Spalletti: Italy 'switched off' for fastest-ever goal


DORTMUND, Germany — Italy manager Luciano Spalletti said his team “switched off” for Albania’s record-setting early goal, but praised the way his team bounced back to get a 2-1 win in their Euro 2024 opener in Dortmund on Saturday.

Italy came into the match as defending champions, and Spalletti says his team must be far more clinical in front of goal if they are to repeat the feat, but also said his team are building their Euros defence off playing “good football.” In the end, goals from Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolò Barella were enough to earn Italy the three points after an early scare.

Albania, buoyed by at least two-thirds of the support inside the stadium, made Euros history when Nedim Bajrami scored the quickest goal in tournament history after 23 seconds. The goal came off the back of an Italian error: Federico Dimarco took a throw-in on the left side, but Italy were slow to react, Bajrami pounced and powered an effort past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

“These things can happen because we switched off,” Spalletti said in his post-match news conference. “But we need to appreciate the desire to try and go and play football even when the going got tough.

“We simply needed to keep things nice and tidy there, as we were boxed in.”

Federico Chiesa said the intimidating atmosphere did not play a role in Italy starting slowly.

“From my vantage point on the pitch, there were fewer Italians and lots of Albanians but that’s wonderful,” Chiesa said. “It’s nice to play ‘away from home.’ That didn’t influence on us conceding the opening goal, that came from a throw-in, but we showed we wanted to keep the ball rather than launching it long.”

Spalletti was delighted with the way his team responded, and how the team rallied around Dimarco. From there, Italy were dominant. Spalletti said he believed “the scoreline doesn’t reflect the difference between the two teams” but also sounded a note of caution to his team after Albania’s Rey Manaj went close to scoring a late equaliser.

“We have to improve — we thought we were better than we were in certain situations,” Spalletti said. “We need to be meaner — we are neat and tidy in building things up — but we need to hurt the opposition. We thought we were brilliant at keeping possession but that’s something we need to do better.”

Spalletti’s Albania counterpart, Sylvinho, was hesitant to criticise his players for not holding their early lead against the champions from 2021.

“Yes, we could’ve managed it better, absolutely,” he said. “But we mustn’t forget that we were up against a very good team, Italy quickened the tempo a great deal. Italy moved the ball quickly.

“It’s a shame we couldn’t resist. It’s not easy because they’re a good side. If we hadn’t conceded the second goal, then it’d been a good match for us. Unfortunately, we couldn’t withstand Italy’s attacks and it was a hard 25 minutes for us.”

Spalletti praised Barella’s showing, after the Inter Milan midfielder was an injury doubt heading into the match.

“I picked him even though he hasn’t trained much as that’s what he’s about,” he said. “If he drops deep and gets out of the congested areas, he’s better. He keeps things ticking over in front of the defence in terms of quality. He gets us moving. He had a wonderful performance.”

Spalletti said Italy will play in a different way when they face Spain next up, and Chiesa is anticipating a fierce task when the two meet on Thursday in Gelsenkirchen.

“It will be a great match, Spain showed tonight and in the past what a great side they are,” Chiesa said. “We’re no worse than they are. We’ll go out there and compete for every ball. The head coach wants tough players who’ll battle for every ball, as that’s what we’ll need to win the competition.”

Albania, meanwhile, will look to pick up their first points against Croatia in Hamburg on Wednesday but admitted they were sorry for not giving their fans more to cheer in Dortmund.

“I was disappointed by the result,” Sylvinho said. “When you prepare a match and come up against a team like Italy who are such a good side, we worked for 10 days straight to try and win this match, or get a draw.

“The crowd was incredible — we said two days ago the stadium would be red, and I saw so many proud Albanians. It’s a shame we weren’t able to equalise in the final minute — but these things happen.”



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