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´I did my thesis on 3-5-2´ – Spalletti rages at talk of formation pact with Italy players

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 25 Jun 2024

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Luciano Spalletti raged at suggestions a pact with his players resulted in Italy’s switch to a 3-5-2 formation for Monday’s draw with Croatia, as they scraped into the last 16 at Euro 2024.

Following a 2-1 win over Albania and a deserved 1-0 defeat to Spain, the defending champions entered their final match in Group B with their fate in the balance.

Luka Modric’s goal – which made him the oldest goalscorer in Euros history at 38 years and 289 days – put them on the brink of a third-place finish, which would have left them waiting nervously on other results to discover whether they had qualified.

However, Mattia Zaccagni stepped off the bench to curl home a brilliant equaliser after 97 minutes and 19 seconds, the second-latest goal in Euros history (excluding extra time), after Hungary’s Kevin Csoboth versus Scotland one day earlier (99:33).

Italy will now face Switzerland for a quarter-final spot on Saturday, but their performances have not been universally welcomed at home.

Reports in the Italian media suggested Spalletti abandoned his favoured 4-3-3 setup for a 3-5-2 shape at his players’ behest, and the former Napoli boss was furious when asked about those claims in his post-match press conference.

“In my opinion, this is what you were told,” Spalletti said, before asking the reporter his age.

“You’re 51, you still have 14 years before you get to 65 like me. I speak to the players, I need to hear with their ears and see with their eyes, so I talk to them, what is the problem?”

Spalletti went on to claim someone in the Italy camp had leaked details of his conversations with the squad, saying: “Don’t claim this is your poetic licence, this is just a weakness of those who leak things.

“There is an internal environment and an external one and if in the internal environment there are those who speak of certain things outside, it’s someone who harms the national team.

“I did my thesis at Coverciano on 3-5-2. I’ll let you see it later. It’s only natural that I speak to the players.”

Though Italy attempted over twice as many shots as Croatia (13 to six), they only hit the target three times and lost the expected goals (xG) battle, 1.49-0.98.

Asked whether he was afraid of failing at his first major tournament, Spalletti said: “Am I afraid?

“What am I afraid of? If I was afraid, I would have just come here like you guys to watch the games. I would have done another job.

“I know so many people that would have given me free tickets. It’s only natural that there’s pressure, but we go out there to play.”

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