Italy boss Mancini insists ‘great’ England ‘can improve further’ despite poor summer showing

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Italy boss Roberto Mancini before a match Credit: PA Images
Italy boss Roberto Mancini before a match Credit: PA Images

Roberto Mancini has said England are “one of the best teams in the world” ahead of their Nations League match against Italy.

England, who cannot qualify for the Nations League finals, take on Mancini’s side in their penultimate Group A3 game in Milan on Friday.

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Mancini said: “I think England is one of the best teams in the world. It’s full of talent, especially the forwards.

“They have many players apart from Harry Kane, who is an extraordinary player, but the young players around him can make a difference. So it will be a very hard match for us.”

The two sides played out a goalless draw at Molineux in June in their first meeting since Italy’s penalty shoot-out win in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

The Three Lions are winless in this season’s Nations League. They sit bottom of their group after taking two points from four matches and will be relegated if they fail to win in Milan.

Their 1-0 and 4-0 defeats to Hungary, in Budapest in June and at Molineux in July, sandwiched draws against Germany and Italy.

But Mancini, whose side will stay in contention for the finals if they avoid defeat to Gareth Southgate’s side, is paying little attention to recent results.

“The English team is a great team,” Mancini said. “It was a great team in Euro 2020 and it was a great team before.

“It’s a national team full of talented players and I believe they can improve further, even though they lost two matches against Hungary.

“I think that the English players at the end of the season are very tired because they play much more matches than other national teams.”

Italy skipper Leonardo Bonucci feels his side can use England’s visit to Milan to gauge themselves in the world order following their failure to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.

Bonucci said: “It’s going to be a very important match because it will tell us where we are in this rebirth, let’s say.

“Because after failing to qualify for the World Cup the coach has changed many players, so tomorrow we will understand where we really are, where we need to improve and if there is something to improve.

“But I think this will be the best match possible to start again and to build something new and important for the future.

“England are a great team so we need to pay attention to their individual qualities because offensively they have very talented players, who can change the match in the blink of an eye.”

Mancini confirmed AC Milan midfielder Sandro Tonali was expected to withdraw from the squad due to injury.

The clash at San Siro is the penultimate fixture before Southgate’s side face Iran in Qatar on November 21.

Friday’s match is the first time the men’s senior England team will take to the pitch since the death of the Queen.

They will wear black armbands to mark the occasion, with more tributes planned for the game against Germany at Wembley on Monday night.

Southgate and his players will also sing “God Save the King” before kick-off in honour of King Charles III, the first time that version of the National Anthem has been used ahead of an England football match since November 1951.

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