when the tournament heads to the United States, Mexico and Canada in four years' time, and believes their failure to reach Qatar was unjust. 

"Winning with the national team is the best thing there can be," he said at an event in Rome. 

"Giving Italians such joy is incredible, now we have to wait four years. We will aim to win the next World Cup in America.

"We are working, unfortunately we will suffer until December - the disappointment of not qualifying for the World Cup does not pass me. 

"It was totally unfair, but the defeats must be faced. We did not deserve to stay out of the World Cup, but unfortunately, that's how it went."

Asked why he chose to continue as Italy coach following their play-off embarrassment, the former Manchester City boss added: "Honestly, I don't know, at that moment I just wanted to turn the page because it went badly. 

"But winning the European Championship gives an incredible joy. Now we have to wait a few years and then we want to try for those emotions again."

Italy have since salvaged some pride by winning their Nations League group, finishing above Hungary, Germany and England to reach next year's finals.

And Mancini was keen to emphasise the difficulty of that achievement, adding: "It wasn't easy, the boys put everything in. 

"England are a danger to win the World Cup, they have an incredible squad and Hungary are a very physical team."

Italy will contest friendlies against Albania and Austria when elite club football pauses for the World Cup in November. 

Roberto Mancini was not entirely satisfied by Italy's Nations League win over Hungary, while Marco Rossi hailed Gianluigi Donnarumma as the "best goalkeeper in the world".

Goals from Giacomo Raspadori and Federico Dimarco saw the Azzurri leapfrog their hosts to top Group A3 and qualify for next year's finals, alongside Croatia and the Netherlands.

Yet the visitors were forced to weather a late onslaught from Hungary, kept in the game through Paris Saint-Germain keeper Donnarumma, who lived up to his reputation with a string of impressive saves.

That gradually eroded control over the match frustrated Mancini, who felt his side rested on their laurels too much across the closing stages of Monday's encounter.

"It was a difficult game," he told RAI Sport. "It was all perfect until the final 20 minutes.

"We really need to improve in our ability to control the game for 90 minutes, as we worked so hard to be 2-0 up, so suffering like that in the final 20 minutes just makes no sense.

"We should have kept pushing for a third goal. I lost my voice because I was shouting so much in the final 20 minutes."

Rossi, who played alongside Mancini in a brief stint with Sampdoria almost three decades ago and embraced warmly at full-time, was more philosophical on his side's defeat.

However, the Italian was fast to praise countryman Donnarumma, who after something of a mixed first year at PSG following his Euro 2020 heroics, looks back to his best this season.

"It would have been nice to perform a miracle tonight, but when you play against teams like Italy, you have to make zero mistakes and hope the other side get it wrong," Rossi said in his post-match press conference.

"Even when we did have the chances, we were kept out by the best goalkeeper in the world. It's no coincidence that PSG signed Donnarumma."

Rossi also hailed Hungary's supporters, praising their "great respect and civility" for their opponents in Budapest.

"I've been in football for many years," he added. "I've seen packed stadiums and fans on their feet, but never anything like the passion you can feel when Hungary play on home turf."

Italy boss Roberto Mancini says he is "pleased" to see Hungary thriving under former team-mate Marco Rossi, as the pair face off for a winner-takes-all Nations League clash.

The two sides meet in their final match in Group A3 on Monday, with the Azzurri needing victory in order to leapfrog their hosts into next year's finals in Budapest.

In a group that also included 2014 World Cup winners Germany and Euro 2020 finalists England, Hungary had been written off as easy pickings for relegation from the A tier of the Nations League.

But wins over both nations has catapulted them to top spot, and Mancini said he is delighted to see former Sampdoria team-mate Rossi showcasing his skill, stating that he is under no illusion of the task at hand.

"Playing in Hungary is never easy, but I am pleased that they have done so well in the Nations League, especially as their coach is my former team-mate," he stated.

"I see it as 50-50, because they can also count on a draw to go through. The fact we are here challenging for first place with 90 minutes to go is already pleasing, so we'll give it our all."

