With the club season now behind us all over Europe, the focus switches back to international football. Yet another round of the UEFA Nations League in the 2022-23 cycle has begun already and Italy will now face Germany at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara in Bologna.
After a poor and underwhelming few months spilled water on what should’ve been a magnificent story of resurgence for Italian football, they will begin yet another adventure in the UEFA Nations League against Germany.
Last summer’s European champions failing to qualify for the World Cup for the second time in a row proved to be one of the most pivotal and groundbreaking stories from the World Cup qualifying campaign. They were knocked out of the playoff rounds by minnows North Macedonia and humbled earlier this week by Lionel Messi’s Argentina.
Meanwhile, Germany, under new manager Hansi Flick are also on the road to revival and have comfortably cruised to the World Cup in Qatar later this year. They will be searching for a fifth global crown and the Nations League matches will provide opportunities to further test the squad.
When Italy took on North Macedonia in Palermo just over two months ago, they ended up making the same mistakes as their predecessors way back in 2017, when the Azzurri failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. The same fate has beckoned Roberto Mancini’s side, who will be missing out on the gala showpiece event in Qatar later this year.
In their World Cup qualifying campaign, Italy finished second in Group C behind Switzerland. They finished with four wins and four draws which saw them missing out on automatic qualification. Thus, they had to take the route of the playoffs.
What should’ve been simple business for the European champions became intensely complicated. North Macedonia’s Aleksandar Trajkovski scored in the second minute of added time after 90 to break Italian hearts and rule them out of the World Cup in Qatar, their second World Cup absence in the space of four years.
Reactions were intense and furious, and several people called for the axe to fall on coach Roberto Mancini. However, he is the same individual who had helmed the side following an underwhelming string of results that saw them missing out on the previous World Cup. Mancini not only led them to a 37 match unbeaten streak, which is the highest in international football, but he also led them to the Euro 2020 crown last summer against all odds.
Following the embarrassing result at the hands of North Macedonia, Italy defeated Turkey in a meaningless friendly just a few days after that. However, their most recent reunion was also ended in humiliation as Italy got played out of the park by Argentina. La Finalissima saw the Champions of Europe colliding with the Champions of South America in a one-off match at the Wembley Stadium in London.
The legendary Lionel Messi ran the show and assisted two goals on the night in which Argentina secured a 3-0 win and added yet another international trophy to their cabinet. While it’s true that the Azzurri had to make several changes due to injuries to key players, their only positive on the night was that the scoreline didn’t get any worse.
A symbolic changing of the guard. Also to place at the scene of the Continental triumph less than 12 months ago. Captain and long-time servant Giorgio Chiellini, who was also one of the heroes of the Euro Cup win, bade farewell to La Nazionale after making his 117th and final appearance in the iconic light-blue jersey of Italy.
Head coach Roberto Mancini has already declared his intention to initiate a rejuvenation of the squad given the magnitude of what they’re missing out on. Having succeeded in building a formidable unit that not only lifted the famous European trophy in Wembley last summer, they also finished on top of their 2020-21 UEFA Nations League group ahead of the Netherlands and Poland. He will be hoping to pull off something similar once again.
Although Italy qualified for the finals of the Nations League last in the last cycle, they were defeated in the semis by Spain, who had suffered a loss in the Euro 2020 semi-finals at the hands of Italy. That defeat proved to be the end of Italy’s 37 match win unbeaten streak and they had to console themselves with a third-place finish at the expense of Belgium.
Another chapter in their history will now kick-off at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara against old rivals Germany. This transitional squad will also have to face England and Hungary in League A Group 3 of the Nations League.
Italy will have to brush aside their pain and woes of missing out on La Finalissima and have to put their best foot in front as they will play four matches over the course of the next 10 days. They will be hoping to hit the ground running in the opening fixture against one of their most formidable opponents.
Germany themselves are no strangers to being overturned by Macedonians, having suffered a shocking 2-1 defeat to them at home during the Joachim Low era. However, that defeat prove to be a minor blip in Germany’s World Cup qualifying campaign, as they ended up winning nine of their 10 matches to finish on top of Group J and comfortably cruised to the World Cup finals to be held in Qatar later this year.
