Soccer-Italy's Mancini defends picking Euro 2020 heroes for disastrous World Cup campaign

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - World Cup - UEFA Qualifiers - Play-Off Semi Final - Italy v North Macedonia - Stadio Renzo Barbera, Palermo, Italy - March 24, 2022 Italy coach Roberto Mancini reacts REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

(Reuters) - Italy coach Roberto Mancini insisted his decision to keep faith with the same players who won the European Championships last July for the Azzurri's disastrous World Cup qualification campaign that followed was the right call.

Mancini's side missed out on the World Cup finals after losing 1-0 at home to North Macedonia in their playoff semi-final in March, their second successive failure to do so, having previously not missed a World Cup finals since 1958.

The shock failure came less than a year after Italy beat England at Wembley to win Euro 2020, a triumph that persuaded Mancini he did not need to freshen things up to attain a place in Qatar.

"We have a young squad, but no problem with loyalty from me," Mancini told a news conference on Friday to look ahead to his side's friendly clash with Argentina and their Nations League fixture against Germany next week.

"If we look at quality, we should have gone straight to the World Cup with the group stage that we had.

"Unfortunately, certain situations cost us as shown in the game against (North) Macedonia, where there were many bad moments and then they scored from 50 metres in the 92nd minute."

Mancini came under intense pressure in the Italian media to resign as a result of another World Cup failure, but having received backing from the nation's federation president he could continue, the Azzurri coach is not going anywhere.

"Of course you can think sometimes (about quitting) after moments like that," Mancini added. "But then the national team is so important, and the joy is so great and that is worth sticking around for.

"When you win with the national team it is something totally different. But then again in life, never say never."

(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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