Italy will be without Ciro Immobile for the trip despite the striker making the journey to the airport, only to be left behind when the squad flew to Hungary.

Reports that Lazio's president Claudio Loitio ordered him to remain behind owing to a slight thigh issue were not commented on by Mancini, though he admitted the forward was not worth the risk.

"We tried and Immobile did everything right in trying to stay with us, but this morning we decided it wasn’t worth the risk," he added.

"It was disappointing for him and for us. Ciro would happily have stayed, and he did during the first game, but it was too dangerous to risk it.

"He wasn't in awful shape, but hasn't trained with us for three days. We met up when arriving in Milan, but his absence had already been discussed."

Roma's Leonardo Spinazzola has revealed he chose to miss Italy's Nations League fixtures to conduct individual training this month, as he continues his recovery from a serious Achilles tendon injury.

Spinazzola enjoyed a breakthrough on the international stage during Italy's successful Euro 2020 campaign last year, impressing as an attacking left-back for Roberto Mancini's side.

However, he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during the Azzurri's quarter-final win over Belgium in July 2021, returning to feature in just three Serie A matches before the end of last season.

The 29-year-old has appeared in all seven of the Giallorossi's league games this campaign, but revealed his previous injury continues to have an impact after opting to skip Italy's Nations League matches against England and Hungary.

"Not to go to Coverciano was my request to Roberto Mancini, the coach understood and allowed me these 10 days to get back in shape and do specific work for the calf," he told the club's media channels.

"I think mine is one of the worst injuries for a player, especially given my characteristics. I still lack some support and speed."

Roma are four points adrift of early Serie A pace-setters Napoli and Atalanta, but the arrival of Paulo Dybala and influence of coach Jose Mourinho have seen them tipped as potential title challengers.

Spinazzola spoke highly of the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss, adding: "We are with him, whatever he says, we do. If he told us to go to war, we would do it. 

"That's right, he has this gift. Then everything he says, for the most part, comes true.

"But he is very calm in training. I don't know how he was in the past, but he's really calm. Sometimes he just observes from above. 

"He likes to observe how you move, how you move your body, your body language, he observes a lot of these things."

Roma were beaten by Atalanta in their last league outing, and will face a huge test of their Serie A credentials when they travel to another of Mourinho's former clubs Inter on October 1.

Roberto Mancini praised Italy's new generation following a 1-0 victory over England in the Nations League.

Giacomo Raspadori's strike at San Siro condemned the Three Lions to relegation to League B, while Italy will face off against Hungary on Monday to decide who will advance to the Nations League finals.

Having failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, Mancini has looked to younger players for the future as the likes of 22-year-old Raspadori have made an impression for the European champions and hailed the displays of his young guns.

"We rebooted in June and were always in the running in this Nations League group. Clearly, we need these games, these wins, so we can grow," he said.

"I expected a good performance and knew it would be difficult, because many of tonight's lads are inexperienced at this level, with not even 30 per cent of England's caps, but I think we won deservedly."

Mancini was then asked why Italy are seemingly more effective when under pressure than in games where they are clear favourites but disagreed that this was the case.

"I don't think we threw anything away, football has an element of luck to it. We won the Euros on penalties, we deserved to win it, then failed to qualify for the World Cup after two games we dominated and did not win against Switzerland," he explained.

"We made mistakes too, that is obvious. I don't know if today was our best performance of the Nations League, we did well against Hungary and Germany too."

As for England, Mancini remains confident that Gareth Southgate's side can be contenders at the World Cup in Qatar and played down the significance of relegation from the Nations League.

"It's always satisfying to beat England, but especially after the difficult time we've had recently, it takes a little pressure off and that is important," he added.

"In my opinion, England are one of the best teams in the world and will have a good chance at the tournament. I don't think they will care too much about the relegation."

Roberto Mancini believes reaching the Nations League Finals could help to ease the "suffering" coming Italy's way when the World Cup begins.

