A defeat against Ukraine at San Siro on Tuesday (8:45 p.m.) would almost condemn Italy to the play-offs for Euro 2024, having already missed the last two World Cups.
It’s because she’s having trouble getting rid of her old demons, the Nazionale. On Saturday, Italy, long superior to North Macedonia, was caught at the end of the match in Skopje (1-1). Enough to recall the nightmare of the play-off for the 2022 World Cup, lost in added time against these same Macedonians (0-1). “Our kryptonite», laments the Gazetta dello Sport . Here is Italy in an uncomfortable situation, as it hosts Ukraine this Tuesday at the San Siro stadium in Milan (8:45 p.m.) for the continuation of the Euro 2024 qualifiers.
THE Corriere della Sera brandishes “the risk of the team being swallowed up by the abyss of fear“. The non-qualification for the 2018 World Cup was experienced as a tragedy. That at the 2022 World Cup was impossible, for a nation that has been quadruple global champion and which had previously only missed one edition, in 1958. Especially since the first affront had been washed away by a coronation at Euro 2020. Everything moves very quickly in football, and even more so at the Nazionale lately. The new coach, Luciano Spalletti, learned this the hard way.
Italy has its destiny in its hands
Appointed to the bench on August 18Spalletti replaced Roberto Mancini, including the departure for the Saudi selection left an entire country stunned. “I was surprised, stunned“, confided legendary coach Arrigo Sacchi. The federation is now rushing to pick up the pieces, because Italy has no margin for Euro 2024.
England is leader of group C qualifiers with 13 points, ahead of Ukraine (7 pts), Italy (4), North Macedonia (4) and Malta (0). The Nazionale has a match behind the Ukrainians and the Macedonians and therefore keeps its destiny in its hands, with still five games to play for it, knowing that the first two in the group will qualify. “It’s already time to do the calculations in order to fend off the rising anxiety», notes the Corierre della Serra.
A defeat against Ukraine, which leaves an encouraging draw against England (1-1), would almost sound the death knell for the Italian quest for a direct ticket to the Euro. “Spalletti goes all out in Milan», warns the Gazzetta. Let the Transalpines rest ured: everything is not really decided on Tuesday. By finishing 3e of the group, Italy would move into the play-offs, thanks to its good results in the League of Nations.
“Avoid the nightmare of dams”
It would then have to win a semi-final and a final in a mini-tournament which could concern, in a good scenario, Poland and Wales, and in a bad one, big names like Croatia or the Netherlands. It’s necessary “avoid the other nightmare called dams», alerts one Gazzetta traumatized from watching the World Cup on TV, twice in a row. The Italian press reports that Spalletti, who brought the first league title in Naples since the Diego Maradona erafocuses on the psychological aspect of Tuesday’s match.
On the pitch, unlike Ukraine’s attacking midfielder Mykhaylo Mudryk, Italy cannot rely on its will-o’-the-wisps attackers, Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Pellegrini, who are injured. Also missing will be winger Matteo Politano and defender Gianluca Mancini, starters in Macedonia. Spalletti should count on center forward Ciro Immobile, captain and opportunistic scorer in Skopje. It will also be necessary for Gianluigi Donnarumma, goalkeeper of PSG, to ume his status, he who faces criticism in Paris as in his country. The time where he was voted best player of Euro 2020bringing the Boot back to the roof of Europe, seems very far away.