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Coach Mancini not happy with Italy’s performance against Malta

Italy forward Mateo Retegui (left) scores against Malta. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Italy coach Roberto Mancini said that he was disappointed with the performance of his players despite seeing his side record a 2-0 win over Malta in a Euro 2024 qualifiers on Sunday.

Goals from Argentine-born striker Mateo Retegui and Matteo Pessina earned the Italian side their first victory in Group C but Mancini said that he expected much more from his players.

“It was important to win the match but other than that I believe that we could have done much more,” Mancini told a news conference on Sunday.

“It was important to take an early lead and we managed to surge into a two-goal lead which puts us in a strong position and eased the pressure on our shoulders. But I expected the team to keep pushing and create more chances but we failed to do that, particularly in the second half.

“I wanted to see my team try to play more and be more dangerous when pushing forward but we didn’t do that, we just administered our advantage and that is something I was not happy about.”

Asked whether he was more happy with the team’s performance in the 2-1 defeat to England, than against Malta, Mancini said: “Most definitely yes. The team worked harder and pressed more against England while tonight we could have done much much better.

“Ok the final result is very good, as we were desperate to win the three points, but I expected much more from my team.”

Mancini warned striker Mateo Retegui “needs time” to learn despite the Argentina-born striker scoring for a second successive Euro 2024 qualifier on Sunday.

The 23-year-old qualifies to play for the defending champions courtesy of his Italian grandfather but still plays his club football in Argentina, currently on loan at Tigres from Boca Juniors.

On Sunday, he looked right at home for Italy as he scored the opening goal at the National Stadium.

“He unlocked the match, he was essential today,” said Mancini.

“But I repeat: he needs time, he still needs to learn more about European football.”

Last week, Mancini lamented on the dearth of Italian players who are playing regular football in the Italian Serie A.

Asked whether Italy should follow the example of other countries and try to bring in more players with Italian origins playing for the Azzurri as they did with Retegui, Mancini said that it’s a pathway that the Italian FA should explore more.

“It’s no secret that we have a very small percentage of Italian players who are playing regular football in the Italian Serie A and that makes life difficult for all national coaches in our country,” Mancini said.

“I believe that we should follow the examples of other countries such as Switzerland and England who have bolstered their ranks with players who were born in other countries.

“In the past, Italy was blessed to have a huge number of talented Italian players and we didn’t need to look elsewhere but now the situation is different.

“If we see that there are players of a very good player who are eligible to play for the Italian national team we should try and bring them in our set-up.”

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