Back to business for Italy and a new-look Germany as World Cup qualifying resumes
Paris: Across Europe it is time for people to go back to work at the end of the summer holidays, and for Italy it is back to business too, less than eight weeks after their Euro 2020 triumph at Wembley. Fifty-three days on from the joy of beating England on penalties on a feverish night in London, the Azzurri will take the acclaim of their own supporters when they play Bulgaria in Florence in a World Cup qualifier. Roberto Mancini’s team cannot afford to rest on their laurels because until they have secured qualification for the finals in Qatar, they will not have completely erased the memory of their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Italy are unbeaten in 34 games — including winning their first three qualifiers for Qatar back in March – and now they face three more matches in eight days with a trip to Switzerland and a home meeting with Lithuania also on the agenda. “I would like the boys to pick up where they left off,” said Mancini this week. “As a national team we can still improve between now and the World Cup, but first we have to qualify.” As Italy know well, the World Cup is a different ball game to the Euro, and not just because the next one takes place in November and December, 2022. Only the winners of the 10 qualifying groups are certain to qualify, with the remaining three places up for grabs in play-offs next March. – AFP