Football News

Italy Route To The Final: Potential Opponents at Euro 2024

By CJ Smith

Italy Route To The Final: Potential Opponents at Euro 2024

Published: 17:28, 7 May 2024

As Euro 2024 approaches, we take a look at who the Azzurri might face on their route to the European Championships final.

Italy Route To The Euro 2024 Final: Potential Path

Italy head into Euro 2024 as tournament holders after beating England on penalties at Wembley in the 2020 edition. However, since then, the Azzurri 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 is not high among supporters that they can repeat their heroics of three years ago. Not least because they’ve been drawn into the ‘group of death’ (Group B) alongside Spain, Croatia and Albania.

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

Italy’s potential route to Euro 2024 final

Italy’s Group B fixtures

vs Albania (15 June, 8pm BST) – Everyone else in the group will be viewing their fixture against Albania as a must-win, given the quality on show elsewhere. But it must be noted that the Red and Blacks finished above both the Czech Republic and Poland with just one defeat from eight in their qualifying group, so cannot be taken lightly. Italy can, at least, draw confidence from the fact they’ve beaten Albania in each of their previous four meetings, most recently 3-1 in a friendly back in November 2022.

vs Spain (20 June, 8pm BST) – Arguably the most eye-catching clash in the entire group stage sees the Euro 2020 winners face the team they beat in the semi-finals. But, as mentioned, Spain have beaten Italy in two Nations League semi-finals since then. It’s all set up as an international grudge match and one that could define who finishes top of Group B. Sit back and enjoy.

vs Croatia (24 June, 8pm BST) – This is another mouth-watering clash between sides that have made international waves in recent years. Italy and Croatia are close neighbours with just the Adriatic Sea and a 23km stretch of Slovenia separating them. However, they haven’t met since 2015. Croatia have become something of a bogey team for Italy over the years. The Azzurri won their first meeting way back in 1942 but haven’t repeated the feat since, drawing five times (including the last three) and losing the other three clashes.

If Italy finish top of Group B

You might as well flip a coin for the winner of Group B, with Italy, Spain and Croatia all able to make very reasonable claims, while Albania will undoubtedly be keen to prove they’re not just here to make up the numbers. Should Luciano Spaletti’s men finish top — which as holders they’re obviously well capable of — they will face one of the best third-place teams in the round of 16. From there, their most likely route through the tournament is Germany in the quarter-finals, Portugal or the Netherlands in the semi-finals, and then England, France, Spain, Croatia or Belgium in the final. In short, it’ll be tough going.

If Italy finish runner-up in Group B

Runner-up is also a very realistic and respectable return in this group. If that’s the case, Italy will face the Group A runner-up in the last 16, which is most likely to be Hungary or Switzerland. That should then set up a repeat of the Euro 2020 final against England, followed by France or Belgium in the semi-finals.

If Italy finish third in Group B

There is also the very real prospect of Italy going through as one of the best third-place teams given the quality in Group B, but that could present any number of scenarios. The only guarantee here is that the Azzurri would then meet a group winner in the round of 16. Their most likely opponents would either be from Group E (probably Belgium) or Group F (likely Portugal).

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, Gianluca Scamacca and Ciro Immobile have all been tried over the last 12 months to varying degrees of success, with the latter perhaps the standout choice given he was the starter at Euro 2020. But a lack of cohesion up-front could certainly be an issue for the Italians, who scored 16 times in qualifying compared to 22 goals from England and Belgium, 25 from Spain, 29 from France and 36 from Portugal.

The period between European Championships has been volatile for the Italian national team and supporters will just be hoping Spaletti can keep the players together and away from any in-fighting.

Luciano Spaletti Tactical Insights

Although Spaletti experimented with three-at-the-back systems in recent friendlies against Ecuador and Venezuela, it’s difficult to see him straying far from the 4-3-3 that helped them during qualifying this close to the tournament. This system will allow them to get extra central midfielders onto the pitch, which is undoubtedly where they have the most quality.

The Azzurri will be all about possession in their opening game against Albania, but when they face Spain and Croatia, mobile midfielders like Barella and Davide Frattesi will be used to launch counter-attacks. Also watch for the driving runs of Inter’s Federico Dimarco from left-back.

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 this difficult group would be an achievement in itself and from there, fans will just be hoping the draw is kind enough to see them reach the latter stages.