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Spalletti acknowledges Italy was outclassed by Spain in one-sided heavyweight matchup at Euro 2024

GELSEKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) — Italy coach Luciano Spalletti could not be clearer: Play like they did against Spain and his players will not retain the European Championship.

“They caused us problems beyond what the scoreline suggests and we can’t beat around the bush on that,” Spalletti said after his team’s 1-0 loss to the dominant Spanish on Thursday.

It was billed as the first heavyweight matchup of Euro 2024 but there was a huge difference in quality, as Spalletti pointed out.

“There was too much of a gulf in terms of sharpness and freshness,” he said, adding: “We were never in the game.”

Spalletti is attempting to change Italy’s playing style by pushing his players to control games more and dominate possession, rather than rely on defensive strength that has characterized the best Italy teams down the years.

He isn’t ready to give up on that.

“Everyone would love to copy Spain,” Spalletti said. “They have played the best football for the longest time. I need to make my players aware of how important this match is because it becomes very challenging if you just sit deep.

“You have to overhaul the concept and mentality of the team and just chase after the ball and cede it to them. But I don’t want to play like that. I don’t know how to coach how to do that. I’m the least-suited person to do that so you need to play the ball and keep possession. And try to get hold of the game and take it by the scruff of the neck. That’s the only way.”

Spalletti partially blamed himself for the loss, which came five days after Italy’s come-from-behind 2-1 win over Albania in Group B.

“Maybe I needed to give them more rest,” he said. “Probably more days off because we gave them a day and a half (off) and thought that was the right decision after looking at the GPS data but there was too much of a gulf. We were constantly stretched and never able to squeeze the gaps.”

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

The Associated Press