Dino Zoff sees similarities between Roberto Mancini’s Euro 2020 finalists and the Italy team he captained to World Cup glory in 1982, he told AFP.
The Azzurri will face England in the final at Wembley on Sunday, bidding to win their second European Championship title and first since Zoff helped the team to victory in 1968.
His greatest moment came 14 years later, though, when he lifted the World Cup aged 40.
“I see a few things in common with that of 1982,” the goalkeeping great told AFP.
“They are a very fast, lively team, and that brings them a bit closer to us at the World Cup in 82.”
Italy are on a national record 33-match unbeaten run, but needed penalties to edge out an impressive Spain in the semi-finals.
It will be their Euro third final since 1968 having lost to France in 2000, when Zoff was the coach, and to Spain in 2012.
Victory would complete a remarkable turnaround, after Mancini took over following their failure to qualify for the World Cup in 2018.
“Beyond the players, I’d say that everything comes from Mancini who knows how to make the right choices,” added Zoff, whose Italy team in 2000 led France deep into injury time before eventually being beaten by David Trezeguet’s golden goal.
“He brought a lot of conviction and confidence. His team plays very good football in very different situations.
“I really hope that it will start a cycle like Spain had at the Euro (winning in 2008 and 2012) and the World Cup (2010).
“The World Cup isn’t far away. I’m confident…
“For me, it’s not a surprise to see Italy in the final. I was convinced they’d do well.”
‘Big disadvantage’ at Wembley
Standing in Italy’s way in their 10th major tournament final will be England, playing in such a match for the first time in 55 years.
Gareth Southgate’s men conceded for the first time in the last four against Denmark but fought back to win 2-1 after extra time.
Zoff believes Italy can cause England problems despite their opponents enjoying home advantage.
“The English played a good match with the support of their home crowd,” he said.
“The Danes did well, they also played their game and it was decided on a penalty. But England did a little more and deserved to win.
“Italy, for sure, will have a big disadvantage with the English crowd. It will be an away game. But it’s doable. England offer more chances to play in midfield (than Spain), with more space.”
One thing that both Italy and England have in common are historically poor records in penalty shoot-outs.
But England have won their last two, while Italy, who knocked England out of Euro 2012 on spot-kicks, edged past Spain, with Gianluigi Donnarumma making the decisive save from Alvaro Morata.
“It’s obvious that he has a great chance of becoming a great goalkeeper,” Zoff said of Donnarumma, who is without a club after leaving AC Milan and has been heavily linked with Paris Saint-Germain.
“It will depend on him. But the possibilities are immense.”