Italy have failed to qualify for the World Cup for the second time in succession, with their disappointment magnified this time after they won the delayed Euro 2020 in July 2021 but then flopped in the final stages of Qatar 2022 qualifying.

On Friday, the Azzurri tackle England in Milan, a repeat meeting of the European final that Italy won on penalties at Wembley.

The teams have met since that occasion, slogging out a goalless draw at Molineux in June in their initial Nations League clash.

Mancini is hoping this latest reunion stirs something in his players that carries them to victory, given they have ground to make up on Hungary and Germany in Group A3, where England sit surprisingly bottom after four games. The Finals will be contested next June.

“There is enthusiasm for such a beautiful match and something that gives us a reminder," Mancini said. "I think winning the European Championship after 50 years was quite important.

"Getting to the Finals would give us joy, since from mid-November to mid-December there will be suffering.

"Tomorrow we have a very tough match against one of the best teams in the world, full of talents. We will need that team spirit that has always distinguished us. And then we will have to try to play well. Playing in a simple way is always the best thing."

Italy are without the injured Marco Verratti, Sandro Tonali, Matteo Politano and Lorenzo Pellegrini, but even with his midfield resources stretched, Mancini seemingly ruled out a change of system.

"If changing the game system ensured victory, then we would always change it. I don't think it changes much," he said. "Our national team has an identity that is what has led us to do well for a long time."

The game will see Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci line up against England once more, having scored the equaliser that preceded Italy's penalty shoot-out success at Wembley in last year's Euros.

Excluding penalty shoot-outs, England have only lost two of their past 26 matches, both against Hungary in June 2022 (W18 D6). The Three Lions are winless in four matches, however (D2 L2), last having a longer winless run in June 2014 (five matches), with one of those games being a 2-1 defeat to Italy at the World Cup.

Bonucci is hoping Italy can harness memories of Wembley to boost their prospects at San Siro.

The Italians need a pick-me-up after conceding 13 goals in their previous seven matches, including a 5-2 mauling by Germany last time out, the first time the Azzurri had shipped five in a game since a 1957 game against Yugoslavia. Italy had conceded only 15 goals in their previous 40 games before the recent sharp decline.

Bonucci said: “We must not forget the beautiful emotions we experienced. I believe that this national team does not lack enthusiasm, even if it must be amplified with victories.

"Tomorrow is an important match to understand where we are on this new path. There is no better match than this to build something important."

Giorgio Chiellini believes Manchester United "require too much" from Harry Maguire due to the centre-back's hefty price tag.

Maguire has been named among the substitutes for United's past four Premier League games after being dropped by Erik ten Hag.

The England international, who joined United for a record £80million fee for a defender in August 2019, paid the price for defeats to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford.

While Chiellini does not regard Maguire as being in the same category as legendary United defender Rio Ferdinand, he feels the ex-Leicester City player is unfairly judged.

"I am sad for Maguire's situation because he's a good player," Chiellini, who retired from international duty in April with 117 caps to his name, told The Times.

"They require too much of him. Just because they paid £80m for him, he has to be the best in the world every match? It's not right.

"The value of the market is dependent on many aspects you can't control. It's not your fault. Okay, Maguire maybe is not Rio Ferdinand but he's good enough."

Maguire has played 190 minutes for United across their six matches in all competitions this season, which is only the 13th most of all their players.

Despite his lack of playing time, the centre-back is part of Gareth Southgate's England squad for the upcoming Nations League matches with Italy and Germany.

England's clash with Italy in Milan on Friday is a repeat of the Euro 2020 final, which the Azzurri won 3-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time.

The Three Lions enter the game out of form, though, having failed to win any of their first four Nations League matches – their longest winless run since June 2014 (five games).

That includes a heavy 4-0 loss to Hungary last time out – their worst home defeat for 94 years – but Italy head coach Roberto Mancini rates Southgate's side highly.

"I think England are one of the best teams in the world. They're full of talent, especially the forwards," said Mancini, whose side played out a 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture.

"They have many players apart from Harry Kane, who is an extraordinary player, but the young players around him can make a difference. So it will be a very hard match for us."

