Italy football team hamstrung by injuries, COVID-19 cases ahead of World Cup 2022 qualifiers

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho and Inter Milan counterpart Nicolo Barella have been regular starters under Italy coach Roberto Mancini but the former has a knee injury and the latter has still not been able to join up with the national squad because of coronavirus restrictions.

The Associated Press March 22, 2021 23:53:56 IST
Italy football team hamstrung by injuries, COVID-19 cases ahead of World Cup 2022 qualifiers

File image of Italian football team. AFP

Milan: The coronavirus and injuries are creating a hole in the centre of the Italy team as they prepare for the start of World Cup qualifying.

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho and Inter Milan counterpart Nicolo Barella have been regular starters under Italy coach Roberto Mancini but the former has a knee injury and the latter has still not been able to join up with the national squad because of coronavirus restrictions.

Inter duo Stefano Sensi and Alessandro Bastoni are also subject to those restrictions, while Roma midfielder Bryan Cristante was called up but has an injury.

“As regards to the midfielders, we are really in a bit of difficulty in the centre,” Mancini said at a news conference on Monday. “We’re missing Jorginho, who wasn’t well, he’d taken a knock to the knee and he wasn’t fit to play in these games so we didn’t risk him.

“Bryan Cristante will probably go back home. We’ll wait and see what happens with the Inter lads. We have maybe a bit of difficulty for the centre this time.”

Inter’s Serie A match against Sassuolo on Saturday was postponed because of coronavirus cases in the squad. Their players were also banned from travelling for international duty.

Team activities were allowed to resume on Monday and several of Inter’s international players returned to their home countries, where they will be permitted to train but not travel to a third country or play matches until 31 March.

However, the Italian Inter players have to wait for special dispensation to join their teammates at the national team headquarters in Coverciano.

“I’m disappointed not to have them with us but we are fairly confident (they can join up)," Mancini said.

The Azzurri kick off their World Cup qualifying campaign at home to Northern Ireland in Parma on Thursday. They play Bulgaria away on 28 March, and Lithuania away three days later.

“The first match will certainly be a bit more difficult because it is the first one after five months,” Mancini said. “We’re facing a team which isn’t so easy to play against because it’s a team that’s strong physically, all the players play in the Premier League so it will probably be the most difficult.

“But you can’t make any mistakes in World Cup qualifiers. We will have to try to give our all in the next three games and start off well.”

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