London (AFP) – Roberto Mancini warned Italy were relaxed and ready to pull out another big performance in “the temple of football” at Wembley in Saturday’s Euro 2020 last-16 tie against Austria.
Italy are seeking a 12th consecutive win with a clean sheet to advance to the quarter-finals in Munich and keep on track for a return to London for the semi-finals and final.
“When you play football you can only wish to play in stadiums like this. A temple of football like Wembley you have to respect it and produce a big performance and I’m sure the lads will tomorrow night,” said the former Manchester City manager.
“It will be up to us to return (for semi-finals and final).”
Italy led the way in Group A with three wins, with Austria advancing second in Group C after a win over Ukraine, bouncing back from losing to the Netherlands.
Mancini made eight changes to his side in their last game against Wales and admitted he now had a “selection headache”.
“They’ve all played very well,” he said.
“It’s great to be able to count on the players who are all fit and firing and they’re all fairly relaxed from a mental perspective, so I think that could be an advantage for us.”
Austria coach Franco Foda conceded his side were “the underdog” against the four-time world champions who they have never beaten in a major tournament.
“It’s difficult to judge our realistic chances but even with 10 percent you can achieve a lot,” said Foda whose side have reached the knockout phase of the European Championship for the first time.
“Austria are an excellent side,” said Mancini.
“They have some skilful technical players, they’re an aggressive side. They can also knock you off your game because they can press you very well. We need to be ready for all of that.
“It’s certainly a game where there’s no margin for error. There was a bit of scope for mistakes in previous matches but there’s not in this.
“But that’s what so great about these tournaments, the adrenaline effect, you have to win there’s no other option.”
Meanwhile defender Leonardo Bonucci said Italy would make a decision on whether to take the knee on Saturday after only five players did so against Wales.
“This evening we will have a team meeting to decide what we’ll do tomorrow which we should have done before Italy-Wales,” said Bonucci.
For Austria captain David Alaba “taking the knee is a clear signal which has drawn attention to racism and this is a very positive sign”.
“We all have the same opinion about it. We will do it again against Italy,” said the Real Madrid defender.
Mancini added: “I think the most important thing is the freedom to choose.”
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