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May 28, 2021 at 7.45pm UK
San MarinoSan Marino
Bernardeschi (32'), Marco Ferrari (34'), Politano (49', 77'), Belotti (67'), Pessina (75', 87')
FT(HT: 2-0)

Preview: Italy vs. San Marino - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Friday's International Friendlies clash between Italy and San Marino, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

As part of their preparations for the much-delayed Euro 2020, Italy face minnows San Marino on Friday, in the Sardinian city of Cagliari.

One of the Azzurri's final run-outs before kicking off their European Championship campaign in Rome next month, squad places and first-team picks are still at stake in this international friendly.

Match preview

Italy coach Roberto Mancini reacts on March 25, 2021© Reuters

Following the climax of a frenetic season in Serie A, this week, Italy's provisional 33-man squad arrived in Sardinia with their families for the first part of a pre-Euro 2020 camp - described by head coach Roberto Mancini as a relaxed training retreat.

After this Friday's game, his players will leave for a brief holiday before returning to Italian football's Coverciano headquarters at the start of June, when Mancini will reduce their number to 26.

Having recently signed a new contract that runs until 2026, the former Lazio and Sampdoria striker took the reins in May 2018; being charged with bouncing back from the bitter humiliation of failing to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. Since, 'Il Mancio' has led Italy to qualification for both the Euros and the semi-final stage of the Nations League, and has also claimed three wins from as many Qatar 2022 qualifiers so far.

The ex-Manchester City boss has now won 18 of his 27 games in charge - with the Azzurri scoring 60 goals and conceding just 14 during the process - while extending his nation's unbeaten home record in World Cup qualifiers to 56 games. Not only that, but his new-look squad also racked up 11 straight wins throughout 2019 - breaking a national record that had stood since the 1930s.

Before opening this summer's quest for continental glory against Turkey at Stadio Olimpico, they will next face the Czech Republic in Bologna, by which time Mancini must name his final squad for the upcoming tournament.

Therefore, Friday's encounter with the tiny enclave on the east of the Italian peninsula serves the purpose of sifting through selection possibilities and offering exciting new talents further game time in the prestigious Azzurri shirt.

San Marino manager Franco Varrella pictured in 2019© Reuters

Despite somehow clinging onto independence from its much bigger, more imposing brother, San Marino have - unsurprisingly - never previously managed to topple Italy on the football pitch: losing heavily in 1992, 2013 and 2017.

With a population of around 30,000, set in the hills above the Italian Riviera, the so-called 'microstate' has a tiny pool of players to pick from, out of a 15-club non-professional league, while their brightest and best primarily play in the lower reaches of Italy's professional pyramid.

Ahead of their latest David versus Goliath match-up this week, San Marino remain ranked as the worst national team in the world - placed 210th and last - even after drawing their final two Nations League games last year, against both Gibraltar and Liechtenstein.

Still very much the whipping boys of Europe, since the appointment of current coach Franco Varrella in 2018, the fortunes of La Serenissima have, then, at least improved a little.

A journeyman manager with several Serie B clubs such as Brescia, Salernitana and Ravenna, 68-year-old Varrella was, in fact, the great Arrigo Sacchi's assistant with Italy during Euro 96 and has also coached at Coverciano - the hosts' national training centre.

Now, following three consecutive defeats to open their World Cup Qualifying campaign - against England, Hungary and Albania; by an aggregate score of 10-0 - this Sammarinese selection will travel south to face the formidable might of in-form opponents.

Italy form (all competitions):
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

San Marino form (all competitions):
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • L

Team News

Jorginho celebrates scoring for Italy on October 12, 2019© Reuters

With an intense schedule ahead, Italy coach Roberto Mancini is likely to use this match as an opportunity to offer fringe players their chance to impress, before finalising his 26-man selection next week. Therefore, Fiorentina midfielder Gaetano Castrovilli and Sassuolo's Giacomo Raspadori - experiencing his first senior call-up - could both feature on Friday.

Inter midfielder Stefano Sensi has been included despite suffering an adductor injury last weekend, though will not be risked; centre-back Francesco Acerbi misses out with sprained ligaments; while Marco Verratti has also joined the squad, but will not play due to a knee problem. Roma pair Leonardo Spinazzola and Lorenzo Pellegrini are further doubts, as they seek to overcome recent injuries.

Both Jorginho and Emerson Palmieri are not taking part as they prepare for the Champions League final on Saturday, while Lazio wing-back Manuel Lazzari has apparently pulled out due to personal reasons.

San Marino have also taken the opportunity to call up several fresh faces, with some of their Under-21 squad now being promoted to the senior side.

However, 62-cap striker Matteo Vitaioli - one of only three current squad members to have scored an international goal - is expected to lead the Sammarinese line, while the Cesena duo of goalkeeper Elia Benedettini and forward Nicola Nanni bring some Serie C-level experience to a largely amateur selection.

Italy possible starting lineup:
Meret; Di Lorenzo, Bastoni, Bonucci, Biraghi; Cristante, Locatelli, Castrovilli; Berardi, Belotti, Grifo

San Marino possible starting lineup:
Benedettini; Palazzi, Brolli, Fabbri, Gandoni, Rossi; E. Golinucci, Tomassini, A. Golinucci; Vitaioli, Nanni

SM words green background

We say: Italy 5-0 San Marino

One of Europe's most impressive national teams of the last two years meet - officially, at least - the world's worst international side, so only one result can ensue.

Even a second-string Italy XI will be able to pick off their part-time counterparts with ease and only second-half substitutions may disrupt their flow, ahead of bigger things in the coming weeks.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting a draw in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Draw:data

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