As the countdown to Euro 2020 gets ever shorter, fans are beginning to question who is going to win the tournament. It’s 2018 World Cup winners France and Gareth Southgate’s England who seem to be getting the most backing in the Euro 2021 odds, followed by the likes of Belgium, Spain and Germany.
However, there is a real sense that Italy are being criminally overlooked at odds of around 11/1. After all, they have been one of international football’s standout teams since Roberto Mancini replaced Gian Piero Ventura, who was sacked after failing to help the Azzurri qualify for the Russia World Cup three years ago.
Since the former Manchester City gaffer took the reins, the Italians have become a force to be reckoned with. In fact, with an impressive win percentage of 70%, the 56-year-old boasts the highest win percentage of any Italian manager.
Taking over a side who havejust failed to reach a major finals is no easy feat, and usually it is not a quick turnaround. Just look at the Netherlands, who failed to qualify for Euro 2016 before missing out on a place at the World Cup two years later.
However, what Mancini has never lacked since he took the job is confidence. He was sure he could get Italy back firing and that he has done. The Italians are heading into Euro 2020’s opening match against Turkey at the StadioOlimpico on June 11thwith the momentum to get off to a really good start, and with group games against Switzerland and Wales to follow, you’d imagine they should progress from Group A relatively unscathed.
With millions tuning in for the opening ceremony and the first match of the tournament, the pressure will be on Italy to deliver, and that could lead to a nervy first half hour or so. But they must remember that they head into that match far superior to Turkey, and with their unbeaten streak currently sitting at 25 games, they will undoubtably be the heavy favourites.
It’s no secret that they head into the tournament with 10 wins from as many games in qualifying, and 21 victories from 30 matches under the guidance of Mancini. However, when you consider that they faced Finland, Greece, Armenia, Liechtenstein and Bosnia-Herzegovina in Group J, it’s fair to say that the Euros will be Mancini’s first major task.
Even if they top Group A, it will still be hard to tell if the Italians are a real threat to the favourites. Even if they only put 50% effort into those matches, you’d expect the Azzurri to top that group. It will be interesting, however, to see how they fare in the knockouts.
With Belgium heavily expected to top Group B, Italy will either face Denmark, Finland or Russia in the round of 16, another game you’d expect them to win. It’s hard to truly know who they will face from the quarter-finals onwards at this point, but if they can continue to get favorable draws, then momentum will only build as they reach the latter stages of the tournament.
There was a real togetherness in the party-like squad announcement last week, and it looked like a solid bunch of players who will fear no one that gets in their way and one that has nothing to lose at the tournament, and that was evident when NicolòBarella claimed: “I am proud to be part of this group, we can dream big and win the Euros.”
There’s no doubt that with their group games being held in Rome, and with a strong squad ready to go into battle together, they can be European champions again. Especially if Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti can fire in the goals!