England are bottom of Group A3 ahead of facing Italy, who are three points better off in third despite a heavy 5-2 loss to Germany in their most recent match.

Mancini added: "It's a game we face at a particular moment for us. They are in better shape, but we have the enthusiasm and we can play a good game."

Italy boss Roberto Mancini has confirmed his side will be without Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti for their Nations League matches with England and Hungary.

Verratti was substituted off during the second half of PSG's Ligue 1 victory at Lyon on Sunday with an apparent calf problem.

PSG boss Christophe Galtier said after the game that the 29-year-old would delay linking up with the Italy squad to instead undergo a scan in Paris on Monday.

And Mancini is now preparing for Friday's visit of England and the trip to Hungary three days later without Verratti, with Sassuolo's Davide Frattesi in line for a call-up, while there was better news regarding Milan's Sandro Tonali and Napoli's Matteo Politano.

"Verratti is not available. He's picked up a knock," Mancini said at a press conference on Monday. "I'll probably call Frattesi to replace him.

"As for the other players, Tonali's problem is not a big one and Politano feels well."

Italy drew with Germany and England either side of beating Hungary in their first three Group A3 matches, before going down 5-2 in the reverse fixture with Germany last time out.

The reigning European champions are third, two points off leaders Germany and three points ahead of England in the relegation spot.

"Anything can happen in this group," Mancini said. "It wasn't pleasant losing 5-2 in the last game, but even then I saw some positive signs.

"Sometimes you need these kind of games to help you improve. It came at the end of the last season when we played a lot of matches.

"But the younger players have gained experience and we've done well overall with the five points collected."

Gianluca Scamacca has revealed Roberto Mancini was influential in his decision to leave Sassuolo for West Ham, with the Italy head coach believing a Premier League move was best for his development.

Scamacca, who had been linked with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain earlier in the transfer window, signed a five-year contract with the option of an extra 12 months at the London Stadium on Tuesday.

West Ham have reportedly agreed to pay an initial £30.5million (€36m) for the towering centre-forward, who scored 16 Serie A goals for Sassuolo last term.

Among players to have scored 15 or more goals in a top-five European league in 2021-22, only three were younger than 23-year-old Scamacca, namely Erling Haaland (22 goals), Vinicius Junior (17) and Dusan Vlahovic (24).

Scamacca's form with the Neroverdi led to him breaking into Mancini's Italy squad, making seven appearances for the Azzurri since his debut last year.

The striker made UEFA Nations League starts against Germany and England in June as Mancini looked to remould Italy's attack in the wake of their failure to reach the Qatar World Cup.

After making his move to east London, Scamacca revealed he had discussed his future with Manchester City's 2011-12 title-winning boss.

"We spoke before I came here, and he said it was the best place for me," Scamacca told West Ham's website. 

"[He wanted me] playing in a tournament that would help me to get better and improve, because the Premier League is the best league."

Scamacca could make his Premier League debut when West Ham face Mancini's former side at the London Stadium on August 7.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini has urged Roma attacker Nicolo Zaniolo to not waste time and fulfil his potential amid speculation over a move to Juventus.

Zaniolo scored the winner for Jose Mourinho's Roma in the Europa Conference League final against Feyenoord back in May.

But the 23-year-old, who is one of Italy's hottest prospects, has otherwise been repeatedly frustrated by injuries and failure to deliver when offered the chance to perform.

The winger missed Italy's victorious Euro 2020 campaign with an anterior cruciate ligament injury and was absent for the entire 2020-21 term due to a reoccurrence of the same issue.

Zaniolo managed 28 games in Serie A in the 2021-22 campaign – his most since joining Roma in 2018 – but only registered two goals and as many assists, his worst return for the Giallorossi.

As reports grow over a move to Juve, who have recently brought in Paul Pogba and Angel Di Maria, Mancini says the clock is ticking for the Italy international to start performing.

