If you watched Italy’s game against Greece in Euro 2020 qualifying on Saturday, you might have done a double take.
Here were the “Azzurri” – the color blue – wearing green.
Dubbed a “Renaissance Kit,” it was a nod to the number of young players now in the rejuvenated national side.
The only other occasion Italy wore green came in 1954 in a 2-0 win against Argentina at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.
But back in the green at the same Stadio Olimpico after 65 years, Italy defeated Greece by the same score thanks to a pair of second-half strikes to qualify for next year’s European Championships. And early.
While it won’t completely banish memories of Italy’s failure to book a spot at last year’s high-scoring World Cup in Russia – Italy had last failed to qualify in 1958 – it ensured no back-to-back qualifying misery for the nation second only to Brazil in World Cup titles.
“It’s a fantastic result, especially considering all the horrible times we went through two years ago,” Jorginho, one of the goal scorers, was quoted as saying by Football Italia. “We deserved this achievement and are truly happy, because we wanted it so much and we fought for it.”
Roberto Mancini’s side, though, wasn’t entirely convincing against a team languishing in Group J.
In the first half, Italy didn’t manage a single shot on target.
The best chance of the opening half came for Greece in the 12th minute when Dimitris Limnios’ shot from a fairly tight angle was pushed away by Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Italy’s first half display left Mancini shaking his head and Greece almost took the lead in the 60th minute. Efthimis Koulouris shot into the side netting with Donnarumma completely stranded after good work by Limnios.
Yet there was really only one way for Italy to go after the break – that was up – and the home team got its reward after a handball in the box by Andreas Bouchalakis moments after Koulouris’ miss.
Jorginho made no mistake from the spot after also scoring a penalty against Finland last month and Italy was almost there.
The host made it 2-0 when Federico Bernadeschi’s deflected effort found the back of the net in the 78th minute and Italy remained perfect in qualifying under Mancini, winning a seventh straight game.
Mancini replaced Gian Piero Ventura following Italy’s World Cup qualifying failure.
“We’re proving ourselves to be a good group of players, we’re all on the same page and it’s fun to work in those circumstances,” said Jorginho.