Luciano Spalletti notes that while he was brought in during an emergency situation to make sure Italy qualified for EURO 2024, ‘now I have the opportunity to really start getting to work.’
The Nazionale knew that a point on neutral turf in Leverkusen would suffice to secure qualification for the European Championship in Germany next summer.
That is what they got against Ukraine, held to a goalless draw with chances at both ends, including a potential penalty when Bryan Cristante appeared to catch Mykhailo Mudryk in stoppages.
“I heard the media talking about fear, but you’ve been telling me from the moment I arrived that this game was fundamental,” said Spalletti in his press conference.
EURO 2020 winner Roberto Mancini failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup and then abruptly resigned in August, so there was a scramble to appoint former Napoli boss Spalletti with just days to spare before the crucial qualifiers against North Macedonia and Ukraine in September.
“Considering what happened in the recent past with other tournaments, we absolutely had to qualify and it’s not easy to play football when you can feel that pressure breathing down your neck.
“It is not easy to come in and immediately make the right choices. Some things I learned only after taking the job and now I think I know a little more. I came here to qualify, not to find excuses in case we missed out.
“Now the real work starts, now I have the opportunity to really start getting to work. When I accepted the role, I knew that qualification was mandatory.”
With something to now work towards next summer, Spalletti is already introducing some changes to Mancini’s reign, including an app that will allow the players to watch video lectures and tactical analysis even when they are away from the Coverciano camp.
“We want to get as close as possible to what happens at a club. We want to keep the players in contact, so I will not wait until March, I will go to the training centres, have dinner with them and ask for their opinions.
“We have great players in this Nazionale and I want to get to know them without that pressure of needing the result. The players have things to tell us. We will also from now on probably train with a drone, because we need the footage from the sessions.”
The preparations begin for EURO 2024 and that means scheduling some friendly matches for the next get-together in March 2024.
“We needed this result to get back into the football that matters. Without the Euros, it would’ve been difficult to really get into a growth process. I will ask for the most difficult friendly fixtures, because many of these players do not have much experience at European level, so when else can they accumulate it?”
In his six matches in charge, Spalletti has overseen three wins, two draws and a defeat to England.
“I have already learned some important things. For instance, we never really had Alessandro Buongiorno and yet he proved to be a champion. Nicolò Barella is a very versatile midfielder.”
With the scoreline still at 0-0, Giacomo Raspadori was replaced by Gianluca Scamacca at half-time, while Domenico Berardi was not even on the bench despite starting the 5-2 win over North Macedonia.
“Just two days to recover from one game to the next is not much, they never got to train, we had to basically explain things to them while they walked around.
“We needed someone strong in the air, so I introduced Scamacca. He did not play at his level this evening, but he worked hard. It became more physical as the game wore on, there was very little football, it was just a continual battle for the ball.”
There was controversy in stoppages when Bryan Cristante appeared to catch Mykhailo Mudryk on the ankle, but the referee and VAR did not intervene.
“Cristante puts his foot near to Mudryk’s foot, it is next to it, but it does not touch. Mudryk is already going over at that point and trying to find the contact.”