Newcomers Baselli, Mandragora want to seize Italy chance

Milan (AFP) –


Italy newcomers Daniele Baselli and Rolando Mandragora said Saturday they were determined to seize the opportunity given to them by national coach Roberto Mancini to help rebuild the Azzurri.

Mancini, who was appointed six months after Italy's failure to qualify for the World Cup finals, will oversee his first game in charge on Monday against Saudi Arabia in Saint Gallen, Switzerland, followed by two more friendlies against France in Nice on June 1 and the Netherlands in Turin on June 4.

"After failing to qualify for the World Cup, the priority is to try to begin a new era for the national team," said 26-year-old midfielder Baselli, one of five players along with Mandragora to receive their first call-up to the national side.

Under new coach Mancini the Italian team are taking part in a training camp in Coverciano, near Florence this week before the three friendly matches.

"It's a childhood dream come true for me and I had been waiting for the Italy call for a long time," continued former Italy U21 international Baselli, who has played 104 times for Torino and scored 14 goals since 2015.

"It will take time, but already this training camp with many young players can act as a catalyst."

Under-21 international Mandragora, also a midfielder, said he was hoping to be the next Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi or Claudio Marchisio.

"It is always a source of pride to wear the Azzurri jersey, even more so now that it is my first senior call-up," said the 20-year-old who spent last season on loan at Crotone from Juventus.

"Mancini is the right man to rebuild, as he likes spending time with the players and passing on his ideas, even if we don't have much time in training.

"Hopefully, we can get the Italian people celebrating again."

Nice striker Mario Balotelli has returned and is set to play his first match since Italy's humiliating group-stage exit from the 2014 World Cup.

"Mario's presence is nice and he's such good fun, he keeps everyone amused. I think he fully deserved the call-up," said Baselli.

Meanwhile, 53-year-old Mancini said he was hoping to finally win a trophy with Italy that he failed to as a player.

"I made my debut in a team with most of the players who had won the 1982 World Cup, so that too was an indescribable feeling for one so young," said Mancini, who ended his career with 36 senior caps and four goals.

"I played in every level of the national side and went close to winning the Euros or World Cup, but never got there, usually due to a penalty shoot-out.

"Now I hope to win a trophy as a coach instead."