Roberto Mancini will not consider himself among the greatest Italy managers of all time until he has delivered a couple of World Cups – but winning the European Championship would certainly be a start.
A 5-0 Euro 2020 qualifying victory over Liechtenstein in Vaduz made it nine straight wins for the Azzurri under Mancini, matching the achievement of storied Italy coach Vittorio Pozzo.
His side were already assured of a place at next summer’s finals thanks to their win last week against Greece, but an Andrea Belotti brace and goals from Federico Bernardeschi, Alessio Romagnoli and Stephan El Shaarawy further boosted the confidence of a squad who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Mancini has rightly been credited with turning their fortunes around – although he is unwilling to carried away with personal achievements and reserved special praise for his younger players.
He told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “Am I bothered about matching Pozzo’s record? I would be more interested in winning two World Cups and the Olympics like he did.
“However, I suppose I’d settle for winning the Euros…”
Of the match, which saw Bernardeschi plunder an early opener before Italy waited almost 70 minutes to score again, Mancini said: “We struggled a bit before we couldn’t find that second goal straight away.
“There were so many changes to the team that it was understandable, they had to find a little chemistry between them first.
“The important thing is that all the kids were involved. In June I will be forced to make choices and some good players will have to be left out.”
Belotti’s goal midway through the second half finally broke Liechtenstein’s resolve.
The Torino striker told figc.it: “This is an Italy team who are more confident and willing to do what the coach wants, the group follows his ideas.
“We are playing some beautiful stuff out there… two years after what we went through.”
Debutant Giovanni Di Lorenzo, who provided the assist for Belotti’s second right at the death, added: “I found out I was playing this morning. I just tried to play my game and do what Mancini asked.
“I’m happy for the whole team, it was important for us to continue this run of victories.
“It’s a nice group and there is a good atmosphere, it’s easy for new players to integrate.”