Italy have been one of the standout teams at the Euros so far. They may have looked more convincing at times, but have also learnt how to win games in both extra time and in penalties. This is a real important trait to have in a strong team to attain major tournament success.
With Tuesday’s penalty shootout success against three-time winners Spain, Italy booked a place for themselves in the final. As Jorginho calmly dispatched his penalty to seal the deal, Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Viali hugged each other to celebrate the moment.
“Gianluca and I have known each other for a very long time so it’s only natural that our relationship is different,” said Mancini, now the head coach of the national team. “I’m not saying that we grew up together but it’s almost like that.
“We spent a number of years together and we have a relationship that goes way beyond friendship. He’s like a true brother to me.”
They were teammates during their playing days at Sampdoria and lost the European Cup final to Barcelona in 1992 at Wembley. Almost 20 years later, they were standing in the new Wembley but this time they were joyous after the game was over.
It was last match the duo played together after eight years at the Italian club, which they led to its only league title, four Italian Cups and a Cup Winners’ Cup.
Wembley successes followed, for both. Vialli won the FA Cup at the iconic venue as Chelsea manager in 2000, and Mancini did the same with Manchester City in 2011.
The pair was reunited in 2019 when Mancini appointed Vialli as delegation chief of the Italy team. Vialli’s unruffled sense of calm contrasts with Mancini’s sometimes volcanic nature and his role allows him to work with the players, coaches and support staff, sharing his knowledge and experience.
Itay will face England in the final of the Euros on Sunday at Wembley. No one expected Italy to reach so far. But if they are to beat England, they would be deserved winners.