Sacchi analyses Italy draw with Croatia: ‘Zaccagni goal a reward for commitment’

Sacchi analyses Italy draw with Croatia: ‘Zaccagni goal a reward for commitment’

Former coach Arrigo Sacchi gave a detailed analysis of Italy’s dramatic draw with Croatia in their final Euro 2024 group game, explaining why the Azzurri ‘need a wake-up call’.

Luciano Spalletti’s side failed to impress for large portions of their clash with the Kockasti at the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig on Monday evening and fell 1-0 down in the 55th minute after a Luka Modric rebound, leaving them in an incredibly tense spot.

Just as Italy looked to be on track for another painful defeat in Germany, Mattia Zaccagni produced a moment of magic after an inviting pass from Riccardo Calafiori, curling the ball into the far corner in a goal reminiscent of Alessandro Del Piero’s strike against Germany 18 years ago, making it 1-1 in the 98th minute.

Sacchi analyses Italy draw with Croatia

Writing for La Gazzetta dello Sport, Sacchi gave his thoughts on Italy’s performance in their draw with Croatia and what needs to happen next in their Round of 16 clash with Switzerland on June 29th.

“I don’t believe in luck, I’ve never believed in it. Zaccagni’s goal, marvellous for the execution, is a reward for the commitment, because the Azzurri have shown, despite a thousand difficulties, to always believe, not giving up despite the many mistakes made.

“Now, however, in order for this splendid goal that sends us into the Round of 16 against Switzerland to represent a positive turning point, Spalletti’s boys need to wake up. Yes, you heard right: a wake-up call!

“Because to me, at times, they seemed timid, contracted, and consequently unresponsive. Now we must put aside these fears, we must take courage, we must attack the opponent, whoever they are.

“We took an unbelievable scare, we had the strength to stay on our feet until the last second, so we must change gears and take the right path.

“If we look at the result, it is logical that us Italians should celebrate. But woe betide us if we start dreaming! Let us keep our feet on the ground, please, and analyse well what happened. In the first half Croatia put us in difficulty, it’s useless to deny it.

“The Azzurri weren’t very compact, very disjointed between the departments, the marking was always sloppy despite Spalletti having inserted an extra defender. And then, I’ll never tire of saying it, Italy don’t press, and nowadays if you don’t press you don’t get very far.

“In midfield they had three players, Jorginho, Barella and Pellegrini, who before each pass touched the ball at least three or four times more than they should have. Obviously, by doing so, the moves coming out of our defence were more cumbersome and easier to contain for the Croatians.

“Barella didn’t seem to have a great night, Pellegrini looked tired after a particularly busy season, Jorginho doesn’t have the pace he used to have, it’s the evidence of things.

“We did manage, at times, to push with the wide players, Di Lorenzo on one side and Dimarco on the other, but we never gave continuity to these attempts. In addition, the pair of forwards, perhaps also because they weren’t well matched, didn’t move with the right timings.

“Retegui did very little, and Raspadori, whom I know well, also did little. With such a picture it was difficult to build anything positive.

“In the second half, as soon as Italy returned to the pitch after the break, we made the same mistake we made at the start of the match, we were sluggish, listless, and so Croatia started strongly and put us in difficulty.

“Donnarumma made an amazing save on Modric’s penalty, and then I thought, maybe now we’ll wake up. But no, a cross from the third-quarter, another defensive lapse and Croatia’s goal.

“I wonder: is it possible to commit two mistakes like those of Frattesi on the penalty and Bastoni on Modric’s goal? In certain cases, it’s necessary to be more careful, more reactive.

“Spalletti’s substitutions, if we have to look at the result (substitute Zaccagni’s goal), produced something positive, but I expect much more from this Italy group. I know that there’s no time to work, that they cannot work miracles, but I’d like to see more courage on the pitch.

“Scamacca, when he came on, moved a little more than usual, and this is a positive factor. Chiesa, every time he comes onto the ball, looks like he should break the world and then, instead, doesn’t combine much, he has great qualities that he must learn to exploit better.

“But in general, it’s the entirety of the Italy team that must believe in themselves more. I really liked Calafiori’s move that led to the equaliser. A move made with personality, with courage, with technique. That’s where we have to start again.

“Italy’s growth must rest on these moments. And in the middle of the pitch, we must touch the ball less and attack more, because when you attack and steal the ball, the opponents go on tilt and you, instead, get fired up.

“The psychological aspect is often decisive, and this’s what Spalletti will work on to achieve that leap in quality that everyone expects.”