Italy fortunate to only lose by one, concedes Spalletti

By Sports Desk June 21, 2024

Italy boss Luciano Spalletti conceded the Azzurri were never in their Euro 2024 game against Spain and felt the defending champions were fortunate not to lose by more than a one-goal margin.

Riccardo Calafiori's second-half own goal made the difference as Spain defeated Italy 1-0 in Gelsenkirchen on Thursday.

The defender became the first Italy player to ever put through his own net in a European Championship match and a poor loss left the Azzurri with work still to do to secure progression from Group B.

Spain fired off 20 shots to Italy's four, also creating 1.9 expected goals (xG) to the Azzurri's 0.18 and enjoying 57.2 per cent of the possession, with La Roja clinching their place in the knockout rounds.

Spalletti was honest in his post-match assessment, with a huge clash against Croatia in Leipzig to follow on Monday.

"It is a result they [Spain] deserved and beyond the one-goal difference," Spalletti told reporters.

"They deserved to win it and we were never in the game

"Besides the final 20 minutes of the match we were never able to create situations which would allow us to actually compete against a brand of football of this level.

"They caused us problems larger than the scoreline suggested, let’s not beat around the bush. 

"Spain were a team on the night and we were not able to be a team."

If they are to lift more silverware in Berlin next month, Italy will need a dramatic improvement, as attempting just four shots in the match meant it was their fewest on record (since 1980) in any Euros game.

By contrast Spain, who were drawn into what many believed to be the toughest group at the tournament, have  made light work of some difficult opponents, thrashing Croatia 3-0 before comfortably overcoming Italy.

They have clinched top spot in Group B with a game to spare, while Italy are second on three points, two clear of Croatia and Albania going into the final round of games.

Finding a way to increase his players' energy levels was on Spalletti's mind going into the clash with Zlatko Dalic's side.

Spalletti added: "Maybe I needed to give them more rest, I probably need to give them more days off.

"We gave them a day and a half off in terms of rest and we saw that was the right decision in terms of our data.

"But there was too much of a gulf, we were constantly stretched, we probably didn't recover very well in terms of just how demanding and important the [start of the] tournament was itself, because there was too much of a gulf in terms of sharpness and freshness.

"You can't necessarily talk about anything else, overall. If you don't have the same stamina as the opposition, obviously you can't do things with the same reactivity, the same speed of reaction."

If Italy are able to secure second place in Group B, they will face the runners-up in Group A, a position currently held by Switzerland, in the last 16.

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    Spain are Euro 2024 champions.

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    Spain were simply the best team at this tournament, winning all seven of their matches without needing penalties.

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    The Barcelona winger curled in a sensational equaliser against France in the last four to become the youngest player to score at the Euros, while he also supplied four assists throughout the tournament.

    He is the first Spain player to register four assists in a single European Championship. It is also the joint most any player has ever assisted at a Euros that Opta has on record (from 1980 onwards).

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    Niclas Fullkrug

    Julian Nagelsmann's free-flowing, attacking football caught the eye as the host nation impressed, and German football looks to have a bright future following a few years in the wilderness. But for all the flair of youngsters Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz, and the neat and tidy build-up play, Germany were arguably more potent when they had a classic number nine on the pitch.

    Fullkrug was that man, coming on from the bench to score twice, including a last-gasp equaliser against Switzerland in the group stage that ultimately landed Germany in the tougher half of the draw, while he also went agonisingly close to sending the tie against Spain to penalties.

    Fresh from helping Borussia Dortmund to the Champions League final, Fullkrug has now scored seven goals under Nagelsmann for Germany, more than any other player.

    The main debate is probably whether he should be leading the line from the off, rather than having to settle for a super-sub role, given that of any player to score at least twice at the tournament, Fullkrug had the best minutes per goal ratio (80.5).

    Giorgi Mamardashvili

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    After a fantastic season in LaLiga with Valencia, Mamardashvili finished as the goalkeeper with the most goals prevented (4.67) based on Opta's expected goals on target (xGoT) conceded model.

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    Turkiye

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    But it is fair to say France, World Cup runners-up in 2022, did not impress in Germany. Indeed, it was not until the semi-finals that one of their players even managed to score a goal from open play, with their strikes before then having come via two own goals and a Kylian Mbappe penalty.

    Mbappe did break his Euros duck with that successfully converted spot-kick against Poland, but the broken nose he suffered in the opening game seemed to knock France's focus, and they never got back on track.

    And their 2-1 loss to Spain in that thrilling semi-final showed that a team cannot just bundle its way through a tournament without playing well; eventually, it will catch up with you.

    The pre-tournament favourites could point to some bad fortune, as they did record the fourth-highest non-penalty xG figure of any team at Euro 2024 (8.38), but Deschamps' team looked short of ideas at times, with Antoine Griezmann also struggling to wield his usual influence.

     

    Italy

    The holders were hardly well fancied ahead of Euro 2024, but it really was a forgettable attempt at defending their title from Italy. The Azzurri fell behind to the earliest goal in Euros history, after just 23 seconds, in their opening match against Albania, and while they came back to win that match, it was the only triumph they managed.

    Indeed, Italy were heading out until Mattia Zaccagni curled home in the 97th minute against Croatia, sealing a point that sent them through, but they had been comfortably beaten by Spain and subsequently capitulated without much of a fight against Switzerland in the last 16.

    Luciano Spalletti only took over in September 2023 after Roberto Mancini's sudden departure, but there's plenty of work for the former Napoli boss to do.

    Cristiano Ronaldo

    The Euros' record goalscorer could not add to his tally, not that it was down to a lack of trying. Indeed, Ronaldo had 23 shots without scoring at Euro 2024, with only another Portuguese great, Deco, having more attempts without registering at least one goal in a single edition of the Euros (24 at Euro 2004).

     

    This was surely Ronaldo's final Euros. He has played at six of them, becoming the only player to do so, but it is time to bow out.

    Portugal flattered to deceive the whole way through, one emphatic win over Turkiye aside, and never got back on track after losing 2-0 to Georgia at the end of the group stage. Roberto Martinez's team staggered past Slovenia on penalties, before ultimately losing by the same method to France.

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    Harry Kane

    Unlike Ronaldo, Kane did score. Indeed, the England captain ended up sharing the Golden Boot, as one of six players with three goals to his name.

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    Kane was taken off 60 minutes into the final, having also gone off in the semi-final and quarter-final when England were level.

    Across his seven appearances, he had just 27 touches in the opposition box (3.8 per game). Indeed, a startling statistic for England fans is that, across the last two Euros finals, Kane had just one touch in the opponents' area.

    Scotland

    Going up against the hosts in the opening game was never going to be easy, but that 5-1 hammering in Munich set the tone for a dismal tournament for Scotland.

    Steve Clarke's team had peaked in qualifying, and though an admirable performance in a 1-1 draw with Switzerland gave them some hope, they came unstuck at the death against Hungary.

    They exited the competition having had just 17 shots, nine fewer than any other team, and mustering an xG of just 0.95, the lowest figure in the competition.

    Romelu Lukaku

    It was another tournament to forget for Belgium, and one has to wonder why Domenico Tedesco's team were so lacklustre against Ukraine in their final group game, when a win could have ensured they would fall into the easier half of the draw (albeit they would have faced the Netherlands, rather than France, in the last 16).

    But matters might have been different had Lukaku had his shooting boots on, too.

    It is quite extraordinary that Lukaku did not manage to find the net. VAR was the bane of his existence in Belgium's shock loss to Slovakia.

    Based on his xG (1.7), Lukaku should have netted at least once, probably twice, but instead, he headed home without a goal to his name.

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