Luigi Di Biagio takes over as Italy coach on caretaker basis

FILE - In this Monday, June 22, 2015 file photo, Italy's coach Luigi Di Biagio lifts a ball during a training session at the Euro U21 soccer championship in Olomouc, Czech Republic. Italy will face England in their group B match on Wednesday. Di Biagio will take over Italy's senior national team on a caretaker basis for friendlies against Argentina and England in March. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, File)
FILE - In this, Thursday, June 18, 2015 file photo, Italy's coach Luigi Di Biagio sings the national anthem prior to t the Euro U21 soccer championship group match in Olomouc, Czech Republic. Di Biagio will take over Italy's senior national team on a caretaker basis for friendlies against Argentina and England in March. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, File)
FILE - In this March 12, 2016 file photo, Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini shouts instructions during the Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Bologna at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy. The Italian soccer federation has talked to Roberto Mancini about the possibility of becoming the next coach of the national team. The 53-year-old Mancini, who has coached Manchester City and Inter Milan, is among several candidates for the role — along with current Chelsea coach Antonio Conte, Carlo Ancelotti and Claudio Ranieri. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

ROME — Italy Under-21 coach Luigi Di Biagio was promoted to take over the senior national team on a caretaker basis on Monday for friendlies against Argentina and England next month.

The Azzurri have been without a coach since November, when Gian Piero Ventura was fired following a playoff loss to Sweden that ruled Italy out of the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

"Di Biagio's first job is to restore enthusiasm and dedication," said Roberto Fabbricini, who was appointed last week as the Italian football federation's emergency commissioner.

"We're confident he'll be up to the job."

Italy plays Argentina in Manchester, England, on March 23 then England in London four days later.

The Azzurri's next competitive fixture isn't until Sept. 7 against Poland in the inaugural UEFA Nations League.

The 46-year-old Di Biagio played for Italy as a midfielder at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

"It's a big opportunity," Di Biagio said. "I can't wait to start. We've got two big, difficult matches.

"Fortunately I know well 80 percent of the kids who are part of the national team, and I even had the chance to play with some of them."

Roberto Mancini, Carlo Ancelotti and former Italy coach Antonio Conte are among those being considered for the full-time job.

Last week, Fabbricini mentioned Mancini as a candidate.

On Monday, he also mentioned current Nantes manager Claudio Ranieri as a possibility.

"Ranieri is no less appealing than Mancini. He's got the credentials," Fabbricini said. "But we need to be attentive from a procedural point of view. Many of these coaches are currently under contract. Either they free themselves up or it will be difficult to ask them to consider the job."

Fabbricini also suggested many current Serie A coaches could be considered, perhaps referring to Massimiliano Allegri at six-time defending champion Juventus.

"It's Alessandro Costacurta's job to get in contact with the candidates," Fabbricini said, referring to his vice commissioner and the former AC Milan and Italy defender.

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