Italy appoint Mancini to rebuild national team
FLORENCE – Roberto Mancini has been named as the new manager of the Italian national football team, the FIGC announced on Tuesday. The 53-year-old takes over from the turbulent tenure of Gian Piero Ventura, who was sacked after failing to lead the Azzurri to the World Cup.
Mancini’s journey as Italy coach kicks off with the national team at an all-time low; Italy fell to a 1-0 playoff defeat against Sweden in November last year, denying them of a last-ditch ticket to Russia 2018.
The four-time world champions, who will be absent from a World Cup for the first time since 1958, face an unglamorous friendly fixture against Saudi Arabia to open the Mancini reign.
The former Sampdoria and Lazio striker, who won 36 caps for Italy, told journalists at his presentation in Coverciano that it was the “right moment” for him take over as Italy boss.
“It will be a difficult but beautiful challenge,” he said at his first press conference having agreed a mutual termination of his contract with Russian club, Zenit St Petersburg.
An enthusiastic Mancini, who won three Serie A titles in charge of Inter Milan, said that he would “bring Italy back to the top of the world and Europe,” whilst citing his managerial role as a chance to fulfil his dream of lifting the World Cup.
Mancini, however, faces a daunting task of steadying the rickety national team, currently sitting 20th in FIFA’s rankings, before weighing up his distant dream.
One of the first hurdles for Mancini will be settling the lingering Mario Balotelli debate.
The Nice striker came into conflict with Mancini at Manchester City, although played an important role in helping the Sky Blues swipe the 2012 championship from city rivals Manchester United.
Mancini led City out of the shadow of their bitter rivals, then managed by Sir Alex Ferguson, delivering the club’s first top-flight league title in 44 years, under possibly the most dramatic circumstances in Premier League history.
“I will speak to Balotelli,” the Italian coach said, despite the maverick forward not being selected since the 2014 World Cup, adding that he would also have a conversation with Gianluigi Buffon about his future.