Euro 2024: Italy willing to ‘scuff’ Armani suits vs. Spain

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — Italy coach Luciano Spalletti has said his team are ready to scuff up their Giorgio Armani suits when they take on Spain at the Arena AufSchalke on Thursday in their second game at Euro 2024.

Both countries opened Group B with a win last weekend, with reigning champions Italy coming from behind to beat Albania and UEFA Nations League winners Spain easing past Croatia.

Spalletti, 65, is trying to implicate a playing style similar to Spain’s with the Italian national team, but he insists his players will also be willing to dig in when they have to.

“We are dressed in Giorgio Armani and Giorgio Armani is world famous,” Spalletti said in the pre-game news conference. “So, we go there with the same suit, try and be true to our identity and play the same way.

“But, of course, we need to show the same desire as our opposition to test ourselves against one of the best footballing philosophies in world football.

“Once we are off the pitch, we need to make sure we have no regrets. We need to try and play our own game in our best clothes, but we are willing to scuff up our suit if required.”

Italy’s match with Spain is one of the most anticipated matches of the group stages, pitching the holders against one of several pre-tournament favourites.

Spain won when the two sides met last year in the Nations League semifinal, but it was Italy who emerged victorious via penalties when they faced each other in the last four of Euro 2020, played in 2021.

“This game tomorrow could be a Euros or World Cup final,” Spain coach Luis de la Fuente told a news conference later on Wednesday. “It’s a classic between two national teams created to compete at this level.”

A lot has changed since their last matchup, though, with both teams under new coaching regimes, although Spalletti suggested Italy still have work to do to catch up with Spain.

“Spain have absolutely everything,” he added. “When it comes to individual qualities and the skillset as a team. They always do things in the same way.

“I am curious to see what happens when they try and press with all 11 men, what we decide to do and how we respond to that. But, overall, I do really like their style.

“You try to pinch certain ideas and try to analyse certain things. Spanish football is attacking in style. They have a number of players who press high.

“We must do a good job in terms of finding a free man as quickly as possible. If we don’t have a free man, we’ll be forced to make a long pass to our forward line.

“As for whether it’s the best brand of football, there are many countries that play positive, attacking football and Spain are one of those. We need to make progress before we can play the same brand of football.”

De la Fuente responded by saying his team wouldn’t get carried away by the praise from his Italian counterpart.

“Spalletti a great coach but praise won’t weaken us,” he said “I have always valued our players and know they don’t let us down

One of the talking points of Spain’s 3-0 win over Croatia in their opening game was that they had less possession than their opposition in a competitive game for the first time since the Euro 2008 final — a streak spanning 136 matches.

That is in part because La Roja play a slightly more direct style, with two wingers in Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams, and Spalletti acknowledges the threat Luis de la Fuente’s side now carry in transition.

“This Spain team gets the ball forward a bit quicker, they are little more direct, but it depends on who plays as the centre forward,” he added.

“There are three forwards who have different skillsets. [Alvaro] Morata is the best at running in behind. He’s not lazy. He runs a great deal. In terms of meters cover and speed, his numbers are incredible.

“The same for Lamine Yamal. He gets the ball high up the pitch, they have two wingers who like one-v-one situations. When we have the ball, we must make sure we are in the right position for a turnover because they are deadly if you leave too much space on the counter.”

Spain midfielder Fabián Ruiz, though, suggested the stylistic change was more evolution than revolution.

“I think the style is similar,” he told reporters. “Spain have players that like to keep possession and have the ball.

“The team is characterised by quality players who want ball … but the coach wants us to be more vertical as well now and to try get in the opposition’s half quicker.”

A win would guarantee either country’s place in the knockout rounds, while a draw would also likely be enough for them both to progress from Group B.

Italy, who have a fully fit squad to choose from against Spain, close the group phase against Croatia on Monday, while Spain finish against Albania on the same day.