Francesco Acerbi warns Italy missing out on EURO 2024 qualification would be ‘a total failure’ and they need to show ‘maturity’ against Ukraine this evening.
It kicks off on neutral turf at the BayArena in Leverkusen at 19.45 GMT.
Although a point would be enough to guarantee qualification for EURO 2024, a win can push the Azzurri into Pot 3 for the tournament draw rather than Pot 4, as it is decided on results in qualifying rather than general ranking.
“It’s practically a cup Final, because not going to the Euros would be a total failure,” Acerbi told Sky Sport Italia.
“We are facing a determined side that will do everything to qualify, we have the qualities to hurt them and the concentration levels have to be at the maximum too.”
There are surprise changes from coach Luciano Spalletti, above all Torino centre-back Alessandro Buongiorno receiving only his second senior cap in defence, preferred to Federico Gatti and Gianluca Mancini.
Curiously, both Acerbi and Buongiorno are accustomed to playing in a three-man defence at club level, while they are also both left-footed.
“It changes very little really between three and four man defence, because you have to defend as a team, everyone needs to help out, remain focused and united. This is what we need this evening,” explained the Inter man.
Does Acerbi have any valuable advice for his teammates, being one of the oldest players in the entire squad?
“I only speak when I feel the need and importance to say something. I don’t just talk for the sake of it. These are all intelligent lads, they know how important the match is and the attitude must be one of a mature squad.”