Italy boss Roberto Mancini raised eyebrows with his decision to send on back-up goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu in the 89th minute in place of Gianluigi Donnarumma against Wales at Euro 2020.
Italy were 1-0 up at the time, thanks to Matteo Pessina’s first-half goal, and also had a one-man advantage after Ethan Ampadu was sent off in the 55th minute.
With one minute of normal time left to play, Mancini made his fifth and final substitution, bringing off Donnarumma and replacing his first-choice ‘keeper with Sirigu.
Some football fans on social media felt this was an unnecessary move by Mancini.
FourFourTwo ran a Twitter poll asking whether the decision to send on Sirigu was either ‘Great for team spirit’ or ‘Despicable s***housery’ and the final result was close…
Sirigu, the 34-year-old who plies his trade with Torino, didn’t touch the ball during his brief cameo as Italy ended the match with their one-goal lead intact.
Mancini’s reason for subbing on Sirigu vs Wales
The thinking behind the substitution, however, shows that Mancini is a class act.
You see, Mancini – a top striker during his playing days – was part of the Italy squad that competed at the 1990 World Cup finals but never managed to get on the pitch.
Per Italian football writer Nicky Bandini, Mancini says it’s still his greatest regret that he never got to play a single minute at a World Cup.
With his Italy side already safely through to the Euro 2020 knockout stages, Mancini allowed Sirigu to have his moment in the sun.
It might be the only few minutes Sirigu plays at this summer’s European Championships, but at least he’ll be able to tell future generations of his family that he featured.
Gaetano Castrovilli, Francesco Acerbi, Bryan Cristante and Giacomo Raspadori also appeared from the bench against Wales.
Following Sirigu’s introduction, Mancini has now used 25 of the 26 players in his squad.
Only Alex Meret, Italy’s third-choice ‘keeper, is yet to feature for the Azzurri this summer.
However, it surely won’t be too much longer before Napoli’s 24-year-old shot-stopper also makes a cameo appearance.
Mancini reacts to Italy’s 1-0 win vs Wales
After his side sealed a third successive Euro 2020 victory without conceding a single goal, Mancini was quoted by The Sun as saying: “The guys are very clever and they wanted to win every game, they have a good mentality.
“I’m very happy also for this reason because we changed eight players and we played a very good game.”
He added: “The identity has remained the same and I think it is important.
“I say that changing a few players shouldn’t change anything because everyone knows what they have to do, and the product doesn’t change.
“Today they have shown that they are all starters.
“It was a game that we wanted to win even if it could be unneeded, but succeeding was a matter of mentality, it wasn’t easy.”