Federico Bernardeschi has become a bit of a peripheral figure to the Juventus first team, but still pops in and out of the side with the occasional key performances. This is why it was a bit of a surprise that Roberto Mancini called him up for the Euro 2020 squad, and the Juventus player has repaid that faith in the manager playing well on the right wing against Wales over the weekend.
Speaking about the Azzurri boss, Bernardeschi was complimentary about how he has not only made Italy look a force again but also has rekindled the nation’s love for the team which had hit an all-time low after failing to qualify for the last World Cup.
“When he arrived it was not easy because Italy was given up for dead. Italian football was under attack. He arrived with tranquility and simplicity and slowly, game after game, he gave a lot of confidence to the players and a lot of enthusiasm to the people.
“He did an extraordinary thing in my opinion, that of bringing the Italian people closer to the national team. An extraordinary thing regardless of everything.”
Italy might not have played any top sides as yet at the tournament, but have swept aside the the trio of teams that they have taken on so far, scoring seven times and yet to concede at their own end.
“When you play well and have fun on the pitch, everything is more beautiful. It’s the icing on the cake, it’s really extraordinary.
“We are very happy. It was what we wanted. We prepared a lot for this European Championship and we started very very well. In Rome it was wonderful. After so many months without fans, it was not easy for us too. enthusiasm that grew from game to game was wonderful. We have to say thank you for this, really.”
The appreciation of the quality of play and the results has been mutual, with Italy once again showing that they can step it up a notch when playing big tournaments.
“We too have been absolutely infected by this enthusiasm. I think it is part of these great competitions. The first thing that counts is to have a beautiful, healthy, genuine and united group. A group in which everyone thinks about the same goal. There is a lot of competition, we are all very strong players, but this must not take anything away from the blue jersey and the final goal, which is common.”
After that World Cup qualifying debacle, Mancini has now equaled a 80-year old record with the Azzuri, leading them to tie Vittorio Pozzo’s mark of 30 consecutive games undefeated which also led to the 1968 European Championship trophy.
“We are really happy to have equaled this record. As the coach has already said it is important but then we also need to add a trophy to make it extraordinary.
“Absolutely yes and we believe we can do very well in this European Championship. The goal is that. We just have to try to continue on this path, play our game, our football. And continue to be this group, here, united as it transpires. to all.”
Italy’s next challenge will in the Round of 16 against Austria who finished second in Group C behind the Netherlands and are led by David Alaba.
“It’s a strong team, I think all those who get to this point are great teams. We will have to play our best match as it already happened in the group. Those were all finals, now it is. There will be even more. And we will have to face them like this.
“Alaba? He is a great champion. He has won many trophies, he has won everything and I must say that meeting such great champions is a great stimulus. And then there will be Wembley, the history of football. It will be even more exciting.”