ROME – European champions Italy want to do well against England in their first Euro 2024 qualifier as a tribute to the late Gianluca Vialli, coach Roberto Mancini said on Monday.
Vialli, who died in January aged 58 following a long battle with pancreatic cancer, was Mancini’s best friend and long-time strike partner during their playing days at Sampdoria in the 1980s and 1990s.
The former Juventus, Chelsea and Italy striker assisted Mancini during Italy’s European Championship title-winning campaign in 2021, despite having been diagnosed with his illness in 2017.
“I’ve already talked about it with the players. For us, it will be important to remember him. It’s as if he were with us,” Mancini said.
“He had his place and it’s not easy for us. We must try to do well also for him.”
The encounter with England on Thursday is the Italian national team’s first match since Vialli’s death, and the players will wear a special shirt with a message dedicated to the football great on it.
Ahead of the match at the Diego Maradona Stadium in Naples, a “play of light” is also planned to pay tribute to Vialli, the Italian football federation said.
Italy, who beat England on penalties to win Euro 2020 but failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, then play Malta on Sunday. The other two teams in their group are North Macedonia and Ukraine.
Separately, the Netherlands will face France in their qualifying clash without injured playmaker Frenkie de Jong and Ajax Amsterdam winger Steven Bergwijn, the Dutch Football Federation (KNVB) said on Monday.
They have been replaced by PSV Eindhoven’s Joey Veerman and Borussia Dortmund’s Donyell Malen as the Dutch take on Les Bleus at the Stade de France on Friday, before playing Gibraltar on Monday in Rotterdam.
De Jong played 90 minutes for Barcelona in Sunday’s El Clasico win over Real Madrid.
“The Barcelona player has upper leg complaints from the game with Real Madrid and is not available for the Oranje,” the KNVB said in a statement about de Jong, who underwent an MRI scan. “Bergwijn also had to step aside with a knee injury.”
Dutch coach Ronald Koeman admitted de Jong’s creative absence will be felt in the midfield.
Koeman took over from Louis van Gaal, who retired after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar – for his second stint as coach.
“But his absence doesn’t mean that I am going to change my system. That would be strange,” added Koeman, who prefers a 4-3-3 as opposed to van Gaal’s 5-3-2 which took the Netherlands to the quarter-finals in Qatar.
Ireland and Greece are the other sides in the group. AFP