Euro 2024: Italy criticized and Luciano Spalletti’s future in doubt after last-16 defeat to Switzerland

Video Caption, Highlights: Switzerland 2-0 Italy

  • Author, Alex Bijzuid
  • Role, BBC Sport Senior Journalist at Olympiastadion Berlin

The reigning champions are out of Euro 2024 and it would be even kinder to say that Italy have gone out with a whimper.

Luciano Spalletti’s side were beaten 2-0 by Switzerland at Berlin’s Olympiastadion and failed to produce even the late fight that characterized at least the comeback draw against Croatia in their final group match.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a worse Italian team than this in my life,” former England striker Gary Lineker said on BBC One.

In 2006, Italy won their fourth World Cup at this venue, beating France on penalties.

Three years ago the Azzurri went to Wembley and crushed English dreams in another shootout to claim a third European Championship title.

There are talented players in this selection, but judging by the performance against Switzerland, he lacks character. Not the craftsmanship of Andrea Pirlo, the cunning of Marco Materazzi or the sharp tricks of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.

Of those who started in England’s 2021 defeat, only goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, defender Giovanni di Lorenzo, midfielder Nicolo Barella and forward Federico Chiesa made Spalletti’s starting XI for the lacklustre exit in Berlin.

“From three years ago to now it’s unbelievable,” added former England captain Alan Shearer.

“I was really shocked by how bad Italy were. They offered nothing in any position, Switzerland played with them.

“They dominated that game and gave Italy no chance. Up top they were so weak, they offered nothing in front of goal. There was no threat. They were so poor, especially in the forward positions.”

‘Italy was a mess’

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Defending champions Italy won one of their four matches at Euro 2024

He was originally supposed to go on sabbatical and spend time at his farm in Tuscany, but he interrupted his sabbatical to take over the national team when Roberto Mancini resigned in August last year.

There were Italian fans in Maradona shirts in the stands in Berlin and Spalletti on the bench, but there was none of the intense, attacking football that made his Napoli team so fun to watch last season.

“The team was timid in terms of the intensity of the game,” he said. “We didn’t do well, we couldn’t keep the intensity up.

“If you can’t win the ball back because we’re not quick enough at the back, you have to give them space.”

Spalletti needed just 10 games into the tournament to get a team that failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar into shape. The team reached this tournament only second in qualifying, behind England.

But after four games at Euro 2024, and with only a win against Albania and a late draw against Croatia to show for it, Spalletti and Italy’s tournament is over.

“They were almost shabby,” said BBC pundit Rio Ferdinand. “It’s like they don’t have one answer or solution for any scenario that happens in this game today.

“There will undoubtedly be questions asked of Spalletti.”

And they were. Immediately after the defeat, the 65-year-old was asked whether he believed he could remain as national coach.

“That question is very natural, don’t feel guilty asking me,” he said. “But that gets to the heart of the matter: it doesn’t change anything for me.

“I am responsible for what happened. I chose the players and this is of course part of a process where I have to get to know the players.”

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Spalletti’s coaching career began at Empoli in 1993 and spanned eleven clubs including Roma, Inter and Napoli

Spalletti complained about the lack of time he had spent with his team compared to other coaches at the tournament, the injuries to certain players and even the fact that Inter Milan won the title in April.

“Inter won Serie A and then I made sure that it is a very professional, serious club because Simone Inzaghi kept training the team in a certain way,” he explained.

“I was in touch with how often Inter trained, but maybe subconsciously you are not that applied when you have won the league so early.”

After suggesting he had too many of his players in training for the draw against Croatia, this time he said he had rested them and made six changes to his line-up.

“What happened tonight was not due to one single cause,” he added. “But when that’s the pace, when you don’t do a little bit more in terms of pace and intensity, it becomes a lot harder to compete and we were below par.”

Five months after joining Naples, Napoli ultras were unhappy with the job he had. They stole his beloved Fiat Panda and said they would only give it back if he left the club.

After this defeat, a Swiss journalist took the opportunity to ask whether Switzerland was now Ferrari and Italy a Fiat Panda.

“You have to accept everything,” Spalletti said. “Even rather tasteless innuendos like yours – you’re clearly a great exponent of sarcasm, and you’re right, what more can you say?

“You did better than us, you were worthy winners, and we will try to do better next time.”

Napoli’s ultras finally gave Spalletti back the wheel as he led them to their first title in 33 years, and the veteran fears no doubts over his future with the national team this time around.

“If you want to scare me, say ‘what now, what now’,” he added. “I’ve been under pressure since day one, since I decided to become a coach, to get this far. I’m very relaxed about trying to compete at this level.”

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