nation, Italy are a truly royal name within the sport itself. However, they will not be taking part in the 2022 edition of the FIFA World Cup. Set for a playoff spot, they were eliminated by North Macedonia and now face a winter of watching everyone else have fun while they wait. The fact they have missed out on both the last two editions of the tournament, and have failed to perform with credibility since victory in 2006, fans have been speculating about the need for a rebuild.

Rebuilds take time, though, and for that reason many expect it to be a prolonged experience. As Leonardo Bonucci noted, though, the path ahead does not have to such a long, winding path. Indeed, he believes that the rebuild could begin to take place as soon as the tournament ends.

In a press conference ahead of some winter friendlies – while other teams play the tournament itself – Bonucci was adamant that things can change quickly. On that note, the Juventus defender speculated: “There is a sense of belonging in this team. We went through a stressful period both mentally and physically, there were a few too many injuries. I’ve been on the national team for 12 years and I can hardly remember a teammate of mine who said he didn’t want to be on the national team, the sense of belonging is there from everyone.”

Change of mentality needed for Italian rebirth on the global stage

Speaking about his own mindset ahead of the winter friendlies, and the fact he will watch the World Cup as opposed to play in it, Bonucci said it did not impact his mentality. On that front, he noted that he will not be going anywhere until he is told otherwise, adding: “I’m coming back with the same enthusiasm as always. Being here is a pride, a pleasure, and being at the coach’s disposal fills me with joy.

“As long as the coach sees fit to call me I will be there. For the rest I wished good luck to everyone, I told the Argentinians and Brazilians that I want to see them as late as possible.”

Who does the Italian see as the favourites for the tournament? Many assume a European nation. After all, it is a European-dominated showpiece event in recent years. The last winner who was not from Europe was Brazil, back in 2002. Bonucci, though, says he expects one of the ‘big two’ of South America – Brazil and Argentina – to go all the way.

On that front, he noted: “For me Argentina and Brazil are among the favourites, I have teammates in these national teams and I will root for them because they are special guys and great players. I told them that the final will be Brazil-Argentina, we will see if it will happen.”

If that Final comes to pass, it would probably go down as one of the most interesting in the history of the sport.

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