“I do feel once they start to play against the better teams, they won’t have enough.”
Italy stole the show on day six of Euro 2020. Roberto Mancini’s side hammered Switzerland 3-0 in Rome to secure their place in the last-16 of the tournament. Manuel Locatelli scored twice before Ciro Immobile scored the third goal of the game just before full-time.
The Azzurri were excellent. They pressed in packs, passed the ball positively and didn’t give Switzerland, an accomplished international team, an inch in the game. The highest compliment one can pay Mancini’s team is that they resembled a top Champions League club side.
Italy have now won 10 games in a row without conceding a goal and scored 29 times in those matches. They are a formidable team, and no one will want to play them in the knockout stages. Yet, there were contrasting reactions to their performance in the TV studios on Wednesday night.
Euro 2020 on TV: RTÉ and ITV’s analysis of Italy.
On RTÉ, Damien Duff and Liam Brady were effusive in their praise for the Azzurri, complimenting every aspect of their display. Yet, over on ITV, Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira and Gary Neville certainly did not jump on the Italy hype train.
In fact, when switching between the two TV channels, it felt as though the respective punditry panels had been watching two different games. The quality and impact of RTÉ’s football punditry has arguably declined in recent years, but they won the day on Wednesday.
Brady and Duff were excellent when analysing Italy, with Duff explaining how and why the Italians were so good, backing up every compliment of Mancini’s team.
On ITV, the pundits merely focused on Switzerland’s shortcomings and apparent character failings – their “niceness” – rather than the excellence of the Azzurri. It didn’t correlate with what football fans had just watched in Rome.
Euro 2020 on TV: ITV pundits on Italy v Switzerland.
“Italy, you said it was an easy win, I think I was hesitant at half-time to call Switzerland ‘nice’, but they are nice, and you don’t want to be a nice football team,” Neville said.
“Their achievement is just getting to the tournament, they don’t believe that they can win a game against the big teams and I don’t think Italy were ever in trouble. They were completely in control all night.
“The biggest problem for Italy could be that they’re not going to be tested. I mean maybe that game against Wales, you could argue because they’re through that they might play a weakened team, but they might actually want to play their best team because the two games they’ve had so far haven’t been a test for them.”
Euro 2020 on TV: Gary Neville on Italy.
The Sky Sports pundit then detailed all the ways that Switzerland were “embarrassing” in the game. Finally, Neville conceded that Italy are, in fact, a “good team.” But the former Manchester United defender doesn’t expect them to do well against “the better teams,” a seemingly peculiar assessment given Italy haven’t lost since 2018.
In fact, Neville spoke about Italy as though they were a mid-table Premier League team who have somehow found themselves in the European places.
“They’re a good team. They’re achieving the maximum. They’re the opposite of Switzerland,” Neville said.
“They all work really hard, they all know their jobs, they’re well-drilled. I agree with Patrick, I feel they’ll fall short. I know they’re getting a lot of plaudits at the start of the tournament with their first two performances, they’ve done everything that’s been asked of them.
“But I do feel once they start to play against the better teams, they won’t have enough. But Mancini has got them right, and they’re a team that you know will give their all, which is absolutely critical.”
Roy Keane on Italy v Switzerland.
Keane was alongside Neville, and he also chose to focus primarily on Switzerland’s shortcomings, rather than Italy’s seemingly excellent display in Rome.
“Yeah, that [lack of intensity] would probably be an understatement,” the former Man United captain said.
“The one thing you want from your team… I’ll forgive a lot of things on the football pitch but [not] for players not to show that intensity. We saw that with the last goal. Great example from Italy there, of all their quality play, work-rate and desire. Switzerland giving up the fight. Yeah, pretty annoyed with it, I have to say.”
“Even the second and third goal, sometimes people think you have the bodies back. But it’s no good having the bodies back unless you engage, especially when you smell danger. It’s just that lack of intensity and almost laziness with their attitude, especially with the last goal.”
Euro 2020 on TV: Damien Duff on Italy.
Meanwhile, over on RTÉ, Duff and Brady complimented almost every aspect of Italy’s play. The pair also acknowledged that they may have shortcomings upfront with Immobile, and could be without Giorgio Chiellini through injury.
Yet, Duff detailed exactly why and how Italy were so good in the game, and why they will be a match for any team. “It was top class,” Duff said.
“I was impressed with every facet of their game, the way they moved the ball, the way they pressed, when they lose the ball the way they win it back, just the intensity with which they do everything. It’s a team without superstars, 29 unbeaten, 10 without conceding a goal, incredible. They’re absolutely relentless, it was a top watch.”
The former Republic of Ireland winger showed how Italy invite pressure with their two-touch football and passing through the lines, which cut open the opposition. Italy were also excellent without the ball, Duff said, as they pressed in packs and overwhelmed Switzerland. While Brady noted that Jorginho is an expert at screening the back four.
“It was fantastic, I could’ve built a 10, 20-minute clip, but listen, I won’t bore you with that,” Duff said.
“They were just fantastic to watch, always short little passes, people connecting with people, opening up their bodies, just simple, simple stuff that you would coach in passing drills.
“But just their feel of the ball, first touch setting it up to move away from pressure, absolutely brilliant, so easy to watch and all of a sudden you’ve broken lines and you’re up the pitch within five, six passes. And this was a constant throughout the game, always starting with Donnaruma, happy to invite pressure, happy to take the ball under pressure. And here you have Jorginho, who’s not renowned for his legs, even he’s driving up the pitch because he’s free, because they’ve beaten their press.
“Can they do it against the bigger better teams when they go further on in the competition? Absolutely, a top-class watch. Similar to Spain, who you could argue lack a cutting edge at the moment, but Italy certainly don’t.”
Liam Brady on Italy.
Meanwhile, Brady focused on Italy’s midfield, how they controlled the game and overwhelmed the Swiss. “All three of them complement one another, (they are) very organised,” Brady said.
“(Nicolo) Barella, he’s all-action, a good passer, a good all-rounder. He also works hard when the opposition have the ball… Jorginho shields the back four, a good tackler as well, always available for the ball, breaks play up, and an excellent passer. He’s the one that sits in front of that back four, particularly the two centre-backs, and makes sure that the opposition centre forward doesn’t get the ball to feet.
“We’ve watched them twice now and it’s almost been perfect performances from every aspect of playing football. They really are a complete team,” Brady said.
Finally, Duff said Italy have been the “team of the tournament so far.”
Euro 2020 on TV: RTÉ & ITV on Italy.
As noted above, it could be argued that the quality of RTÉ’s football punditry has noticeably declined in recent years, while ITV certainly have a heavyweight lineup in the studio for Euro 2020.
Yet, credit where it’s due, Duff and Brady undoubtedly beat Keane and Neville when analysing Italy. The pair explained why and how Italy were so good, while ITV’s pundits merely spoke about Switzerland’s failings, seemingly ignoring that they were made to look poor by an excellent Azzurri display.