Chiellini thinks Italy can become a “competitor” again

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A view of the stadium before an Italian national team’s training session ahead of Euro 2020, Friday’s Group A soccer match against Turkey, at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on Thursday, June 10, 2021 (AP Photo / Andrew Medichini, Pool)

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An exit in the first round of the 2010 World Cup. An unbalanced defeat against Spain in the final of the European Championship 2012. Victim of the bite of Luis Suárez during the 2014 World Cup, which ended by another elimination in the first round. A penalty shootout loss to Germany at Euro 2016.

While he has made over 100 appearances and been involved in more wins than losses, Giorgio Chiellini’s career in Italy has been mostly marked by disappointment when it matters most.

Nothing greater than the embarrassing failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

The devastating playoff loss to Sweden almost four years ago marked the end of an era for players like Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Daniele De Rossi.

Chiellini also seriously considered international retirement after the loss at the San Siro stadium in Milan.

Instead, the 36-year-old center-back suffered a series of injuries to captain Italy thanks to a perfect qualifying run for the European Championship – 10 wins in 10 matches – and now he leads the Azzurri in the inaugural match. of Euro 2020 against Turkey on Friday with a 27-game unbeaten streak and renewed optimism.

“We really want to fix things, make Italy a contender in a big international tournament,” Chiellini said on Thursday. “Because this defeat in Milan against Sweden is something that stays with us and can never be erased.

“But I think over the last few years we’ve done well to turn that disappointment into a lot of enthusiasm and a desire to do well. … Italy has been through this for five years. We know that and we can’t wait to go out and share these emotions all together.

While it would have seemed unlikely after missing the World Cup in Russia, Italy is approaching this tournament with high expectations.

The Azzurri have won eight straight games without conceding a goal and have 20 cleansheets in 32 appearances since Roberto Mancini took over from Gian Piero Ventura after the Swedish debacle.

“It’s good for the fans to have that kind of enthusiasm,” Mancini said. “We know what we’re going to face. It will be a football game and it is important to have fun and be entertained.

The Stadio Olimpico will be 25% full for the game, marking Italy’s biggest crowd for a year and a half.

“It’s a shame that we don’t have a full stadium but we will have 16,000 people there, although many may be supporters of Turkey,” Mancini said. “A full Olimpico would have been like having a 12th man. But it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Although Mancini won’t reveal any details of his roster, he suggested it doesn’t make any difference whether Ciro Immobile or Andrea Belotti line up at the center-forward. The pair have alternated in position recently, although Immobile should get the green light for the open.

“At the end of the day, if they both do what they can do – score goals, play for the team and fight – that’s the key,” Mancini said.

Still, Mancini was expecting a long night before match day.

“I hope I can sleep,” he said. “It will definitely be an evening like no other. Hope we continue to the point where I don’t sleep until July 9th or 10th.

The final is set for July 11 at Wembley Stadium in London, which would be an ideal venue for Chiellini’s final national team match.

Chiellini also struggled to win a European trophy with his club, having lost two Champions League finals with Juventus.

He was asked if it was finally time to bring the equipment home.

“Let’s talk about it,” Chiellini said, “if we get to the final at Wembley.”

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