Advertisement

More sleep, less PlayStation: Spalletti makes his point as Italy starts title defense at Euro 2024

DORTMUND, Germany (AP) — Turns out Luciano Spalletti isn’t such a kill-joy, after all.

The Italy coach has been portrayed as quite the disciplinarian for urging his players to turn off the video games and get more sleep. Indeed, striker Gianluca Scamacca was reportedly dropped from the squad in March because of an obsession with his PlayStation.

Spalletti, though, wants to put the record straight.

“I have nothing against any sort of game,” he said Friday, a day before Italy begins the defense of its European Championship title. “On the contrary, we have created a games room where there are two wonderful, modern, cutting-edge PlayStations that everyone goes there and plays.

“I have even had a go on it myself!”

What Spalletti really takes issue with, however, is his players playing video games late into the night and that affecting their performances in training the following morning. That simply will not happen during his tenure, which began less than a year ago.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable they are awake until 3 or 4 a.m.,” he continued. “They say, ‘But we are used to it, we’ll sleep in the morning.’ No, we need to sleep at night.

“There are psychoanalysts who have proved it, professors in any area of the world who will give you indications of that. We need to make sure we impart a correct lifestyle so we can produce our best football.”

And that needs to start with Italy’s opening match against Albania, a team that — on paper — is the weakest in a tough group also containing three-time champion Spain and Croatia, a World Cup semifinalist in 2022.

Yet both Spalletti and captain Gianluigi Donnarumma warned of Albania being a “banana skin” during their pre-match news conferences Friday in the bowels of Borussia Dortmund’s stadium, the venue for Saturday’s game on Day 2 of Euro 2024.

And the ever-expressive Spalletti used emotive, stirring words to get through to his players the importance of delivering a strong performance against a supposed underdog.

“Any Italian who tucked a ball under their arm after school, went out to play football then went home at night, with their face tired, with their shirt dripping in sweat, with their knees grazed — we are the dream for all those individuals,” he said. “For our fellow countrymen, we are heroes, we are giants. We are those who can’t possibly not give 100% out on the pitch.”

It’s nearly three years since Donnarumma plunged to his left and palmed away successive penalties, from England's Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, to win Euro 2020 for Italy in the final at Wembley Stadium.

Donnarumma is now the Azzurri captain and called on his teammates to create new memories.

“The last Euros was an unforgettable experience,” the Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper said. “We have written history and now we will try to write another page in our history.”

___

AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

Steve Douglas, The Associated Press