The Italy Men’s National Team will be attempting to defend their crown as European champions this summer with Luciano Spalletti leading the team into the 2024 European Championship in Germany.

Having won Euro 2020 (in 2021) with a penalty shootout victory over England at Wembley, Italy are theoretically the team to beat in Germany. Having missed out on the World Cup in between these two editions of the Euros, a strong showing is needed to make up for recent disappointment.

The Azzurri have played eight games under Spalletti since he took over from Roberto Mancini, six to ensure qualification for this tournament and two friendlies. With five wins, two draws and a defeat, there is a relatively mixed feeling around the team.

A tough group has been drawn for Italy, with Spain, Croatia and Albania the opponents. Here is what to expect from each of Italy‘s Group B rivals at Euro 2024.

Spain

The Spain National Team has become very hard to judge in recent years. We all still vividly remember their 2008-2012 dominance and the sheer quality they had, but recent tournaments have not gone their way.

A last-16 exit at the hands of Morocco at the 2022 World Cup saw Luis Enrique step down from the role, with Luis de la Fuente taking over. He has impressed, winning the UEFA Nations League in 2023 with a penalty shoot-out victory over Croatia. They beat Italy in the semi-final.

Spain De La Fuente
Spain coach Luis de la Fuente. [@SEFutbol]

La Roja did well to navigate a qualification group containing a resurgent Scotland and a talent-laden Norway side, finishing top with seven wins and one defeat. Many less familiar names have been drafted in by De La Fuente and whilst it is not as star-studded a squad as we might think Spain should have, there is still an abundance of quality if the coach can find the right formula.

Spain are expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3, with players like Rodri, Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres thought to be assured of their places in the starting eleven.

Spain’s provisional Euro 2024 squad

Some big calls were made by the coach when naming his 29-player provisional squad, that will have to be cut down to 26 after friendlies against Andorra and Northern Ireland.

Atletico Madrid‘s Koke was left out, as was Tottenham‘s Pedro Porro. The surprise inclusions were Ayoze Perez (Real Betis) and Fermin Lopez (Barcelona). Barcelona duo Gavi and Alejandro Balde miss out through injury.

Olmo Spain
Spain’s Dani Olmo against Brazil. [@SEFutbol]

Goalkeepers: Unai Simon (Athletic Club), Alex Remiro (Real Sociedad), David Raya (Arsenal).

Defenders: Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Robin Le Normand (Real Sociedad), Aymeric Laporte (Al Nassr), Nacho Fernandez (Real Madrid), Dani Vivian (Athletic Club), Pau Cubarsi (Barcelona), Alejandro Grimaldo (Bayer Leverkusen), Marc Cucurella (Chelsea).

Midfielders: Martin Zubimendi (Real Sociedad), Rodri (Manchester City), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Fabian Ruiz (PSG), Pedri (Barcelona), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid), Fermin Lopez (Barcelona), Aleix Garcia (Girona), Alex Baena (Villarreal).

Forwards: Lamine Yamal (Barcelona), Ferran Torres (Barcelona), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Nico Williams (Athletic Club), Ayoze Perez (Real Betis), Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Joselu (Real Madrid), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad).

Croatia

One of those teams that never comes into a tournament as one of the favourites, but you also never want to face, Croatia will know they have a chance of getting through this group at Spain or Italy‘s expense.

There are many nations in recent years that have fallen foul of underestimating Croatia, and it is fair to say that they have been managing the transition away from some of their most established stars very well. Whilst many big names remain, there is younger talent ready to make a mark in Germany too.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic. [@HNS_CFF]

Zlatko Dalic is still in charge and he took them to a third-place finish at the 2022 World Cup, having been beaten by eventual champions Argentina in the semi-finals. As mentioned in the Spain section, they reached the Nations League final in 2023, but did not actually win their qualification group for this tournament.

They finished second, one point behind Turkey in a group that also featured Wales, Armenia and Latvia. The best news for Croatia leading up to the tournament is that Ivan Perisic has returned from an ACL injury in time to be named in Dalic‘s squad. We all know how Croatia play, they will be intense, clinical, rugged, and very hard to break down whilst posing a serious threat going the other way.

