Luciano Spalletti named the same starting lineup for Italy’s first two Euro 2024 games, but following their defeat to Spain changes will be made for the final Group B match against Croatia, the manager said on Sunday.

After Italy’s 2-1 win over Albania, Spalletti kept faith with his players, but after the 1-0 defeat to Spain in which his side was totally outplayed, the manager had spoken of a tired team who could not compete with the pace and energy of the Spanish.

“After a game like that, the idea of being able to change something is there, because I probably made a mistake not to change before, looking at the performance against Spain,” Spalletti told reporters.

“But the team against Albania seemed so good to me that I thought it was a gamble to change things. Now that we have noticed a bit of fatigue, a bit of rustiness, something will surely change.”

Group B – Results and fixtures

GROUP BSpain, Croatia, Italy, AlbaniaVenue
June 15 – 19.00Spain 3 Croatia 0Berlin
June 15 – 22.00Italy 2 Albania 1Dortmund
June 19 – 16.00Croatia 2 Albania 2Hamburg
June 20 – 22.00Spain1 Italy 0Gelsenkirchen
June 24 – 22.00Albania v SpainDusseldorf
June 24 – 22.00Croatia v ItalyLeipzig

Table standings: Spain 6, Italy 3, Croatia 1, Albania 1

The result against Spain and the manner of the defeat led to much discussion in the Italian camp over the last few days but now the time for talking is over.

“We analysed it and talked about it, we took a step back in terms of what we’d seen in matches coming into that one,” Spalletti said.

“I expect to see that the game against Spain taught us some lessons, even though we played badly and suffered because of how it ended.

“Now we have to put facts before us and leave the words aside.”

Italy in the past were renowned for their defensive capabilities, their ability to see out a win, but the days of that “Catenaccio” (“door bolt”) style are long behind them and have no place in modern football according to Spalletti.

“Football today is no longer just about doing one thing, you have to know how to do more than one,” Spalletti said.

“Given Croatia’s quality, sometimes we will be forced to defend with 11 players, to compact and then turn the action around without allowing the opponents to recompose a defensive phase.

“It’s clear that in today’s football you can’t do it in the whole game, you can’t just live on low defence and restarts.”

“There are certain matches which ultimately dictate whether it’s been a great tale or a tale to forget,” Spalletti said.

“So ultimately the glory of your tale comes down to games such as these.”

Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic admitted his side had not been up to their usual high standards at Euro 2024 and they would need to keep their heads in Monday’s must-win Group B decider against Italy.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic

Dalic’s side have earned their spot among the elite in recent years, after reaching the World Cup semi-finals in Qatar and the final in Russia in 2018.

Yet their thumping 3-0 defeat to Spain in their Euro 2024 opener, as well as a 2-2 draw with Albania, has left them facing the prospect of an early tournament exit.

It has also caused Dalic to reflect on what has gone wrong, with the coach pinpointing their defensive fragility and a squad that is starting to get long in the tooth.

“We haven’t started well. We haven’t been up to our usual standards because we’ve been conceding too many goals,” he told reporters. “We only conceded once in the group stage in Qatar 2022, we’ve conceded five thus far here.

“The players are three years older. We are also coming up against strong opposition here as well. Perhaps the main issue is that we started to concede goals this season.”

Croatia find themselves in a precarious position, propping up the table with a point. While they will go through as runners-up if they beat Italy and Albania do not beat Spain, a draw is unlikely to be good enough.

“We know it’s essentially a knockout match tomorrow, and there won’t be any extra time and we must simply win the game,” Dalic said. “It’s must-win, any other result will send us home. We don’t want to go home so soon.

“We’ll try to stop them from getting that draw. We’ll try and stay relaxed to not lose our cool or lose our heads and not allow the opposition to get on top of us. Anything can happen tomorrow night but we’re ready to take it on again.”

In terms of possession, Croatia have been dominant in their opening two games, with over 60% of the ball.

They have also been creating chances, with the stats showing they top the expected goals metric and are second only to Germany for shots.

Yet they have struggled to convert that dominance to the scoreboard and are now under pressure to get it right against the Italians.

“Yes, there is pressure. And that comes down to the results we’ve had thus far and also to the 1,000s of fans that have been travelling and will be there in Leipzig as well,” Dalic said.

“So there is pressure for us to put a smile on their faces, to try to get a good result for our country. We need to show our true level. So right from the word go, we need to try to put things right.”

Spain on six points have already won the group, and Italy with three points need a draw against Croatia to guarantee their place in the last 16 as runners-up.

Defeat would see Croatia, who have one point, overtake the Italians and could leave them sweating on being one of the four best third-placed teams to advance, or out altogether if Albania, also on one point, were to beat Spain.