Italy suffer late draw against North Macedonia as Spalletti’s reign begins with disappointment

Italy did not start life under Luciano Spalletti in the best way possible after a late equaliser meant the Azzurri drew with North Macedonia in 2024 European Championship qualification.

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The Italy Men’s National Team suffered a disappointing 1-1 draw with North Macedonia in 2024 European Championship qualification on Saturday night in Luciano Spalletti‘s first game as Azzurri coach.

Playing away at the Todor Proeski Arena in North Macedonia, Italy knew that they needed to get three points on the board to make up the early ground that was lost to England and Ukraine who drew earlier in the day.

It certainly wasn’t a performance for the ages from Italy and a late free-kick from Enis Bardhi meant that Ciro Immobile‘s header earlier in the second half was not the winning goal that the Azzurri had hoped for.

Lacklustre Italy get punished

Federico Dimarco for Italy. [@Azzurri_En]

The assumption has to be that there will be better performances from Italy under Spalletti in the near future. By the late stages of the second half, the Azzurri couldn’t really complain that their opponents had managed to get something from the game.

Having only managed two shots on target in the whole game, it was a performance devoid of much spark from an Azzurri team that looks a world away from the one that won Euro 2020 not so long ago.

Immobile showed good awareness and initiative to head in the opening goal in the 47th minute after a shot from the edge of the box was saved, but Bardhi’s equaliser was a wonderful free-kick that Gianluigi Donnarumma couldn’t do much about in the 81st minute.

It had been coming, with Italy playing as if they had the game wrapped up already. That is an attitude that Spalletti simply must drum out of his players if they are to avoid another major tournament qualification failure.

Spalletti’s safety first Italy lineup

Giovanni Di Lorenzo in action for Italy. [@Azzurri_En]

Whilst there is a lot of excitement about what the most recent Serie A-winning coach can do with a national team that has really lost its way after the Euro 2020 triumph, Luciano Spalletti did not exactly scream revolution with his starting XI in North Macedonia.

The former Napoli coach left the likes of Mateo Retegui, Giacomo Raspadori and Wilfried Gnonto on the bench and favoured a more experienced and recognisable Italy lineup, with the team being: Gianluigi Donnarumma; Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Gianluca Mancini, Alessandro Bastoni, Federico Dimarco; Nicolo Barella, Bryan Cristante, Sandro Tonali; Matteo Politano, Ciro Immobile, Mattia Zaccagni.

It was not a team that managed to blow North Macedonia away, with many still having vivid memories of the night that stopped Italy from going to the 2022 World Cup. The good news for Spalletti is that Immobile found the net with an opportunistic goal and there will be hope that he can refind some international form.

There was slightly more experimentation when Nicolo Zaniolo and Giorgio Scalvini were brought on fairly early in the second half. Gnonto and Raspadori were also introduced later on.

This result for Italy means that they sit third in the group, three points behind Ukraine with a game in hand. The Azzurri are nine points behind England at the top, but Spalletti has two games in hand over the Three Lions.

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