Italy will play Albania in their first match of the Euro 2024

Italy will begin their Euro 2024 campaign on Saturday night against Group B foes Albania, where they will begin their European title defence

(Football news) While the ultimate goal of the Azzurri is to win consecutive European Championships, their neighbors are content to make it out of the group stage on only their second major tournament appearance.

Italy, who are competing in their 11th European Championship, can tie Germany and Spain for the most victories with three if they manage to hold onto the Henri Delaunay Trophy in Berlin the following month.

They will also try to become just the second team in history to win consecutive Euros, behind their Spanish rivals in 2008 and 2012. However, not many experts believe Luciano Spalletti’s team will triumph.

The Azzurri have arrived in Germany unbeaten in six games, yet the spectre of failing to qualify for the last World Cup – and then only squeezing through qualifying after losing former boss Roberto Mancini – looms in the background.

Since succeeding Euro 2020-winner Mancini last year, Spalletti has nonetheless steered his nation to six wins and three draws – and Italy are ranked ninth in the world by FIFA – but a tough task awaits in Group B: Spain, Croatia and Albania will all pose problems for an injury-hit squad.

Despite defensive absences, La Nazionale have not conceded a goal in their last 317 minutes of play – including a 0-0 draw with Turkey and Sunday’s 1-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in two pre-tournament friendlies – and they will now try to maintain an impressive record at European Championships.

Italy have conceded a miserly sum of just six goals across their last 12 matches in the competition, the most recent of which was in their 2021 triumph at Wembley, when upsetting final hosts England to claim glory via a penalty shootout.

To aid their aim of repeating that feat, the Azzurri must surely take care of business on Saturday, as ahead of two testing group fixtures, they meet opponents they have beaten in all four previous meetings.

While Italy nervously edged past Ukraine to qualify, Albania topped their group in some style: after losing their opening game against Poland, they went unbeaten through the next seven, finishing ahead of both the Poles and second-placed Czech Republic.

The Euro 2024 draw was not kind, though, and their first fixture brings them face-to-face with some familiar foes – no fewer than nine players in the Albanian squad play their club football in Serie A.

In addition to compatriots Edy Reja and Christian Panucci, Italian coach Gianni De Biasi previously held the post of Albania manager, taking his adopted country to Euro 2016, where they secured their sole victory at a major finals to date – against Romania in the final group game.

The Eagles were still eliminated on that occasion, and current coach Sylvinho – the first Brazilian boss to lead a side at the Euros since Luiz Felipe Scolari in 2008 – has a huge job on his hands to avoid an early exit in Germany.

Certainly, recent friendly successes over Liechtenstein and Azerbaijan – the latter a 3-1 win in Tirana last week – will do little to persuade doubters that Albania can progress from this year’s ‘Group of Death’.

Nevertheless, they have very little to lose in Group B and have become ever more accustomed to winning, so an upset or two could be on the agenda.

Also read: Spain will play Croatia in their first match of the Euro 2024


Share The Article:

Leave A Reply