Mancini sees Nations League as boost for Italy's young stars
Roberto Mancini thinks the inaugural UEFA Nations League will be a good way for Italy to introduce their rising young stars into the first team.
The Azzurri face Poland on Friday in their first competitive match since last November, when their 0-0 draw with Sweden in the second leg of their World Cup play-off saw them miss out on a place in Russia.
There are three uncapped players –Cagliari's Nicolo Barella, Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo and Fiorentina's Marco Benassi – in the match-day squad for Friday’s game with Poland, while others included in the initial squad could feature for the first time against Portugal three days later.
And former Manchester City boss Mancini hopes to see the youngsters seize their chance to impress in the coming days.
"Things went pretty well with our friendlies in June," he told a news conference. "I do think the Nations League is a positive development, as it's better for the players to feel they are fighting for three points. It can help us to introduce young players onto the international stage.
"On paper, we are in a group with some very strong teams, maybe stronger teams than we are at this time. We have to attack and play to win. Italy failed to qualify because we didn't score a goal against Sweden over two legs and need to work on being more clinical.
"We've no time to lose and we have some issues to address, but this tournament could give us some satisfaction."
— Italy (@azzurri) September 6, 2018
Mancini's squad still includes several veterans of the international stage, including Juventus' Giorgio Chiellini, who is just four appearances away from reaching 100 senior caps.
The 34-year-old admits he had considered retiring from Italy duty, but is excited to be part of a squad featuring a new generation of talent.
"I did consider a few things and discussed it with my friends," he said. "I wasn't sure if I would return, but the enthusiasm the youngsters bring really pushes you on.
"During this training camp, there's been a calm atmosphere, a desire to move forward, to do something new and not look back at the past.
"You can't leave the national team behind. I hope my presence will never be a problem for this squad."