Despite luck in the round of 16 – Italy’s coach Spalletti rages and suspects mole

Despite luck in the round of 16 – Italy’s coach Spalletti rages and suspects mole

Status: 25.06.2024 13:07

Italy’s coach’s joy at reaching the round of 16 was short-lived. At a memorable press conference, Luciano Spalletti launched into an angry speech after Monday’s 1:1 draw with Croatia. Another angry speech – but this time with a new goal.

The defending champion is still in the race. Italy is in the round of 16 of the European Football Championship. A bit of luck and a last-minute goal against Croatia (1:1) prevented the “Squadra Azzurra” from having to hope for the lucky loser ranking of the best third-placed teams in the group on Monday evening. When Mattia Zaccagni finished a shot to make it 1:1 in the 98th minute, the tension that the Italians have been under for the entire tournament was released in the Leipzig stadium: Zaccagni was buried at the corner flag under a crowd of cheering players and substitutes. And the tension also fell away for national coach Luciano Spalletti: the 65-year-old sprinted across the pitch to mingle with the cheering crowd.

Master coach talks himself into a rage

“Sure, I’m under a lot of pressure on a personal level,” said Spalletti after the game at a memorable press conference in which the former championship coach of SSC Napoli repeatedly talked himself into a rage. “This pressure didn’t just start now. This pressure has been there since my first game against North Macedonia,” Spalletti said, looking back on his international debut in September 2023. Italy played 1-1 then too, but the mood in Italy was completely different than after the 1-1 draw against Croatia, which was celebrated like a victory. Some critics saw European Championship qualification in danger after the North Macedonia game.

“Could never be a journalist”

Late in the night in Leipzig and after reaching the round of 16, Spalletti took a big dig at his critics. While the emotional coach was still harsh in his criticism of his team after the 0-1 defeat against Spain (“The whole team was disappointing”), this time Spalletti had his sights set on the press: “I could never be a journalist because I wouldn’t be able to write something like what you write. I wouldn’t be able to express my jealousy.”

More than 20 minutes for four questions

Spalletti took more than 20 minutes to answer four questions, repeatedly talking himself into a rage. The coach freaked out at the very first question about the tactical defensive alignment and a possible discussion within the team: “There is obviously someone in the team who is passing on the information and that person is damaging the national team,” said the long-time Serie A coach, suspecting a mole in the team. “How old are you? 51? I’m 65. So I’m 14 years older. I always try to talk to my players. I have to listen to my players. And what’s wrong with that if the line-up was the result of discussions?”

Worst points average in ten years

Spalletti has only been in office with the “Azzuri” for nine months, having coached the 2021 European champions in 13 games so far. With an average of 1.92 points, the experienced coach has the worst record of any Italian national coach since Cesare Prandelli, who was sacked in 2014.

Italy only qualified for the European Championships with difficulty, and the four-time world champions were plagued by injury concerns at the tournament in Germany. During the preparations for the European Championships, Spalletti tried to create unity through team building. He invited stars from the past, who then told the European Championship riders about the golden times of the past.

Spalletti smells “mole”

“I’m someone who loves the team, I lose my composure when I feel like I’m being led by the nose,” the three-time Italian coach of the year (2006, 2007, 2023) said after the draw against Croatia, targeting the press and the alleged “mole” who spills team secrets. “And then some people ask me what happens if we’re eliminated. How can you ask a question like that?”

Favorite in the round of 16 against Switzerland

In the round of 16, Italy will face Switzerland in Berlin on Saturday (29 June, 6 p.m.). Before the match, the pressure from the Italian press is likely to increase again. A win is expected against the fast and strong Swiss, who brought Germany to the brink of defeat in a 1:1 draw on Sunday. A round of 16 exit would be seen as a disgrace, as the last defeat against the Swiss was 31 years ago.

Italy must improve

The Italians will still have to show improvement in the round of 16. The performance against Croatia seemed to lack ideas and lack inspiration in attack for a long time. After Croatia took the lead, the third time they had fallen behind in their third European Championship match, the Italians seemed despondent for a long time. Spalletti should not rely on a dream goal from Zaccagni, his first goal for the national team.

Spalletti: “I’m not afraid”

And if Italy loses against Switzerland, Spalletti has already identified the culprits: “If you stress every time how important the game is, it can happen that the players collapse under the pressure, which is why careless mistakes happen,” explains the former midfielder, and then turns directly to the press present in Leipzig in his reckoning: “I’m not afraid. Otherwise I could just watch the games in the stadium like you. I’m sure I would get the ticket for free.”

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