Pressed on whether joining Juve would be beneficial to both Zaniolo and Italy, Mancini told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "I can't say. I know he needs to understand the luck which has guided him.

"In a flash, he had the national side and Roma, he cannot waste any more time and opportunities."

Sassuolo forward Gianluca Scamacca is another to be linked with a transfer away, with Paris Saint-Germain reportedly interested in bringing the striker to the French capital.

The 23-year-old has seven Italy caps to his name and scored 16 times in 36 league appearances last season, yet Mancini wants to see more from Scamacca.

"He has everything to be a top centre-forward and he knows it," Mancini added.

"But he needs to do a little bit more, above all in terms of character: when the level increases, technical and physical qualities help but aren't enough."

Roberto Mancini has revealed he twice considered stepping down as Italy head coach, but is now determined to win the World Cup with his country after deciding to stay on.

The 57-year-old guided Italy to Euro 2020 success exactly one year ago, only to then miss out on qualification for Qatar 2022 following a shock play-off loss to North Macedonia.

It is the second successive World Cup the four-time winners have missed out on, having previously failed to reach Russia 2018.

Despite the latest disappointing qualifying campaign, Italian Football Federation president Gabriele Gravina confirmed in March that Mancini would remain in the job if he wished.

However, Mancini has admitted he contemplated walking away after the loss to North Macedonia, as well as eight months prior after beating England in the Euro 2020 final.

"It was more [likely] the second time," the former Manchester City and Inter boss told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I found myself in a really difficult situation. 

"I thought about it a bit after Wembley but there was a World Cup a little more than a year later."

Italy's next shot at World Cup glory will now have to wait until 2026 when Canada, Mexico and the United States will jointly host the competition, which will be expanded to feature 48 sides rather than 32.

And Mancini, who took charge of Italy in May 2018, intends to still be in charge by the time that tournament comes around.

"From when I became manager, I had an objective: win the Euros and a World Cup," he said. "A year ago, with the cup in my hands, I told myself: 'I'm going after the other'.

"I was thinking about this World Cup [in Qatar] – obviously that isn't the case. But I continue to think we will win one, yes."

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."

Paul Pogba would be an "excellent" acquisition for Juventus should the Bianconeri manage to re-sign the former Manchester United midfielder, according to Italy legend Marco Tardelli.

Pogba, who spent four trophy-laden years in Turin between 2012 and 2016, has been strongly linked with a return to Juventus after his United departure was confirmed.

No United player registered as many Premier League assists (38) or chances created (231) as Pogba during his six-year spell at Old Trafford, although his second spell at the club ended in disappointing fashion, with the 2018 World Cup winner playing just 1,354 minutes of domestic league football last season.

Tardelli, who won five Serie A titles with Juventus during his playing career, insisted that while returning to a former club is always difficult, Pogba would be an ideal signing for coach Massimiliano Allegri.

"I believe that returns are always difficult, because there are higher expectations," Tardelli said, quoted by ANSA. "But it is an excellent acquisition."

Tardelli said Juventus needed to sign players who could make "an important contribution in every department". The squad is set for an overhaul, after finishing fourth in Serie A for a second successive season, having won the title in each of the nine previous campaigns.

 

The fact there are unusually few prominent Italian players at Juventus may not be helping the national team, who missed out on qualification for the World Cup and sit third in Nations League group A3 after winning just one of their first four games.

None of the five players to have played the most Serie A minutes for Juventus in the 2021-22 season (Wojciech Szczesny, Matthijs de Ligt, Juan Cuadrado, Alvaro Morata and Adrien Rabiot) are Italian, with Manuel Locatelli sixth on that list.

Roberto Mancini's Italy endured a disappointing international break in June, being thrashed 5-2 by Germany on Tuesday having begun the month with a 3-0 reverse to a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina at Wembley, and Tardelli also believes the Azzurri are missing an elite forward.

"There is a block of foreigners [at Juventus] more than anything else," Tardelli said. "[Italy forwards Gianluca] Scamacca and [Giacomo] Raspadori play for Sassuolo, a team with little international experience.

