Roberto Mancini’s Italy drew 1-1 in the first appearance at the Nations League. At the Stadio Dall’Ara in Bologna, the Azzurri went behind against Poland but responded to secure a draw after Federico Chiesa won a penalty which Jorginho converted. The Fiorentina forward made a difference after coming on with his ability to get past defenders as he helped to earn a deserved draw.
For his competitive debut, Mancini opted to stick with the 4-3-3 formation. Compared the friendly against the Netherlands in June, only Zappacosta remained as right-back, Jorginho at playmaker and Insigne alongside Bernardeschi and Balotelli in the front three. Donnarumma was in goal behind the centre-back partnership of Chiellini and Bonucci while Cristiano Biraghi was at left-back. Gagliardini and Pellegrini were in the middle.
The match was balanced throughout. The first chance was in the sixth minute when Donnarumma made a great diving save from Zielinski’s shot after being set up by Lewandowski. The link-up play between the Bayern Munich forward and Napoli midfielder would be a common theme throughout. In the 19th minute, Bernardeschi fired over in the 19th minute from a free kick in a dangerous position. In the 26th minute, Lewandowski laid the ball off in the area for Krychowiak but Donnarumma turned the effort out for a corner. In the 36th minute, Jorginho played it to Bernardeschi who fired just wide of the post.
Poland went ahead in the 40th minute. Jorginho lost the ball at the back, Lewandowski played a floated cross to Zielinski who volleyed the ball beyond Donnarumma. Italy therefore went back to the changing rooms a goal down, even risking conceding a second on the break during a frantic end to the half.
Something had to change and Mancini brought Bonaventura on for Pellegrini. Italy looked to play through the middle but gave up some space for Polish counterattacks and Lewandowski missed a chance to double the lead two minutes into the half after good work from Blaszczykowski. Off the ball, Brzeczek’s side sat back with numbers behind the ball before looking to do damage on the break while the Azzurri looked to play crosses and get the full-backs to overlap while the Polish defence kept Balotelli under wraps. It was Bernardeschi again who caused trouble for Fabianski, firing just off target in the 52nd minute with a powerful left-foot effort. On the hour, Belotti was brought on for Balotelli before Mancini played his last card and brought Chiesa on. It was Insigne who made way for him so Bernardeschi was the only one of the three starting forwards left on the pitch. It was Chiesa in the 75th minute who forced Fabianski into action with a right-foot strike that took a deflection before being saved by the West Ham United goalkeeper.
A minute later, the Fiorentina forward ran on to a ball from Belotti, he beat Bereszynski for pace who slid in from behind, bringing him down. The German referee Zwayer pointed to the spot and Jorginho made up for his earlier mistake by sending Fabianski the wrong way to score his first Italy goal. Italy were pushed on to look from a winner by the 24,000 fans in attendance but Chiesa’s late cross was overhit. Italy will now look to claim three points on Monday against the reigning European champions Portugal.
Goalkeepers: Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Mattia Perin (Juventus), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino);
Defenders: Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Mattia Caldara (Milan), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Emerson Palmieri Dos Santos (Chelsea), Manuel Lazzari (Spal), Alessio Romagnoli (Milan), Daniele Rugani (Juventus), Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea);
Midfielders: Nicolò Barella (Cagliari), Marco Benassi (Fiorentina), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Roberto Gagliardini (Inter), Frello Filho Jorge Luiz Jorginho (Chelsea), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Nicolò Zaniolo (Roma);
Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Nizza), Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Giacomo Bonaventura (Milan), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Pietro Pellegri (Monaco), Simone Zaza (Torino).
Staff – Head Coach: Roberto Mancini; Team Manager: Gabriele Oriali; Assistant Coach: Alberico Evani, Angelo Adamo Gregucci, Giulio Nuciari, Fausto Salsano, Massimo Battara; Fitness Coaches: Claudio Donatelli and Andrea Scanavino; Match Analyst: Antonio Gagliardi; Doctors: Andrea Ferretti and Carmine Costabile; Physiotherapist: Maurizio Fagorzi, Emanuele Randelli, Fabrizio Scalzi, Luca Lascialfari; Osteopath: Walter Marinelli; Nutritionist: Matteo Pincella.
The National Team’s schedule
Saturday 8 September
17 – Training (closed door at Casteldebole)
Sunday 9 September
11:00 – Training (first 15 minutes open to the press)
17:00 – Flight Bologna-Lisbon
19.30 – Walk around Estadio da Sport Lisboa e Benfica
20:00 – Italy press conference (Coach and one player – Estadio da Sport Lisboa e Benfica)
Monday 10 September
20.45 – Portugal vs. ITALY (UNL, matchday two– Estadio da Sport Lisboa e Benfica)