The giant is afraid of Poles. “I may not be able to handle it mentally” Polish national team
After more than five years, the era of Roberto Mancini in the Italian national team has ended. After the former English champion with Manchester City came to replace Gian Piero Ventura, his team won Euro 2020, but then she did not advance to the next one world cup. In mid-August 2023, Mancini resigned from his position with immediate effect, and as it later turned out, the main reason for this decision was an excellent offer from Saudi Arabia, guaranteeing him EUR 120 million with a three-year contract with the local federation. This forced Gabriele Gravina, the president of the Italian federation, to look for a successor.
From August 18, the Italian coach is Luciano Spalletti, who just moments earlier won the historic championship with Napoli and resigned from further work to rest a bit with his family. Then, president Aurelio De Laurentiis allowed him to make such a decision. However, the national team can only knock on your door once in your life, so Spalletti took advantage of this opportunity and took on the mission of taking Italy to Euro 2024. When he appeared in this position, the Italians had three points after two matches in which they lost 1-2 to England and won 2-0 against Malta. Two teams from each group advance directly to the tournament.
Marco Guidi, journalist of “La Gazzetta dello Sport”, told Sport.pl after the announcement of Spalletti’s nomination that his first task is to qualify for the European Championshipachieving a decent result there and returning to world championship in 2026, which will take place in Canada, Mexico and the USA. But for now, the Italians are not yet sure of advancing to the tournament, which will be held in Germany next year.
Italians against the wall. There is no room for a mistake here
In Spalletti’s debut during the September training camp, the Italians drew 1-1 with North Macedonia, and a few days later Italy beat Ukraine 2-1. In October, Italy won convincingly against Malta (4:0), while at Wembley they had to accept the superiority of England (1:3). The English caused big problems with counter-attacks, which were used first by Marcus Rashford and then by Harry Kane.
The results of group C are such that the Italians are third with 10 points and three points behind Ukraine, but they still have two matches to play, including the rematch against Ukraine (November 20). Before that, however, there will be a match against North Macedonia (November 17) – if they defeat a lower-ranked rival, the stake in the match against Ukraine at the BayArena in Leverkusen will be direct advancement to Euro 2024. What if Italy fails to take second place in the group? We explain below.
Poland – Italy in the semi-finals of the Euro 2024 play-offs. But this can still change
After the October matches, the Polish national team has only 2.9 percent. chances for direct promotion according to the calculations of the “We Global Football” profile, which means that it will almost certainly have to fight for a place in the tournament through two-stage play-offs. The White and Reds have a certain place there thanks to playing in the A division of the Nations League. In the case of three teams from the A division without a certain advancement to the Euro, Estonia from the D division will be added to the ladder. It will be played by the highest-ranked team from the best division, which does not have a direct promotion to the European Championship. The second and third teams of division A will play against each other. At this point, the Poles’ likely rival are the Italians, and the second pair will be Croatia and Estonia.
The latest series indicates that the team from the Apennine Peninsula will be the favorite in the March semi-final. Poland’s last win against Italy took place in November 2003, when in a sparring at the Legia Warszawa stadium the White and Reds won 3-1 after goals by Jacek Bąk, Jacek Krzynówek and Tomasz Kłos. Since then, the Italians have won three matches against Poland, and two of them were a draw. The last official match took place on November 15, 2020 in the Nations League, when Italy won 2-0 with goals from Jorginho and Domenico Berardi.
Of course, Poland’s path in the play-offs may become much easier, because Croatia (the leading team in division A) and Italy still have a chance to directly advance to Euro 2024 through the qualifying rounds. Then a possible rival in the semi-finals of the play-offs is the previously mentioned Estonia. So everything can still change, to the advantage of the team led by Michał Probierz.
Italians need to get their act together mentally. Spalletti has lost a Newcastle star
To outline the current profile of the Italian national team, we contacted Ettore Intorcia, a journalist from “Corriere dello Sport”, to find out whether Spalletti’s work has already brought any tangible results. At the beginning, the expert paid attention to mental issues.
– The coach had to work a lot to rebuild the group overwhelmed by Mancini’s resignation. And these are the beginnings: working on mentality and concentration, which was missing in Spalletti’s debut. At a tactical level, he carried over the 4-3-3 system he used at Napoli. For now, Spalletti has lost Sandro Tonali, and he may not have it either Nicolo Zaniolo – explains Ittorcia, referring to the recent bookmaker scandal involving betting on matches on illegal platforms. Tonali was banned for 10 months and will return to play for Newcastle United at the start of next season.
Currently, the Italians’ Achilles heel is defense. – Currently, the best central defenders play in systems with three defenders and must adapt to playing with four players in the national team. Even Federico Dimarco, who plays for Inter Milan as a left-winger in a 3-5-2 system, plays as a left-back in a 4-3-3. Another big problem is the uncertainty in the attack, I’m talking about the central striker. Ciro Immobile from Lazio has to find himself again, Andrea Belotti from Roma is just getting back to a good level, Mateo Retegui from Genoa has not yet been deciphered by Spalletti and Italian football, and Gianluca Scamacca from Atalanta is a surprise at this stage – says the Italian.
During his first conference as coach, Spalletti talked about playing with high pressure and setting a high defensive line. This was one of the main points that the Italians worked on in training. After the previous matches, the coach pointed out the lack of winning second balls, problems in deep defense and the lack of confidence of his players in 50-50 situations. There was also praise for breaking up Ukraine’s counter-attacks and for the offensive play of Frattesi, who often formed a line with the central striker and he pressed high. The clash with England at Wembley was supposed to show the Italians’ potential for subsequent matches and tournaments.
Italians are afraid of the match against Poland. “They may not be able to handle it mentally.”
Assuming the scenario that the Italians would first have to defeat Poland in the semi-final of the play-offs and then Croatia in the final, there are greater concerns in the context of the clash with the Poles. – Poland is a team with great individuals and extensive international experience. This may worsen the situation for Italians who are afraid of the play-offs. Because of this, they did not play at the World Cup in 2018, when they lost to Sweden. Then they fell to the much weaker North Macedonia. A match like the one against Poland is one where the Italians have everything to lose and may not be able to cope with it mentally – argues the journalist of “Corriere dello Sport”.
And who are Italians particularly afraid of? – Your advantage is the reliability and experience of the entire group. Behind Robert Lewandowski is Arkadiusz Milik, who is always dangerous. We should also be concerned about the quality of Piotr Zieliński, who can create a numerical advantage in the attack in the last twenty meters – emphasizes Ittorcia.
What should be the Italians’ goal if they advance to Euro 2024? – They are there to defend the title won in 2021 at Wembley. However, there was a generational change between the tournaments, Giorgio Chiellini or Leonardo Bonucci are not in the squad. The minimum goal at the European Championships is the semi-final, but for now other teams, including England, have developed more since the end of Euro 2020 – explains the Italian journalist.