Italy will play in UEFA Euro 2024 next summer in Germany. It should not sound like big news considering that the Azzurri are the reigning champs. However, many things have changed since the summer of 2021 when Roberto Mancini's team won in penalties against England at Wembley.
Since then the Italian national team had a big crisis that led the Azzurri shockingly missing a second straight World Cup. Mancini, despite the big disappointment, decided to stay in charge but one year later parted ways with the Italian federation before agreeing a deal to become the new manager of the Saudi Arabian national team.
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When Mancini left, Italy FA President Gabriele Gravina decided to appoint Luciano Spalletti as the new head coach. An experienced manager, he won the Serie A title with Napoli just weeks prior. The Italian coach had the difficult task of qualifying for Euro 2024 in the same group as England and Spain, but most importantly, he had to bring the positive mentality back to the dressing room, which seemed a bit lost after the end of the Mancini cycle.
Spalletti did it, despite multiple issues, such as the one that forced Sandro Tonali and Nicolò Zaniolo to leave the training camp due to their connections with the illegal sports betting scandal. While, Zaniolo is still part of the team as the investigation is still going on.
As for how things got turned around, first, Spalletti was able to quickly reinstall a good spirit inside the dressing room. That was his main task, as the history of the Italian national team tell us that good results came only when the dressing room was united and on the same page, even when they were not the most talented rosters, as happened in 2021 at the Euros for instance. It happened with the help of some key players such as Giovanni Di Lorenzo, who was the captain at Napoli last season and one of the best players of the current Italian roster.
The Italian coach has also made some key and unpopular choices, as the one to not call the captain of the team, Ciro Immobile, for the last games, since the Lazio striker was not at his best. Instead of him, Spalletti called Atalanta striker Gianluca Scamacca and Juventus' Moise Kean, but also started the deciding game against Ukraine on Monday with Napoli's Giacomo Raspadori as central striker. A clear signal that Spalletti doesn't look at the past, but he's only focused on the present of the team.
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The current Italian roster is not that different from the one that failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup under Mancini. In fact, apart from Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, two of the most iconic players of the recent success of the Azzurri, the starting lineup didn't change much, with Inter's Alessandro Bastoni and Francesco Acerbi as starters instead of them in defense.
Italy tried to improve also their level of football in the recent games with Spalletti, even if the former Napoli manager didn't have much time and could mainly focus on the results to clinch the qualification. Italian striker Federico Chiesa, after the game against North Macedonia, summed up the new cycle and how the mentality changed really well.
"We conceded two goals? It's just the desire to play football. As the coach wants, we are proactive and every now and then you can concede some counterattacks. We showed that we want to dominate the game".
Italy are not be the best team around Europe and should not be considered as the leading candidates to win the tournament in 2024, despite trying to defend their title. However, the right mentality is finally back in the dressing room after clinching the European qualification against Ukraine, and as the past showed, this is what the Italian national team need to make a difference during the big tournaments.