Germany will also arrive in Emilia Romagna, full of optimism under new head coach Hansi Flick. Flick had served as the assistant to Joachim Low, who had led Die Mannschaft to World Cup glory in Brazil in 2014. Flick has also won a treble which included a famous Champions League win in 2020 and he will now take charge of an exciting crop of young players in German football.
Following the World Cup triumph in 2014, Germany have been underwhelming on the international stage. They suffered an opening-round elimination for the first time in 80 years in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Die Mannschaft also suffered a failure in the Euro Cup last summer and were knocked out in the last 16. They were also beaten to a place in the UEFA Nations League final by Spain.
However, a new look German side will be measuring themselves against two formidable opponents in Italy and England who were the finalists in Euro 2020. Hungary can also be a tricky opposition and they caused problems and had held them to a 2-2 stalemate last summer.
Although Flick’s side has emerged from the World Cup qualifying campaign in cruise control mode – scoring at a rate of three goals per game and subsequently also beating Italy in a friendly – they had not played against any team in the FIFA Top 10 world rankings until they faced the Netherlands in March. That encounter ended in a 1-1 draw between both parties.
Hansi Flicker stress that his team’s aim is to top their UEFA Nations League group. Germany are unbeaten in the last 4 matches against Italy in all competitions and they are undergoing a rebuild for the first time since the Joachim Low era.
ITA vs GER, UEFA Nations League
Date: 5th June, 2022
Time: 12:15 AM IST
Venue: Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, Bologna
Italy Nations League form:
Italy form (all competitions):
Germany Nations League form:
Germany form (all competitions):
Italy wins: 15
Germany wins: 9
Italy Team News: Italy missed the presence of several important players for La Finalissima in Wembley including Serie A top scorer Ciro Immobile. Long-term injury victim Federico Chiesa also missed the clash along with the likes of Domenico Berardi, Nicolo Zaniolo, and Marco Verratti who failed to make the squad.
As a result, head coach Roberto Mancini had to improvise and he sent out an unfamiliar XI which got duly punished by Argentina across all departments on the pitch.
With Giorgio Chiellini bidding goodbye to the national team, Inter’s Alessandro Bastoni is expected to partner with another veteran Leonardo Bonucci in defense. Scudetto winner Sandro Tonali will feature at the base of the Italian midfield and maestro Marco Verratti is expected to return to this clash. The PSG man will add some much-needed control and flair in the middle of the park.
While Euro 2020 hero Leonardo Spinazzola made his long-awaited international comeback on Wednesday, after his Achilles tendon tear last summer, it is perhaps too soon for a start, and therefore, Cristiano Biraghi is the main contender for Emerson Palmieri’s left-back spot.
Jorginho, who had been a frontrunner for the Ballon d’Or last year after being a part of the Champions League and Euro winning teams of Chelsea and Italy, has failed to replicate that form and was played out of the park by Argentina. He could make way to accommodate the likes of Nicolo Barella and Marco Verratti in midfield.
Germany Team News: Germany have introduced many new faces to the squad and several of them have firmly established themselves as first-team regulars under Hansi Flick’s management. Nico Schlotterbeck, who is headed to Borussia Dortmund this summer, and emergent Bayern Munich midfielder Jamal Musiala are two of those names who have impressed heavily and now find themselves on the team sheet from the beginning.
Karim Adeyemi, who is also going to join Dortmund, is expected to come off the bench while underfiring Chelsea forward Timo Werner is expected to start once again. He is likely to be partnered by the Bayern Munich trio of Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, and Thomas Muller beside and behind him. There’s more Bayern representation at the base of the midfield with Jamal Musiala and Joshua Kimmich and all of these players are expected to have a thorough understanding of what Hansi Flick demands from them.
Experienced campaigners Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Julian Draxler are both not involved but Chelsea’s Kai Havertz should be involved at some stage of the game.
Italy possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Bastoni, Biraghi; Barella, Verratti, Tonali; Bernardeschi, Belotti, Insigne
Germany possible starting lineup:
Neuer; Kehrer, Rudiger, Schlotterbeck, Raum; Kimmich, Musiala; Gnabry, Muller, Sane; Werner
When Italy went on a 37-match unbeaten streak that peaked with lifting the Euro Cup at Wembley last summer, few would have predicted that such difficult times would have come back so soon. However, the Azzurri have been drained of morale and there have been few positives over the last few months. They must now get their act together and embark on a new journey.