​Just in case you weren't following Euro 2020 qualification too closely, you may be wondering if there were any standout achievers during the often laborious whittling down process.


In short, the answer is a resounding yes.


England qualified with seven wins from their eight games, World Cup winners France booked their place in next year's finals, Germany, Netherlands and Portugal are through, while UkraineSpain and Belgium have progressed - the latter two with extreme ease - through qualification unbeaten.


But there has been one team who have stood head and shoulders above the rest since last March, when qualifying officially got underway. 


That team is Roberto Mancini's Italy.

Italy v Armenia - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier

Simply put, the Azzurri have been breathtaking since the back end of last year. 10 wins out of 10 saw them romp through Group J with consummate ease, blowing Finland, Greece, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Armenia out of the water.


In that time, Italy scored 37 goals - unfathomable for a team who inexplicably failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup - and conceded just four times. Only Belgium eclipsed Mancini's side in terms of goalscoring, and they had the luxury of coming up against San Marino - who shipped 51 goals in their 10 qualifying matches. Enough said on that, you feel.


Under Mancini, Italy have now won 14 of their 20 games, a win percentage of 70%. That's not a huge sample size to go by, but it's worth noting that there hasn't been an Italian national team manager to boast a better record. 


His closest adversary in that respect? Vittorio Pozzo, who is ​perhaps remembered for his controve​r​sial links to corruption, fascism and propaganda, rather than his footballing achievements.

So what's changed under Mancini? Why are things suddenly going smoothly for a team who, not only not missed the last World Cup, have failed to get out of the group stage in the previous two editions.


Well, he's got a cracking pool of developing youth talent at his disposal for one. Federico Chiesa, Nicolo Zaniolo, Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Barella are just four of a number of outstanding young players blossoming in Serie A, and those talents are now being allowed to flourish on the international stage.


Each bring a different element of youthful exuberance to the Azzurri, intertwining nicely with older and wiser heads like Jorginho and Lorenzo Insigne.


But more importantly, Mancini's a winner who has an eye for spotting deficiencies and improving things. A coach with a proven record of winning titles - three Serie A crowns and a Premier League title to be specific - he is capable of managing fiery egos, absorbing pressure from above and has been able to implement a cautious, pragmatic approach that breeds success.


He's done it before at Inter, he's done it before at Manchester City and now he's doing it with Italy.

FBL-ENG-PR-MANCITY-QPR

So far, he's succeeding - breaking Pozzo's consecutive win record (9) with victory over Bosnia in Italy's penultimate qualifier, as well as recording the highest number of victories recorded in a single calendar year. To top things, Mancini's side celebrated that accomplishment by annihilating Armenia 9-1, stretching that winning run to 11 games. In that game, Italy had seven different goalscorers - another record.


After the clash with Bosnia, Mancini admitted he was proud at surpassing that record but recognised Pozzo “...won two World Cups and the Olympics, I still haven’t won anything," - an indication that he's remaining grounded amongst the growing hype.


It's hard not to get lost in what is being accomplished - despite some of that success coming against fairly benign opposition - but remaining focused appears key for Italy. 


This notion was embodied in comments made by Jorginho, who added in the aftermath of the huge win over Armenia (via ​MailOnline Sport): "We are preparing for the most important tests against the big teams. We're working on improving our weak areas and relishing the stronger elements to our game. I think we can achieve some great things together.

Jorginho

"It's important for all of us to gain experience, as we have a young squad and much to learn, the kind of things you can only learn by playing at a high level. So we must continue like this and hope to learn also from the big challenges that are coming up."


The other positive for Italy is the amount of quality players they have to choose from. Since taking charge of his first match against Saudi Arabia in May 2018, Mancini has called upon 65 players, handing debuts to 24 players. In that period, Italy have scored 45 goals, with no other head coach bettering that statistic in the last 52 years.


Mancini may feel he has a bit of a selection headache ahead - as so many have impressed - but the majority would argue that he has a golden generation of talent at his disposal. What he eventually does with it remains to be seen, but there's no denying that the misery of missing out on last year's World Cup is a distant memory.


Make no mistake about it, Italy will be there or thereabouts next summer - and their European Championship pedigree suggests they may do rather well...


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