Italy head into Euro 2020 with an air of invincibility after more than two years without defeat.
Ahead of Friday’s warm-up with the Czech Republic, the Azzurri are unbeaten in 26 games and won all 10 of their qualifiers to reach the tournament in style.
They will hope that momentum carries them through a group containing Wales, Turkey and Switzerland — and Roberto Mancini’s men should be confident of reaching the competition’s latter stages.
Italy have won just one European Championship — their first tournament appearance back in 1968.
Since then they have reached the final twice, in 2000 and 2012, but failed to get over the line on both occasions.
The four-time World Cup winners will be eager to bring their European achievements in line with their fantastic record on the global stage — and those defeats to France and Spain will serve as motivation to finish the job this time around.
How they qualified
The route to Euro 2020 was a simple one for Italy.
They ended their Group J campaign 12 points clear of second-placed Finland by picking up wins against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Armenia, Liechtenstein and the Finns.
Although it was not the most challenging of groups, a tally of 37 goals for and only four against is an impressive record — as was their 9-1 victory over Armenia back in November 2019.
Italy typically line up in a 4-3-3 system, basing their game on solid defensive foundations.
That said, this is not a side without attacking quality and guile. A blend of youth and experience means there is a vibrancy about this Azzurri team that has perhaps been lacking in previous years.
Opposition defences will certainly be worried by the combination of Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne and Lazio’s Ciro Immobile, who scored 39 Serie A goals between them in 2000-21.
Predicted line-up: Donnarumma; Florenzi, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa, Insigne, Immobile.
Star man: Jorginho
A key cog in midfield, Jorginho keeps things ticking over and allows the likes of Marco Verratti to play with more creative licence.
The Chelsea man, 29, was one of only three players during the qualifiers to register more than 1,000 touches of the ball.
Jorginho has had his critics at Stamford Bridge but he is a valuable and indispensable member of Mancini’s side.
Up-and-comer: Federico Chiesa
At 23, Federico Chiesa has established himself as one of Italy’s most exciting young players.
With eight goals and eight Serie A assists on loan at Juventus from Fiorentina in 2020-21, the winger could be set for big things at the tournament.
Chiesa was in Serie A’s top four players for big chances created (18), so his vision combined with the lethal finishing of Immobile could be a frighteningly effective combination.
Mancini has transformed Italy’s fortunes since taking the job in 2018.
The former Manchester City manager has lost only two of his 30 games in charge of the national team, currently boasting an impressive win percentage of 70%.
Key to Italy’s form is their defensive resilience — they have let in just 14 goals under Mancini and there is nothing to suggest that will change at the Euros.
As has been proven at previous international tournaments, a watertight defence combined with some individual quality up front is often a catalyst for success.
Mancini will be hoping that recipe can take the Azzurri all the way this summer.