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Euro 2024: Italy boss Spalletti acknowledges gulf in class with Spain

Former Napoli supremo admits margin of victory should have been far wider

Italy coach Luciano Spalletti admits there is ‘a gulf’ between the reigning European Champions and their Group B conquerors Spain.

While a 55th minute own-goal from Riccardo Califiori was the only thing to separate the sides, Spain spurned a glut of chances while the woodwork, and Gianluca Donnarumma came to Italy’s rescue on numerous occasions.

The result left Spain going through to the Round of 16 as group winners while Italy face the prospect of going out in the group stage should they lose to Croatia in Monday night’s clash in Leipzig.

Spalletti, overseeing his first tournament less than a year after succeeding Roberto Mancini, told “There was too much of a gulf. They caused us more problems than the scoreline suggests, let’s not beat around the bush.”

He added: “We were too frantic, particularly playing the ball over the top of their defence. When we won the ball back, we struggled to keep possession; when they won the ball back, we struggled to get it back.

“We struggled with their counter-press but we also made some simple mistakes on some simple passes, and you can’t afford to do that.”

Spalletti admitted he would love his players to be able to perform as Spain did, saying they are the standard in stylish football at present.

“Everyone would love to copy Spain in terms of the way they play,” he said. “They’ve been playing the best football for the longest time now.

“I need to try and succeed in making my players aware of how important this sort of match is, because if you sit very deep against teams like this, ultimately it becomes very difficult.

“We needed to keep possession like we have done in our previous matches. We needed to keep the ball and try to play. That’s the only way to play.”

The former Napoli boss bemoaned his side’s sluggish performance, adding: “That’s the main reason this happened. We needed to sort things out but the main reason we struggled is because we were sluggish.

“Spain were a team tonight and we weren’t able to be a team. They deserved to win, we were never in the game besides the final 20 minutes.

“If a number of players aren’t at the top of their game, it becomes more difficult. As it was, we allowed Spain to completely dominate proceedings, and to do so quite comfortably.”

Picture of Alex Hoad

Alex Hoad

Alex has more than 15 years' experience in sports journalism and has reported on multiple Olympics, World Cups and European Championships in additional to Champions League, Europa League and domestic football.