Wed, 11 Dec 2019

Palermo - Ciro Immobile and Nicolo Zaniolo scored a brace each as Italy wrapped up their perfect Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a crushing 9-1 win over Armenia in Palermo on Monday.

Already-qualified Italy registered an 11th straight win under coach Roberto Mancini, as the four-time world champions showed they were back on track after failing to qualify for last year's World Cup for the first time since 1958.

Mancini's side have won all 10 of their Group J matches and are assured of a seeding in the Euro 2020 draw on November 30 in Bucharest.

"Let's enjoy these 10 games won, it had never happened and it's an extraordinary thing," said 54-year-old Mancini.

"We had the right approach to the game and you don't score nine goals by chance.

"We have six months to prepare for the European Championship, we need to improve a few things, then the difficulty will be to leave some players at home, they all deserve to be there.

"They are all young lads who are improving game after game, it just takes time. Every player gave everything they had, I had the answers I wanted from them."

Immobile, 29, started the goal-spree on eight minutes in Sicily, adding a second in the 33rd minute.

Roma midfielder Zaniolo, 20, scored his first goal for the national side on nine minutes, completing a brace on 64 minutes.

Nicolo Barella, 22, also scored in the first half on front of a crowd of nearly 28,000 on the Mediterranean island.

Alessio Romagnoli, Jorginho's 75th-minute penalty, and goals from Riccardo Orsolini and Federico Chiesa concluded the hammering.

Edgar Babayan pulled a goal back for Armenia 10 minutes from time in a rout which could have been heavier with the Azzurri rattling the woodwork on multiple occasions.

"We have beaten several records but we know that June next year is the only thing that counts," said captain Leonardo Bonucci.

"Honestly, I have never had so much fun with the national team, we dominated every game."

"We are aware of our strengths, we have the right mentality and a very good, united group," said Immobile.

"There are all the ingredients to do well but we have to keep our feet firm on the ground and continue to work hard."

Zaniolo added: "I've made another dream come true tonight, but I realise it must be just the beginning...

"A call-up for Euro 2020 is another dream and I hope to make that come true as well."

This was not quite either Italy's biggest international score or their largest margin of victory.

They beat Egypt 11-3 in the bronze-medal match at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam and the USA 9-0 at Brentford in the first round at the 1948 Olympics. In 1920, they beat France 9-4 in a friendly.

Italian football federation president Gabriele Gravina hailed Mancini from reviving enthusiasm in the Azzurri after the low of their World Cup qualifying disaster.

Italy will target their second European title after 1968 next year, with the opening game of the tournament in Rome.

"We rounded off an extraordinary journey this evening," said Gravina.

"It's a special vintage, a 2019 to frame. This is a team that has shown its true value, launching many young players.

"Mancini has put Italy back on the path of success."

Euro 2020 qualifying results on Monday:

Group D

At Dublin

Republic of Ireland 1 (Doherty 85) Denmark 1 (Braithwaite 73)

At Gibraltar

Gibraltar 1 (Styche 74) Switzerland 6 (Itten 10, 84, Vargas 50, Fassnacht 57, Benito 75, Xhaka 86)

Group F

At Stockholm

Sweden 3 (Andersson 29, Svanberg 72, Guidetti 80) Faroe Islands 0

At Madrid

Spain 5 (Fabian Ruiz 8, Gerard Moreno 33, 43, Rus 45+1-og, Oyarzabal 90+2) Romania 0

At Ta' Qali, Malta

Malta 1 (Fenech 40) Norway 2 (King 7 Sorloth 62)

Group J

At Vaduz

Liechtenstein 0 Bosnia and Herzegovina 3 (Civic 57, Hodzic 64, 72)

At Palermo, Italy

Italy 9 (Immobile 8, 33, Zaniolo 9, 64, Barella 29, Romagnoli 72, Jorginho 75-pen, Orsolini 78 Chiesa 81) Armenia 1 (Babayan 79)

At Athens

Greece 2 (Mantalos 47, Galanopoulos 70) Finland 1 (Pukki 27)

Playing on Tuesday, November 19 (21:45 SA time):

Group C

At Amsterdam

Netherlands v Estonia

At Frankfurt, Germany

Germany v Northern Ireland

Group E

At Cardiff

Wales v Hungary

At Trnava, Slovakia

Slovakia v Azerbaijan

Group G

At Warsaw

Poland v Slovenia

At Riga

Latvia v Austria

At Skopje

North Macedonia v Israel

Group I

At Brussels

Belgium v Cyprus

At Serravalle, San Marino

San Marino v Russia

At Glasgow, Scotland

Scotland v Kazakhstan

Played on Sunday:

Group A

At Pristina

Kosovo 0 England 4 (Winks 32, Kane 79, Rashford 83, Mount 90+1)

At Sofia

Bulgaria 1 (Bozhikov 56) Czech Republic 0

Group B

At Belgrade

Serbia 2 (Tadic 9-pen, Mitrovic 56) Ukraine 2 (Yaremchuk 32, Besedin 90+3)

At Luxembourg

Luxembourg 0 Portugal 2 (Fernandes 39, Ronaldo 86)

Group H

At Chisinau

Moldova 1 (Milinceanu 56) Iceland 2 (Bjarnason 17, Sigurdsson 65)

At Andorra la Vella

Andorra 0 Turkey 2 (Unal 17, 21-pen)

At Tirana

Albania 0 France 2 (Tolisso 9, Griezmann 30)

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