There’s simply no point judging Italy as the finished article yet, the side still very much in transition as they prepare to face Poland away in the UEFA Nations League on Sunday evening.
Italy hit rock bottom in November 2017 when – under inept boss Giampiero Ventura – the four-time World Cup winners were defeated 1-0 by Sweden over two legs, in a play-off match that would see the Azzurri fail to qualify for a World Cup for the first time in 60 years.
If that was not devastating enough, several veteran players announced their international retirements on the spot, as Ventura, and Antonio Conte before him, had for too long relied on ageing veterans - rather than concentrating on talented youngsters that were coming through.
This has meant that new commissario tecnico Roberto Mancini has had to take a huge step backwards in order to commence with work that should’ve started years before, as he now faces the challenge of bringing in a raft of new players that ordinarily would’ve been gradually integrated into the setup.
Such a revolution has been reflected in recent results, a 1-1 draw with Ukraine in a friendly last Wednesday evening only the second time in the team’s history that they have gone five matches without a win on home soil.
“We need to be more clinical when we have the chance to score, because you win with goals,” Mancini admitted to reporters after the match.
“We struggled enormously to take the lead, despite all the opportunities we created, whereas Ukraine scored at their second shot. Unfortunately, that’s the way things are going at the moment and we need to work on it.”
After a 1-1 draw at home to Poland in September, the record of the two sides meeting stands at two wins apiece, and two draws, in their last six matches - that form stretching all the way back to the 1974 World Cup.
Both teams are struggling for form, Italy in the midst of the aforementioned rebuild, and Poland having struggled to two 1-1 draws and a 3-2 defeat to Portugal midweek, following their Group-stage exit from the World Cup last summer.
Odds for a draw are available at 19/10 via BetVictor, however this result favours neither side. A point each would mean that Portugal would automatically qualify for the final four, leaving the other two to battle to avoid finishing bottom of the three-team group.
In midweek, the Azzurri fired in their most shots on target (seven) since firing 13 towards Lichtenstein in June 2017. This means they are certainly heading in the right direction, and a bet at 31/20 on an Italy victory with BetHard is a good choice considering the current form of these two sides.
While Roberto Mancini’s men may well take the victory here, this clash is expected to be close. The Azzurri have a notable reputation for a rock-solid defence, however the absence of veterans Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Barzagli is taking some time to get used to.
The side have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight matches, the worst run in this regard since the 1958/59 campaign. With this in mind, a bet on both teams to score is a great option for football betting fans, Karamba offering 20/21 for such a conclusion.
However, looking at an Italy win and both sides to score gives much better value, the same site displaying odds of 4/1 for this outcome, a great way to reflect Italy’s improvement alongside their penchant to concede goals of late.
Krzysztof Piatek has seemingly come from nowhere to explode onto the Serie A scene since signing for Genoa in the summer. The 23-year-old is closing in on Gabriel Batistuta’s record of scoring in each of his first 11 matches in the division, after scoring in each of his first seven matches in Italy.
Nine goals in total has led to his first call-up to the senior Poland squad in September, and he duly followed up in his second ever full international with a goal versus Portugal in midweek.
A striker in this kind of form is impossible to ignore, and any of the options offered by 888 Sport make sense here. They pay 23/4 on Piatek to score first or last and 5/2 for him to score anytime, a no-brainer for a youngster who has already proven he can beat Italian defenders for fun.