The Italian soccer team plays against Ukraine for the Euro Cup

The Squadra Azzurra is in the process of shedding its skin. You can see the beginnings of a new culture of play and resistance under Luciano Spalletti, but there are also relapses in the football of fear. Today, Monday, it’s time to participate in the European Championship.

The Italian coach Luciano Spalletti faces the decisive match of the qualification for the Euro Cup.

Riccardo Antimiani / EPA

At least for one weekend, Italy breathed a sigh of relief. Joy reigned again around the Squadra Azzurra. On Friday, blue t-shirts were purchased in front of the Olympic Stadium in Rome. Particularly popular was the number 14, Federico Chiesa delighted the tifosi in the penultimate Euro qualifier against North Macedonia: he contributed two goals to the important 5-2 draw and impressed with dribbles and feints on the winger’s chalk line left. “Currently he is our only exceptional person, our Jannik Sinner,” said coach Luciano Spalletti, referring to the professional tennis player Sinner, who thrilled the entire country with his entry into the final of the ATP Finals.

Chiesa was honored by the comparison. The fact that Italy’s best professional footballer today is proud to be mentioned in the same breath as a non-footballer also demonstrates the loss of importance of calcium.

“With his technique and his physicality, Federico creates the free spaces that are so important for us,” Spalletti praised his poster boy. He demands this mix of technical brilliance and dueling toughness from all players. For Chiesa, who was injured for a long time, a little willpower was added. Shortly after playmaker Jorginho miserably missed a penalty, Chiesa made it 2-0 with a great individual performance. In this way she erased the fear of failure that arose in her. And Jorginho, who had already missed his fourth consecutive penalty with the national team (two against the Swiss team in World Cup qualifying and one in the European Championship final at Wembley), gave his teammate an especially warm hug. She was aware that the match could have been canceled at that moment.

There were several moments like this in that decisive penultimate qualifying match. After going into halftime leading 3-0, Italy lost 3-2. There was a risk of a scenario like the one in March 2022 in Palermo, when a goal from the North Macedonians blocked Italy’s path to the World Cup in Qatar. A paralyzing silence spread. Spalletti walked with his head bowed. “At the level we currently have, a slight loss of concentration can mean we pay dearly,” he later commented on this phase.

No, Italy does not shine. It is miles away from the magical football that Spalletti’s SSC Napoli celebrated in the last championship season. The Squadra Azzurra does not even have the quality of AS Roma, with whom Spalletti once played at the Olimpico. “Back then we didn’t win any titles. “But we played a constructive match based on technical finesse,” Spalletti said, looking back.

He became emotional and said that during his time at Zenit Saint Petersburg, Russian football fans had told him about Roma’s style with shining eyes: “It’s also like a victory when the quality of your work is recognized on the other side of the world.” field”. “The owner of the Tuscan estate was a true farmer and enjoyed the growth of the vines and the long gallop of his own horses.

«We are a new Italy. “We want to dominate”

Spalletti also wants to set an example now, not only as a coach, but also as a romantic and incorrigible football aesthete. That is why he asks his players to use technical subtleties and an aerial game that is not sterile but opens spaces. «We are a new Italy. We want to dominate,” summarized the model student Chiesa. In Spalletti’s latest stint as coach, there is also a need to have the courage to be able to force a game in the right direction.

That’s why he praised the second half above all: “I liked the reaction after North Macedonia’s second goal. We got up. It was a great Italy.”

Well, it was a big Italy against a small opponent, 66th in the world rankings. At least the “Gazzetta dello Sport” once again saw the gateway to Europe for the 2020 European champions in sight. To be there and defend the title we need at least a draw against Ukraine on Monday.

Fear of the next misstep

Warning voices are once again raised regarding this match. “Never tell the players that a draw is enough, because if they play for a draw, they usually lose,” worries former national coach Arrigo Sacchi in the “Gazzetta dello Sport”. This makes this selection fundamentally different from previous editions of Squadra Azzurra. They were known and infamous for being able to play for a minimum result because they knew how to dictate the pace of a match. The motto was that a good horse only jumps as high as it needs to. The current generation does not have this maximum class and focus. The horse lover Spalletti has to teach his people to jump higher and at the same time more beautifully. His recipe: more effort in pressure and control of the game to have more scoring opportunities. And a more beautiful game, so that the moments of aura eclipse even the bad results.

However, no one dares to dream that more attractive football can bring great results. The fear of failure runs too deep. And the dark cloud of investigations into the Turin prosecutor’s game continues to hang over the Squadra Azzurra. Alessandro Florenzi, the fourth international player, was interviewed last week. There were no internal consequences or preventive measures, as admitted by the head of the delegation, Gianluigi Buffon. “Everyone is responsible for themselves,” was all the former goalkeeper said. So if you make mistakes, it’s your own fault, but if not, should you put collective action before everything else? There are many contradictions in the new Squadra Azzurra.

Qualification for the Euro Cup, Group C. Games on Monday. Ukraine – Italy. North Macedonia – England.
Classification: 1. England 7/19 (21:3). 2. Italy 13/7 (16:9). 3. Ukraine 7/13 (11:8). 4. North Macedonia 7/7 (9:19). 5. Malta 8/0 (2:20).

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