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Italy at EURO 2024 Crossroads: Croatia Awaits in Leipzig

Two results out of three to progress and a strong desire to turn the page from Gelsenkirchen. Bastoni emphasizes, "There's no place for fear in football. Recognizing our mistakes is crucial. It's in defeat that the true measure of men is revealed"

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Italy at EURO 2024 Crossroads: Croatia Awaits in Leipzig

EURO 2024 has brought Italy to a critical juncture. Following a one-hour flight from Dortmund Airport, the national team touched down in Leipzig, setting the stage for their first elimination match on Monday night. Securing a spot in the knockout stage hinges on avoiding defeat against Croatia, with players rejecting the notion of settling for a draw in recent days. Coach Luciano Spalletti echoes their stance, focusing solely on the upcoming challenge without discussing the standings.

The coach emphasised that certain matches define your narrative as either modest or monumental, and this challenge presents an opportunity for significant outcomes," he affirmed, confidently defending his squad selection process. "We made our decisions based on our belief in the strength of the players" he elaborated. "During training camps, I witnessed their eagerness to engage and commit. Their readiness, dedication, and enthusiasm translate into their readiness for these pivotal national team encounters".

The impact of the defeat against Spain, not just for the result but for the disparity in performance seen in Gelsenkirchen, has been absorbed. "In recent days, I've seen behaviours that I appreciate. I wasn't pleased with the match against Spain, but we've analysed it, discussed it, and recognized that we took a step back compared to our previous games. Despite the pain, I expect that match to have taught us many lessons. I'm very satisfied with what I see, and our talk about being a great group wasn't just talk. This team is trustworthy in how they handle themselves day-to-day. Their commitment on the field, taking responsibility for things that go beyond individual players. I've been in situations like this before. The players are young, but I see the right attitude to go after things and show the lessons learned. Before Spain, we talked about things we didn't manage to demonstrate. Now, actions need to speak louder than words".

Forget about talking about energy conservation between the first and second game: "We didn't spare any effort. On the contrary, we expended a lot trying to keep up with Spain's game, but against Albania, it was a completely different match. In both games, we aimed to do the same things. We succeeded in one, not in the other." Up next is Croatia, who have only earned one point in their first two matches. Many consider them to be at the end of a cycle, but they still have players known for their skill, experience, and quality. "The level is always very high. Any nation can assemble 20 players who understand the game well and have significant experience".

Two of them, Perisic and Brozovic, were also under Spalletti's guidance at Inter. He believes they can influence the game profoundly due to their stamina, quality, and experience, all crucial elements for building a strong team. Despite their seniority, both remain formidable players whom Spalletti remembers fondly from their time together. They still keep in touch, and Spalletti holds them in high regard. Looking ahead, he anticipates facing them again with respect, along with the entire Croatian team, focusing on their dynamism and intensity, areas where they may need to recover".

Spalletti confirms, "Dimarco is ready, with a final check scheduled for tomorrow morning," indicating potential changes from the squad that started against Albania and Spain. "It's evident that after such a match, there's a consideration to make adjustments, as I may have misjudged not acting sooner after assessing the performance. I considered it a risk to make alterations."

The coach then praises Di Lorenzo, who struggled against Nico Williams: "He's like a son to me; I always find it hard to do without someone of his calibre". He also comments on Cambiaso "I've seen him perform well, despite being thrust into unfamiliar positions. No one directed him to do so. He's an intelligent player capable of playing multiple roles" and Jorginho "If he hasn't performed up to par, it's also contingent on the team, but we have high expectations for him". Regarding the psychological recovery after the loss to Spain: "If we fail to produce results, we're out. Psychological recovery is paramount here. We're dealing with versatile professionals, so we must be pragmatic and take strides forward to earn our roles and merits. Things move quickly. A high-speed train in a station leaves us with just five seconds. Either you board or you're left behind".

BASTONI Alongside Spalletti, Alessandro Bastoni, who scored Italy's first goal at EURO 2024 against Albania following Bajrami's early strike, shared his thoughts. "Fear? It's not a word I like associating with football. Fear is something you feel when diagnosed with an illness. We discussed and analysed what happened against Spain. We understood our mistakes. You can either be discouraged or find motivation and fortunately, football gives us the opportunity for a second chance".

"We know many players who have more games together than often happens at clubs. The defeat has left us with a lot and has united us even more. When you win, it's easy to bond, but it's when you lose that the true value of a person must come out". Tactically, Spalletti's approach presents a different defence compared to what Bastoni is used to. From Inter's three defenders to the four in the national team. "Playing with three or four changes things, but nowadays, football roles matter relatively. It then depends on intelligence and recognizing certain plays at decisive moments". His defensive partner is Riccardo Calafiori: "I feel comfortable with him; he has immense quality and isn't afraid to play the ball. He reminds me of what I was doing three or four years ago. We've played two games together, and hopefully, this partnership will grow in the future". Perhaps further in the tournament.