Gianluca Zambrotta: Italy must not underestimate Austria
Saturday, June 26, 2021
In his latest column, the 2006 FIFA World Cup winner ponders the big question marks for Italy in their round of 16 tie.
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Next up for Italy are Austria, debutants in the round of 16. Austria showed themselves to be a physical team during the group stage, a side that changed their playing system frequently. With David Alaba and Marcel Sabitzer as their stars, they're certainly not rivals to underestimate.
Austria qualified from a group which was not the most difficult, and although they managed to get through, they are clearly not as good as Italy on a technical level. That will surely mean they play a prudent game, a defensive game, and look to hit on the counterattack. I don't think they'll press Italy high, but Italy will need to be careful of crosses from the wings because most of Austria's goals at this European Championship have come from there.
Playing at a stadium like Wembley is always an honour and a pleasure. It's a stadium full of history; a temple of international football, like the San Siro or the Bernabéu. For a player, it's a special occasion that can give you extra motivation.
Marco Verratti played an excellent match against Wales and he's recovering well from injury. He's surely in competition now for a place in the starting XI with Manuel Locatelli; we will have to see about his fitness, but I think Verratti will play because he has more international experience than Locatelli.
Roberto Mancini can start with two skilful, tactically-astute midfielders like Jorginho and Verratti, and push Nicolò Barella further forward. Locatelli has done very well at this EURO, but in these complicated matches, as you go further in the tournament, you need players with more experience. Locatelli, however, has given so much – he's having an extraordinary tournament.
I think Mancini will continue with Domenico Berardi on the right, Ciro Immobile playing in the centre and Lorenzo Insigne on the left: a right-footed left-winger and a left-footed-right winger. Berardi can go down his flank and cross or cut in towards the middle and look for the one-two with Immobile or find Insigne – or even Leonardo Spinazzola, who plays very high.
That gives Mancini many options. Berardi has played well so far and I think Mancini will start him, but Federico Chiesa could be a weapon to use during the game. He has the energy, the desire, the enthusiasm and the technique to come off the bench and break open a game when a goal is needed.