Roberto Mancini will not come down hard on his young Italy players if they make mistakes against Saudi Arabia as he attempts to dispel some of the anxieties of the recent past.
Monday’s opponents Saudi Arabia will, unlike Italy, compete at next month’s World Cup in Russia, with group matches against the hosts, Uruguay and Egypt to look forward to.
Italy’s surprise failure to get through a qualifying play-off against Sweden means the Azzurri are missing out for the first time since 1958 and Mancini has been charged with revitalising the squad.
The former Inter Milan and Manchester City boss is ready to put his faith in youth – although his former striker at the Etihad, Mario Balotelli, is back in the camp after a strong campaign with Nice.
Before the friendly match in St Gallen, Switzerland, which is followed by meetings with France and Holland, Mancini told figc.it: “Saudi Arabia have been preparing for the World Cup for a month.
“They’re a close-knit squad and this will not be an easy game. It is important for us to start well.
“I want the boys to be carefree, even if they make mistakes. In these three games they have to play and enjoy themselves, it’s a fresh start.
“Tomorrow will be very emotional for me and different to all my other debuts – managing the national team is the greatest ambition for all coaches.
“I’m expecting enthusiasm from the young players. Some have made their Italy debuts already, some haven’t.
“Just being involved with the national squad is massive for me and for them, you don’t need any more motivation.”
On the often controversial Balotelli, who had not been involved with Italy since the last World Cup in Brazil four years ago, Mancini added with a smile: “Let’s see if he plays tomorrow, or maybe he will against France in Nice, where he will have his club’s fans behind him, too.
“Mario is one of the strikers who can bring us something valuable, now and in the future. If he is fit, plays well, and engages with the group, we will have no problems.”