"We lack a champion, especially in the advanced department, a player who manages to invent a pass, not strictly the number nine.

"If you don't score a goal there is always a problem, but I have faith in Scamacca, I also had it in [Ciro] Immobile but, if you don't show signs, you are criticised.

"Mancini is doing an excellent job; he is trying to find young people, and he has done it well in some cases. We need to have patience and hope to find a champion like [Francesco] Totti, like [Roberto] Baggio or like [Alessandro] Del Piero, because now I don't see him yet."

Robert Mancini has expressed his excitement at the future after offering opportunities to a number of young players with Italy during the Nations League campaign.

Italy crashed out in the World Cup play-offs to North Macedonia, failing to make Qatar 2022 after missing out on the tournament in Russia four years earlier.

That capped a turbulent period in Italian football after winning Euro 2020, with many questioning Serie A coaches for allowing younger domestic players the chance to develop.

Mancini responded by promising more opportunities for youthful players with Italy, after the 'Finalissima' defeat to Argentina at Wembley Stadium at the start of June's international schedule.

Davide Frattesi, Federico Gatti and Gianluca Scamacca were among that emerging crop to feature in the Nations League campaign, with Italy drawing two games and winning the other.

That has left the Azzurri top of League A Group 3, which includes Germany, England and Hungary, ahead of Tuesday's clash with Hansi Flick's side.

Coach Mancini revealed he is learning a lot as he looks ahead to the future.

"I saw some guys who can have a great future," he said. "The level in the national team is very high. I think the boys need to have the chance to play.

"The first time they made me play was Radice, 1981, in the first team. It wasn't Serie A, it was a New Year's tournament.

"At the first ball they gave me, I lifted my foot and the ball passed, I did not touch it. For a young person, it is not easy, you have to have confidence and let them play even without optimal performance.

"It can be an important thing, it is possible to get to know them more closely. Seeing those guys for three days gave us the opportunity to understand who could be more ready."

While Mancini has started to utilise younger players, he remains unsure how Lorenzo Insigne will progress playing in MLS for Toronto FC.

"He will depend on how he will be and what will happen there. He has given so much to us, he is a great player, it depends on what happens in MLS," he added.

Italy head coach Robert Mancini admitted he is surprised by his inexperienced side's start to the Nations League following their 0-0 draw with England on Saturday.

Without midfield lynchpin Marco Verratti and the likes of Federico Chiesa and Andrea Belotti, the Azzurri put in an encouraging performance in Saturday's Euro 2020 final rematch, earning a point at the Molineux Stadium.

With the majority of the squad earning less than ten caps before this international window, Italy lead Group 3 after three games on five points, ahead of Hungary, Germany and England, who are bottom of the group on two points.

While conceding Italy are in early stages of transition after their failure to qualify for the World Cup, Mancini revealed he expected this initial period to be more volatile.

"I’ll be honest, I did not expect this. I thought it would be worse," he confessed. "We still have a lot to work on, there’s a long road ahead full of dangers.

"We certainly need to score more goals and if Davide Frattesi had scored in the opening five minutes, it would’ve been a different game. He’ll get it next time.

"I didn’t expect us to do so well in these three weeks together. It’s important that we haven’t changed our style of football, even when the personnel did."

With relative experience compared to the new faces in the squad, Lorenzo Pellegrini has had to take on more responsibility for the Azzurri following their loss to Argentina in the UEFA/CONMEBOL Finalissima, scoring against Germany and Hungary.

More of a threat in the penalty area from midfield than a technical and creative fulcrum, the 25-year-old earned a third consecutive start on Saturday – something he had not done since 2018.

The Roma captain was praised for his versatility by his coach despite evident room for improvement.

“Pellegrini has his own style of football," Mancini said. "He’s not a 10 like Giuseppe Giannini, nor a 10 like Francesco Totti.

"I think he can become much better with time, because he is so good at both attacking and defending.

"At times he loses balls he shouldn’t, but if he improves that and a couple of other things, he can become simply extraordinary.”

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