Milan (AFP) – Italy coach Roberto Mancini on Monday called up defenders Cristiano Piccini and Lorenzo Tonelli for the first time to replace injured trio Danilo D’Ambrosio, Patrick Cutrone and Alessio Romagnoli for internationals against the Ukraine and Poland this week.
The Azzurri take on Ukraine in a friendly in Genoa on Wednesday, before playing Poland in the Nations League in Chorzow four days later.
Piccini, 26, who has played outside Italy since 2014, joined Spanish club Valencia from Sporting Lisbon this season.
Tonelli, 28, has impressed since his loan move from Napoli to Sampdoria this year.
“D’Ambrosio, Romagnoli and Cutrone have returned home with various physical problems, we have called Tonelli from Sampdoria and Piccini from Valencia, who will arrive by tonight,” said Mancini.
“Piccini’s experience is certainly good, at least he always plays, even in the Champions League. I’ve been following him for some time.
“He can have an important future with us.”
Italy are third in their group with just one point, after failing to win their first two games against European champions Portugal and Poland.
But Mancini insisted patience was needed to rebuild Italy who missed out on qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in 80 years.
“We knew that the road would not be easy. The word patience is not part of our football vocabulary,” said Mancini who took over last May.
“The goal is to qualify for the European championships playing the Nations League is better than playing friendly games.
“I read the newspapers a bit after our first two games, and the same things were still being written about the national team, even after 20 years.
“We still have quality players and we’re starting a whole new project, which I’m sure will lead to us doing well.
“The only problem we could face would be going into the draw for European Champions League, where we possibly risk facing some strong teams.
“We have to do our best and try to qualify before that. We’re still in the mix. Unfortunately the team didn’t go to the World Cup, so we’ve lost a bit of prestige.
“We are Italy and we must return to being among the best in the world, the boys must understand it and when they wear blue they have to give everything, 70 percent is not enough.”
Nice forward Mario Balotelli and Torino striker Andrea Belotti have been left out with Mancini saying they lacked form.
“They are going through a period of not extraordinary form,” said Mancini.
“They belong to this group, when they will be 100 percent they will come back in.”
Goalkeepers: Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Mattia Perin (Juventus), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino)
Defenders: Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Emerson Palmieri Dos Santos (Chelsea/ENG), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Cristiano Piccini (Valencia/ESP), Lorenzo Tonelli (Sampdoria)
Midfielders: Nicolò Barella (Cagliari), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Giacomo Bonaventura (AC Milan), Roberto Gagliardini (Inter Milan), Frello Filho Jorge Luiz Jorginho (Chelsea/ENG), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain/FRA)
Forwards: Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Gianluca Caprari (Sampdoria), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC/CAN), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Simone Zaza (Torino)
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