Roberto Mancini expressed regret for Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup 2022 automatically and warned the Azzurri to forget about their Euro 2020 victory ahead of the playoffs.
Italy, which missed out on the 2018 World Cup, had a transition period under former Inter and Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini. That ended with them winning Euro 2020 – their first European Championship title since 1968.
The Azzurri have started an unbeaten round, a 37-match world record, which ended in Spanish hands in the UEFA Nations League semi-finals in October, but their World Cup hopes have been dashed.
Italy finished runners-up to Switzerland in Group C, as did Portugal to Serbia in Group A. The pair were then drawn on the same play-off path, meaning there is no way that Roberto Mancini’s Italy and Cristiano Ronaldo and co can both qualify for Qatar 2022.
Italy must reach North Macedonia in the semi-finals by the end of March and Mancini wishes his team had won the games before.
He told Sky Sports Italia: “Yes, but this is football, it’s a game. Sometimes we had to win and not win, we had to finish the team early.
“We’ve given up a bit and now we have to roll up our sleeves and do a good job in these two games. But I’m always hopeful as I knew our team and Switzerland would be tough. I thought we were going to get in but I knew it was going to be tough.”
Reflecting on the success of Euro 2020, Mancini said: “We have done something extraordinary, we have made millions of people happy. It is the best thing we can all be proud of.
“But the European Championship is behind us, now we have to think of something else.”
The play-offs are one-legged, and Italy and Portugal will host North Macedonia and Turkey in the semi-finals respectively.
The winners of the two semi-finals will meet in the final, where Portugal or Turkey will be at home, to book a place in Qatar 2022.
If Italy can negotiate this difficult way, Mancini believes they have players who will benefit from facing the World Cup.
He said: “There are a lot of players who can improve a lot and for me, it will be important to go to the World Cup because I think there are 10-12 players who can improve a lot to go to the World Cup if you go there.”