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Italy will look to put the disappointment of failing to qualify for the World Cup behind them and kick-start a new era for the Azzurri by defeating Argentina in the ‘Finalissima,’ Italy players said on Tuesday.
The match on Wednesday between the European champions and the Copa America winners will be played at Wembley Stadium, where Italy triumphed over England on penalties last July to attain their second European Championship title.
But Italy’s joy turned to anguish eight months later when they failed to qualify for the World Cup for a second time running after losing in the playoffs to unheralded North Macedonia.
“We wrote history in this stadium, so we gave a great emotion to all Italians,” Lorenzo Insigne told reporters.
“Tomorrow it will be a very important match for us in order to start over again and to bring Italy back to where it deserves [to be] and where we always were.”
Lionel Messi’s Argentina are no pushovers, however, with the team stitching together a 31-match undefeated run heading into the showdown at Wembley.
Italy had set a world record 37-match undefeated run which came to an end in October last year when Spain beat Roberto Mancini’s side in the Nations League semifinals.
“Argentina are one of the best national teams in the world,” defender Leonardo Bonucci said.
“It’s very rare in football to have this winning streak — as we did and as Argentina is doing. So you need to compromise, be very respectful, be very aggressive to win this trophy.
“Because as we’ve said, with this trophy we need to start over and set the basis to return Italy to where it deserves [to be], where it was one year ago.”
Mancini said the match between the two teams — who have won six World Cup titles between them — is one of the “classic games of world football.”
“It will be a great match and it is a great tribute to many players, like Giorgio [Chiellini], who will leave the national team, and Argentinian players soon to leave the national team,” he said.
“So it will be a great, emotional match.”
Despite Italy’s failure to make the World Cup, Mancini’s Argentina counterpart Lionel Scaloini is expecting a tough test at Wembley.
“It’s always important to face the best. Italy won the last European Championship,” he said in a press conference Tuesday. “It’s a national team of the highest level that has been doing a great job. Italy was undeservedly left out of the World Cup. Now it can start almost from scratch. Mancini has given the team an identity that it didn’t have years ago.”
And while Italy are set to initiate a rebuild, for Argentina the focus is on keeping their impressive momentum ahead of the World Cup in November.
“The important thing is not to believe you are invincible,” Scaloni said. “It is good that people think that we are champions and that they enjoy what was achieved, but the road continues, we cannot rest on that. We need to continue pulling forward and not relax.
“We would like to win tomorrow because it is a title, but the most important thing is the objective between now and November. We want to give continuity to our play. Playing with this shirt always means going out to play all the matches as equals and competing to the fullest. That’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”