What's gone wrong for Italy so far and how they can qualify for EURO 2024 Round of 16

Italy have worked hard on their EURO 2024 campaign so far, and a victory or a draw against Croatia will be enough to secure a place in the Round of 16.  The Italians are under a lot of pressure after their 1-0 loss to Spain, even though Croatia must win to qualify for the next round.

What has gone wrong?

It’s been a strange tournament for the Azzurri so far. This is a very different team to the one that beat England on penalties three years ago securing the second European Championship in history. Luciano Spalletti’s side surely has less experience than the Roberto Mancini squad three years ago.

Legendary defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini have retired and have been replaced by Alessandro Bastoni and Riccardo Calafiori in this tournament.

Calafiori was praised after a brilliant performance against Albania on the Azzurri’s debut but scored a decisive own goal against Spain five days later. Gianluca Scamacca has been on fire with Atalanta, but he’s been struggling with consistency with the national team scoring just one goal in 17 appearances.

Last but not least, injuries to Domenico Berardi and Francesco Acerbi forced Spalletti to change Italy’s tactics several times before the continental tournament.

Group stages so far

It’s been a mixed bag throughout the first two games at EURO 2024 for Italy.  Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolo Barella covered their nation’s blushes in Dortmund when Nedim Bajrami put Albania in front after 23 seconds with the fastest goal in European Championship history. It was an uncharacteristic performance, but one that showed spirit to turn things around.

The Spain game started poorly once again and only some key Gigio Donnarumma saves avoided a higher deficit. This time, the Italians were outfought and outmatched by a side that had gone criminally under the radar with new online sportsbooks. It’s a real surprise the Spaniards weren’t fancied more to win the tournament.

What’s been said?

“We were constantly stretched and they caused us problems – beyond what the scoreline suggests, let’s not beat around the bush,” said Spalletti after the Spain defeat.

“We didn’t play a fluid brand of football. When we won the ball back we struggled to keep possession. There was too much of a gulf in sharpness and freshness.”

“Everyone would love to copy Spain,” Spalletti said. “They have played the best football for the longest time. I need to make my players aware of how important this match is because it becomes very challenging if you just sit deep.

“You have to overhaul the concept and mentality of the team and just chase after the ball and cede it to them. But I don’t want to play like that. I don’t know how to coach how to do that. I’m the least-suited person to do that so you need to play the ball and keep possession. And try to get hold of the game and take it by the scruff of the neck. That’s the only way.”

For all the talk of playing in Armani suits, this was an Italian side that lacked the suave style of defending champions, dressed drably in clothes untailored and creased.

One last chance?

Attention now turns to Croatia, who also look like a shell of their former selves. Luka Modric won his sixth Champions League with Real Madrid at the end of last season but has been unable to influence the Croatian midfield with way too many highs and lows so far at EURO 2024.

Croatia have only earned one point so far as a miserable 3-0 loss to Spain was followed by a 2-2 draw against Albania which, however, kept their qualification hopes alive.

A win against Italy will allow Modric and his teammates to qualify for the knock-out round, leaving Italy hoping to advance to the Round of 16 as one of the best third-placed teams.

 

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