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Pellegrini: ‘Italy need head and heart against Croatia’

Pellegrini: ‘Italy need head and heart against Croatia’

Lorenzo Pellegrini assures Italy are ‘200 per cent’ behind coach Luciano Spalletti going into the EURO 2024 showdown with Croatia, where they must play ‘with head and heart.’

It kicks off on Sunday at 20.00 UK time (19.00 GMT).

A point would suffice for the Azzurri to go through in second place behind Spain after their 1-0 defeat to La Roja, having won the opener 2-1 in a comeback against Albania.

“Obviously, the atmosphere isn’t the same as after the Albania match,” confessed Pellegrini to UEFA.com.

“Spain played well, but we also did not perform at the standards of Italy. It was a difficult match, but it can teach us important things going forward. Our objective is to get through the group and we’ll give everything to achieve that.

“We learned a lot from the Spain match, because Spalletti wants to dominate games and that is our aim too. Obviously, it did not work against Spain, but we’ll try to focus on every detail to become what we want to be.”

Italy are the reigning Champions of Europe after winning the EURO 2020 title, but since then failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup and crucially changed coach from Roberto Mancini to Spalletti in September 2023.

“We know a lot has changed and there are very strong teams in the tournament, but we are coming here to give our all. We’re a good squad, we are 200 per cent behind the coach and everything he asks. We want to make our fans proud.”

Roma midfielder Pellegrini was forced to miss the EURO 2020 tournament through injury, so he is more determined than others to make his mark this time around.

Pellegrini won’t settle for a point with Croatia

Although a point would be enough against Croatia, Pellegrini warns against playing for a draw in that match.

“Absolutely not, we will try to dominate the game and win it. Croatia are a strong side, they have incredible players. They started the tournament badly with defeat to Spain, but even then they created lots of chances and had more possession.

“This is a team with quality, we will try to take the initiative.”

Veterans in the Croatia side include Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic and Luka Modric in a very experienced, but also ageing midfield.

“It’s true that many of our players are in their first major tournament, and so am I considering I missed EURO 2020. It’s natural to feel a little tense, but we are representing our nation and at times try a bit too hard.

“Modric is an incredible player and his quality is only part of it, as he has such a strong personality, people can always count on him in a difficult moment. I think that’s why he is an idol for so many players.”

Football is often seen as a battle between head and heart, but Pellegrini feels Italy can combine them.

“We need both, because if you only have one or the other, you won’t go far. Heart is wearing the Italy shirt and representing a whole country, with that huge responsibility on your shoulders. As for head, in such important games the details really make the difference.”