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Mancini's first game with the national team dates back to May 26, 1984 at the age of 19. Enzo Bearzot was the coach who decided to give him his debut in the friendly match between Italy and Canada played in Toronto.

His career with the Azzurri had its ups and downs as Roberto himself confirmed in an interview with 'Il Corriere della Sera' in 2009: "[...] Enzo Bearzot took me to New York for a tour with the Azzurri. You had to go to sleep early at night. I went out with some 'senators' of the team and I got back the morning after. Bearzot got mad like a beast. He made me pay for that. And rightly so. Then I refused to follow Arrigo Sacchi in the United States. Another mistake paid dearly. Today I can say I regret it, but of course it's too late".

Mancini made 36 appearances and scored four goals with the Italy jersey: the 1-1 draw with West Germany in the first round of Euro 1988, a double in the 6-1 win over Malta in a 1994 World Cup qualifier and the second goal in the 3-0 win over Estonia in another 1994 World Cup qualifying match.