The qualification campaign approaches its halfway mark with Italy well positioned to clinch an early spot at Euro 2020, but coach Roberto Mancini warns about the good form of the next opponents.
Injured striker Lorenzo Insigne is the last to drop out of the Italy squad of coach Roberto Mancini ahead of two away Euro 2020 qualifiers that could strengthen the Azzurri's command in Group J. As six games remain, the Azzurri lead on a maximum 12 points, with their Thursday opponents Armenia sitting third on six and Finland, who welcome them three days later, on nine.
Insigne's injury follows those of Juventus defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Mattia De Sciglio, who were replaced by Inter Milan's Danilo D'Ambrosio and Francesco Acerbi from Lazio in a defence package that welcomes newcomer Luca Pellegrini, a Juve youngster on loan to Cagliari. But Mancini also lost Roma midfielder Bryan Cristante due to flu, giving way to Vincenzo Grifo and youngster Sandro Tonali. Napoli captain Insigne opened the season with two goals in as many Serie A outings, but failed to recover from a muscle strain sustained at the weekend. Among Mancini's six remaining strikers, Lazio's Ciro Immobile also struck twice, while Andrea Belotti (Torino) and Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina) displayed good form. "They won't be easy games because both the Armenian and Finnish players have been playing for months and their physical condition is at 100%," Mancini said.
"Ours is slightly less than that. We do, however, have great technical ability and class, and we'll need to fight until the end." Mancini has tested several young players since taking over in May 2018 and managed to play a fast game that produced 13 goals in the Euro campaign, the maximum in the nine groups, with one conceded. Only Group G leaders Poland have a better defense. Missing the call-up for disciplinary reasons are forwards Nicolo Zaniolo and Moise Kean, who showed up late while at Italy's youth team.
"I'm sure they'll come in handy later on," the selector said. "They're two players who we're very much counting on. They did something silly, they need to learn but they are still young." Mancini says he has clear ideas about the core of the Azzurri squad, adding he will carefully monitor the league season and mentioning a long-time issue for Italy' coaches. "If someone does particularly well, we will happily take him," he said. "It is a pity to have few Italians in the Italian league, that's for sure."