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Spalletti expects calmer Italy in Euro 2024 last-16 clash with Switzerland

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 28 Jun 2024

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Luciano Spalletti believes Italy may start to relax and improve at Euro 2024 as the knockout stages await on Saturday.

The Azzurri will return to Berlin’s Olympiastadion where they lifted the World Cup in 2006, facing Switzerland in the last 16 after an unconvincing Group B progression for Spalletti’s side.

Italy had to come from behind to defeat Albania, were outclassed by Spain and then needed last-gasp heroics to draw 1-1 with Croatia and progress in second place.

Yet Spalletti sees his players calming down for the knockout rounds, having struggled for portions of the group stages in Germany.

“We had this difficult group and you could tell the pressure was on the players, and on me,” Spalletti said at Friday’s pre-match press conference.

“Now we are through this group, I expect to see the team more relaxed because you cannot make calculations in a knockout round, the kind of mindset that can affect your performance in the group phase.

“We will only go through if we win this game, otherwise we won’t, so we need to focus like that. There are no permutations.”

A strong history remains between Italy and the stadium in Berlin, dating back to 18 years ago when the Azzurri beat France on penalties in the World Cup final after Zinedine Zidane was sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi.

“Everyone remembers that moment in Berlin, but we had Gigi Buffon with us on the bus and he talked to all of us about that situation, helping us to experience what we had only seen from home,” Spalletti added.

“We know there is this memory to be honoured, that we must be at the level of those players who brought home the trophy in this stadium.

“We have the responsibility of knowing we have fans all over the world. Even if against Albania and Croatia we were in the minority in the stadium, we knew that all our fans were there in front of their televisions pushing us on.

“We can feel it anyway, even if they are not physically present.”

Spalletti confirmed his side will be without wing-back Federico Dimarco on Saturday, while Riccardo Calafiori is out suspended after two cautions in the group stages.

Italy also have concerns over Alessandro Bastoni’s fitness, with Nicolo Fagioli appearing likely to get the nod ahead of Jorginho in midfield as well.

“Bastoni needs to be evaluated, he had a bit of training today, which allowed us to breathe a sigh of relief,” Spalletti continued. “Dimarco cannot recover, he is out.

“We will play with something that resembles a four-man defence because we must try to be more attacking than what we’ve seen so far.

“You have young talent pushing and we must create the space that they deserve. Fagioli has this natural, calm way of doing things, so seems perfectly suited to that role.

“It’s just about having the courage to give him that space.”

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