UEFA Nations League Both hit bottom in 2018
Spain and Itayly.
Although neither Spain nor Italy have reached the semi-finals of a major tournament since their 2012 European Championship final, though now both have successfully managed to rebuild their teams in the last few years.
None of the two got through the group stage in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, with Spain also losing to Italy in the 2016 European Championship, although the Azzurri didn’t make it past the quarter-finals of the competition.
Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, while Spain were knocked out by the hosts in the Round of 16. Since then, both national teams have attempted and succeeded at rebuilding their squads.
Spain appointed Luis Enrique as their new coach and Roberto Mancini was assigned with the duty of carrying out the rebuilding project in Italy. Both coaches have revolutionised their teams since.
The two men have very similar coaching profiles, aiming to build teams with character and demanding hard work from their players.
Their footballing styles are very similar too, including high pressing and a possession game, also implementing direct football when needed. Meanwhile, both Luis Enrique and Mancini have opted for young players to form their teams’ backbones.
The average age of Spain’s line-up in the game against Germany was 25.8 years old, with Sergio Ramos being the only player who is over 30 years old.
Something similar happened in Italy’s last match against Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the average age of Mancini’s starters was 25.7 years old, with a just single player, Francesco Acerbi, being over 30 years of age.
Meanwhile, players such as Nicolo Barella, Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati, who are in the shadow of other stars at their respective clubs, have emerged as the star players for their national teams.
Of the players who were called up by Julen Lopetegui for the 2018 World Cup, only six were included in Luis Enrique’s squad list for the last international break.
Something similar is happening with Italy, as only Ciro Immobile, Alessandro Florenzi, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are still regular call-ups under Mancini.
These days, young prodigies such as Dani Olmo, Pau Torres, Unai Simon, Ferran Torres, Mikel Oyarzabal, Eric Garca, Ansu Fati, Barella, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Federico Chiesa, Alessandro Bastoni, Manuel Locatelli and Sandro Tonali are the players who shine for their national teams.
The 2020 European Championship qualifiers were the first challenge for both Luis Enrique and Mancini. They both succeeded as Italy were the only team capable of winning all 10 games they played, scoring 34 goals and conceding just four, while Spain won eight and drew two, scoring 31 goals and allowing just five in their own goal.
Meanwhile, both have won their UEFA Nations League groups to qualify for the tournament’s Final Four next October as the rebuilding process nears completion.