Football News

Italy route to the Euro 2024 final: Potential knock-out stage opponents if defending champions beat Switzerland

By CJ Smith

Published: 11:00, 29 June 2024 | Updated: 10:36, 9 July 2024

As Italy gear up to face Switzerland in Euro 2024‘s last 16, we take a look at who they might face should they progress further.

Italy head into Euro 2024 as tournament holders after beating England on penalties at Wembley in the 2020 edition.

Italy’s potential route to Euro 2024 final

Italy’s Group B fixtures

2-1 vs Albania – Italy made things hard for themselves, conceding against Albania after just 23 seconds (the quickest goal in European Championships history) but the Azzurri were able to get themselves back into the game quickly, leading less than 20 minutes later. They were troubled at various points but their victory never really felt at risk after taking the lead.

0-1 vs Spain – Arguably the most eye-catching clash in the entire group stage saw the Euro 2020 winners face the team they beat in the semi-finals. In the end, Spain got another helping of revenge, having also beaten Italy in two Nations League semi-finals since then. Italy managed just one shot on target, while facing nine.

1-1 vs Croatia – Italy almost had to settle for third spot. They trailed Croatia deep into injury time after Luka Modric scored 10 minutes into the second half — having missed a penalty just a few moments earlier. But Mattia Zaccagni scored a nice curling goal in the eighth minute of injury time to secure the point and second place for Italy. It also knocked Croatia out of the tournament as a result, with their two points not enough to secure a spot as one of the best third-placed sides.

Italy’s route as Group B runners-up

Last 16: Italy will face Group A runners-up Switzerland in the last 16. Read our Switzerland and Italy prediction here.

Quarter-final: Should Italy advance, they will face either England in a rematch of the Euro 2020 final, or Slovakia.

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Semi-final: This is definitely the easier half of the bracket on paper, with Austria or Netherlands among the potential semi-final opponents for Italy

Final: And, finally, a showcase against any one of Spain, Germany, Portugal or France could be on the cards.

Italy’s reasons for optimism

Why wouldn’t the holders be optimistic? Italy entered the last Euros with very low expectations but it very quickly became clear they were challengers as they thrashed Turkey and Switzerland 3-0 and then beat Wales 1-0 to round out the group stage without conceding a goal. In the likes of Gianluigi Donnarumma, Nicolo Barella and Federico Chiesa, the Azzurri have genuinely world-class talent, while the core of their squad is made up of the Inter side that have blown Serie A away this season.

With those credentials, you can never write them off.

Italy’s potential roadblocks

The most obvious issue in this Italian side right now is where the goals are going to come from. It’s not so much that they’re short of quality but more that they need to find a No.9 and stick with him. Mateo Retegui, Giacomo Raspadori and Gianluca Scamacca have all been given a chance at Euro 2024 so far, with the former duo starting up front together for Italy’s final group game against Croatia. When there is just one striker, Scamacca has been the choice, but he is yet to find the net. Italy’s three goals so far have been scored by a midfielder, and a defender and a winger.

Luciano Spalletti tactical insights

Although Spalletti experimented with a back three earlier this year, including in a pre-tournament friendly against Bosnia, Italy have set up with a back four in two of their three games so far. The favoured system now appears to be a 4-2-3-1, though Spalletti did utilise a 3-5-2 against Croatia. In the 4-2-3-1, Scamacca leads the line, flanked by Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Pellegrini on the wings. Davide Frattesi occupies the No.10 role.

Slightly further back in the midfield, Jorginho and Nicolo Barella are the reliable double pivot, and the latter scored a great goal in Italy’s opening win over Albania having pushed forward. In a back four, the defence picks itself. Federico Dimarco, Riccardo Calafiori, Alessandro Bastoni and Giovanni Di Lorenzo are the defenders, with Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal. Dimarco’s driving runs from left-back are key for Italy launching counter-attacks.

Fan and media perspectives

There will always be some expectation surrounding Italy at a major tournament, especially given they enter this one as holders. But compared to previous decades, excitement is pretty low. Getting out of the difficult group is an achievement in itself. And now with the positive draw on paper, we could see another deep run from the Italians.

How Italy qualified for Euro 2024

Since winning the last European Championship, Italy have failed to qualify for a second successive World Cup, lost twice to Spain in UEFA Nations League semi-finals and finished six points behind England in qualifying for this tournament. Simply put, optimism was not high among supporters.

European Championship Qualification – Group C
Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GF GA Points
1 England 8 6 2 0 22 4 20
2 Italy 8 4 2 2 16 9 14
3 Ukraine 8 4 2 2 11 8 14
4 North Macedonia 8 2 2 4 10 20 8
5 Malta 8 0 0 8 2 20 0