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Italy 2-1 Albania: Azzurri hold on to start Euro 2024 with win

Italy won their opening Euro 2024 game 2-1 against a resilient Albania side.

A photo of the Euro 2024 football logo

Defending champions Italy got their Euro 2024 campaign off to a great start by beating Albania 2-1 in Dortmund.

Before Luciano Spalletti’s side could even get to grips with the game, they were 1-0 down.

Albania were 1-0 up inside 23 seconds, a new record that smashed the previous fastest goal in the European Championships.

Nedim Bajrami was on hand to fire a close range effort past Italy captain Gianluigi Donnarumma and stun almost everyone inside the stadium, including the 50,000 Albania fans.

The game plan for the underdogs was playing out to perfection and they had plenty more chances on the counter-attack in the opening 15 minutes of the game.

However, the Azzurri found a way back into the game before the nerves had really started to heighten.

A short corner was taken before being delivered into box towards an unmarked Alessandro Bastoni.

The defender had acres of space and fired home to draw Italy level and settle down his team-mates.

Five minutes later and the champions had turned the match on its head.

Albania struggled to get the ball out of their box with Italy piling the pressure on but eventually they cleared their lines, or so they thought.

The ball fell to the feet of Nicolo Barella who lashed a strike home first time to spark an eruption of noise from the travelling fans.

It had been coming to be fair to Spalletti’s side, but Albania were still furious after they thought VAR should have ruled out their goal.

But it stood and kept Italy in total control of the match in Dortmund.

Despite now being in a deficit, Albania did not change their approach to the match and sat in deep.

Italy were tasked with committing players forward and trying to break them down, but things had started to settle down as we approached the half-time whistle.

Italy hit the post just before the break and while they would have liked to have head down the tunnel with a two-goal advantage, they will still have been happy with their efforts.

Euro fever has swept the continent, but the second-half of the match was a struggle to watch.

There were a very limited number of chances for either side, although Albania had a great opportunity from a free kick but there was a brave Italian body in the way.

Although Albania’s defence was standing firm, there was little in terms of attacking threat.

The reigning champions looked comfortable and it never felt like an equaliser was coming.

However there was a huge chance in the dying minutes that was kept out by Donnarumma, who can put his hand up for playing a huge part in picking up three points.

The win was essential for Italy as they look towards two tough games in the remaining group stage rounds.

What next?

There is still plenty of football to be played in Group B and while it is important to get off, it does not have to make or break your tournament.

Italy are next in action against Spain on 20 June, where a win could take them through to the knockout stages.

Their final match will pit them against Croatia on 24 June.

For Albania, things do not get any easier.

First up is Croatia on 19 June before Spain on 24 June.

Unfortunately for Albania, they are likely going to need a win somewhere if they are to make it through to the knockouts.

 

Picture of Mitch Fretton

Mitch Fretton

Mitch is a freelance sports journalist with experience working for LiveScore, GOAL and Colchester United. He has experience working from both his desk at home and in the press box at games covering the Champions League and international football.

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