Verratti seizes chance in Italy squad

Footballer Marco Verratti said on Wednesday he wants to take the opportunity this week to establish himself as the successor to Italy great Andrea Pirlo.

Verratti seizes chance in Italy squad
Marco Verratti (pictured) said it would be difficult to replace Andrea Pirlo. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

The 22-year-old Paris Saint-Germain midfielder is likely to start for the Azzurri against Bulgaria in Sofia in a European Championships qualifier, as Juventus star Pirlo and Roma's Daniele De Rossi have been left out of the squad by coach Antonio Conte.

"I'm going to make the most of this opportunity," vowed Verratti. "It's normal not to start out as first choice in the national team, it could hardly be any different when you have players like Pirlo and De Rossi ahead of you in the reckoning."

Pirlo is injured while De Rossi has been in poor form recently. Verratti had largely been overlooked by Conte until now.

"I'm starting to understand what Conte expects from me and I'm trying to put it into practice," added Verratti, who has scored two goals in ten Italy appearances.

Verratti, though, is wary of being seen as the new Pirlo and having the hopes of a nation piled on his young shoulders.

"It's difficult to replace a player such as Pirlo," he said. "But don't say it's up to me to take Italy's destiny in my hands. If you're not (Diego) Maradona or (Lionel) Messi, the national team cannot be just one person."

After their Group H clash in Sofia, Italy will host England in a friendly in Turin on March 31st.

SEE ALSO: Italy's football squad gets foreign boost

Photo by Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

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Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.