Milan (AFP) – Jorginho said Tuesday that the difficult work for Italy begins now as the Azzurri prepare to take to the field at home for the first time since their triumph at Euro 2020.
Roberto Mancini’s side face Bulgaria at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Thursday in the first of three 2022 World Cup qualifiers, with fans in Florence set to welcome their summer heroes back to action.
Italy top Group C with a perfect nine points after their first three matches, but with only one guaranteed World Cup spot per group and a trip to Switzerland — who dumped France out of the Euro — coming up on Sunday Chelsea midfielder Jorginho says they need to keep on their toes.
“Now it gets difficult, as Italy are no longer a surprise team,” he told reporters.
“We’ve returned to where we belong, and everyone who comes to play against us will come with a different attitude, so we’re happy with what we’ve achieved but we need to stay humble because the moment you let your guard down bad things start to happen.”
Italy won the Euro playing an expansive style of football which combined with the more traditional dogged, resolute characteristics of the national team guided them to glory by beating some of the tournament’s toughest opposition.
Mancini has managed to combine a pool of talented midfielders, including Jorginho, to dazzling effect, with his team now 34 games unbeaten heading into the Bulgaria match.
“The manager has changed the way that national team plays, I don’t think the message has just been sent to other countries but also to the Italian people, who I think enjoyed themselves watching us,” said Jorginho.
“There are lots of team with extremely good players, but the difference with us is the unity, the group we have is what made the difference and will continue to do so.”
Winning the Euro final against England, at Wembley no less, also gave Jorginho bragging rights on his return to the Chelsea training ground, where he met up with midfield partner Mason Mount and Three Lions full-backs Ben Chilwell and Reece James.
“I’ve enjoyed it loads, they didn’t enjoy it much! I have to say they welcomed me back, but thank goodness we won… I enjoyed that little period,” he said.
Jorginho was left “a bit open-mouthed” by Pele saying he was a fan of the 29-year-old after he capped a memorable three months by being named UEFA men’s player of the year last week.
It was the latest high-point of a fertile period for Brazil-born Jorginho in which as well as winning the Euro with Italy he also starred as the Blues claimed the Champions League.
He beat Chelsea teammate N’Golo Kante and Kevin De Bruyne to the prize after helping his team see off the Belgian’s team Manchester City in the final in Porto before then helping Italy to Euro glory.
Asked by one reporter if he was thinking about winning the Ballon d’Or in December, Jorginho laughed.
“There’s a few months for that decision,”he said. “I’m trying to think about now… we’ll what happens later on.”