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Roberto Mancini: Remembering UEFA EURO 2020

As the EURO 2020-winning coach steps down, we recall how he explained Italy's triumph in his own words.

Roberto Mancini with the Henri Delaunay Trophy
Roberto Mancini with the Henri Delaunay Trophy UEFA via Getty Images

Roberto Mancini has stepped down as Italy coach to end his five years in charge, leaving the Azzurri as reigning European champions after masterminding their triumph at UEFA EURO 2020.

More recently, the 58-year-old was unsuccessful in helping Italy qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, while they also lost 3-0 to Argentina in the Finalissima last year and finished third at the 2023 UEFA Nations League finals this June.

Read the UEFA EURO 2020 technical report

Nevertheless, his spell at the helm will be remembered for their remarkable run to EURO glory, sealed by a penalty shoot-out defeat of England in the Wembley final, particularly as Mancini took the baton at a delicate moment in the wake of Italy's failure to reach the 2018 World Cup.

Shortly after leading the Azzurri to the summit of Europe, Mancini spoke to UEFA.com about his team's memorable campaign.

Italy's EURO 2020 road to glory

How important was team spirit? And what did you do to create it?

They did well because they formed a good group of guys – great guys first and foremost, which was essential. Plus, the more experienced players helped the younger players to integrate. That was also quite simple, and they deserve a lot of credit for creating a group that really wanted to play good football. It's not that I felt everything would be easy because there are always difficulties, but we made it. We were together for 50 days, which was tough, but I have to say that it all went fast. That's a sign that the guys got on well with each other.

You also implemented a more positive style, focused on attacking. How difficult was it to do this after the disappointment of 2018?

It was actually quite simple, because I found players who wanted to do something special. They were enthusiastic about the project because it was something different for them. They were curious to see what we Italians could do. Obviously it took some time, but not that much. Whenever we got to see each other, it went well because they got something special out of it.

See how Italy celebrated in dressing room

Italy were able to adapt tactically to different opponents. As you don't work with the players as frequently as you would at club level, how did you manage to prepare different tactical systems?

It was a group effort. We tried to work on different ways of playing as well as the physical fitness side. We tried to improve our qualities as individuals and as a team. We succeeded, all together – us, the staff, and the players, because they showed a lot of desire.

How important was it for the group that you could make five or six substitutions?

I think it was important for everyone because the players had all just come off the end of an exhausting season, so I think it was a very good thing. We'd been working as a group for a long time and the guys who came off the bench knew what to do. Indeed, I have to say that whenever they came on, they gave something more, because when a tired player came off, a fresh player came on with a desire to improve the team – and that's not always the case. I have to say they were excellent, everyone, every time – in each game, those who came on did something special. It's important that the identity of the team remains the same even when we change three or four players. They all know what to do and the end product does not change.

Watch Mancini's reaction to Italy's final victory

Everybody sets out to win. But at what point did you think you could go all the way?

I always believed it was possible to win – I believed it from day one. But there are lots of other factors as well. We knew what we were doing, even during the qualification phase, and we believed it was possible to do something special. The teams who played in the EURO were all very strong and they all wanted to win, so there was a good balance. I think at the moment there are many strong teams in Europe who could have won the EURO and who could win the World Cup. Winning wasn't a simple task.

What were the key moments?

We really believed in what we had done in the lead-up to the EURO but, of course, the important – crucial – match was the first. In a knockout competition, the first is always the most difficult. But then when you settle into it, it becomes different.

Maybe the performance against Belgium showed your confidence and physical condition?

I think that was a very important match. The final against England was a great match, too. We suffered a bit more against Spain, because they played probably their best match of the whole tournament and they are a very strong team. I think that, from the round of 16 onwards, they were all great matches. There are some games when you have to suffer. Spain surprised us at the start by deciding to play without a striker. They caused us a lot of trouble and we had a hard time because we didn't have much of the ball.

Bonucci and Mancini speak after the final

Is there a lesson that EURO 2020 taught you?

That you never give up until the end. It's not something we learned at EURO 2020, but it's something that was confirmed there. When you play, you should always believe in your abilities and your qualities because every match starts 0-0, and then you never give up for any reason because, in today's football, you can always make a comeback.

Did you see any tactical trends that could be useful in coach education?

I think every coach played to attack and to win, so this is the trend to follow. At a European level, if you follow this trend and have quality players, you can win. You can change the formation or the way you play but, in the end, you have the pitch and 11 players. So it comes down to mentality and desire to win – even if you're giving more opportunities to the opposition by giving them more space. I believe this is the foundation of it all.

Read the UEFA EURO 2020 technical report

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