Croatia’s provisional Euro 2024 squad

Dalic has done this a little differently to many other countries. He has named a 35-player preliminary team, but there is actually a defined 26. The other players are on call for if there are injuries or someone puts in a really bad showing in the friendlies against North Macedonia and Portugal.

There is plenty of Serie A/B representation in the Croatia squad as always, with four players from Italian clubs in the 26 and others like Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic, Perisic and Marko Pjaca who have played in Italy before.

Goalkeepers: Dominik Livakovic (Fenerbahce), Ivica Ivusic (Pafos), Nediljko Labrovic (Rijeka).

Defenders: Domagoj Vida (AEK), Josip Juranovic (Union Berlin), Josko Gvardiol (Manchester City), Borna Sosa (Ajax), Josip Stanisic (Bayer Leverkusen), Josip Sutalo (Ajax), Martin Erlic (Sassuolo), Marin Pongracic (Lecce).

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Mateo Kovacic (Manchester City), Marcelo Brozovic (Al-Nassr), Mario Pasalic (Atalanta), Nikola Vlasic (Torino), Lovro Majer (Wolfsburg), Luka Ivanusec (Feyenoord), Luka Sucic (RB Salzburg), Martin Baturina (Dinamo).

Forwards: Ivan Perisic (Hajduk), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Bruno Petkovic (Dinamo), Marko Pjaca (Rijeka), Ante Budimir (Osasuna), Marco Pasalic (Rijeka).

On-call: Borna Barisic (Rangers), Duje Caleta-Car (Lyon), Kristijan Jakic (Augsburg), Dominik Kotarski (PAOK), Toni Fruk (Rijeka), Marin Ljubicic (LASK), Igor Matanovic (Karlsruhe), Niko Kristian Sigur (Hajduk), Petar Sucic (Dinamo).

Albania

Finally, Albania are expected to be the weak point of this tough-looking group but nothing is ever that simple in tournament football. They are certainly at the tournament on merit, winning their qualification group which contained Czechia, Poland, Moldova and the Faroe Islands.

Like Croatia, this is a team that Italian football fans will find very recognisable. There is plenty of talent as well as experience in Sylvinho‘s squad and they will be feeling incredibly confident after such a good qualification campaign.

They conceded just four goals in eight games, a record bettered only by Portugal and France. Obviously, they were in a weaker group than many other sides.

Albania’s Mario Mitaj on the ball. [@FSHForg]

Albania’s provisional Euro 2024 squad

Sylvinho has named a 27-player provisional squad meaning there is only one name to cut before June 7. There are four goalkeepers in the squad so it is assumed that one of them will be removed.

An incredible nine players in the squad play their football in Italy, with the likes of Marash Kumbulla, Elsied Hysaj, Kristjan Asllani, Berat Djimsiti and Nedim Bajrami expected to be very important if Albania are to make it out of this group.

Goalkeepers: Etrit Barisha (Empoli), Thomas Strakosha (Brentford), Elhan Kastrati (Cittadella), Simon Simoni (Eintracht Frankfurt).

Defenders: Elseid Hysaj (Lazio), Berat Djimsiti (Atalanta), Adrian Ismajli (Empoli), Arlind Arjeti (CFR Cluj-Napoca), Marash Kumbulla (Sassuolo), Enea Mihaj (FC Famalicao), Naser Aliji (Voluntari), Ivan Balliu (Rayo Vallecano), Mario Mitaj (Lokomotiv Moscow).

Midfielders: Amir Abrashi (Grasshoppers), Ylber Ramadani (Lecce), Klaus Gjasula (SV Darmstadt 98), Qazim Laci (Sparta Prague), Nedim Bajrami (Sassuolo), Kristjan Asllani (Internazionale), Ernest Muci (Besiktas), Medon Berisha (Lecce).

Forwards: Rey Manaj (Sivasspor), Armando Broja (Fulham), Taulant Seferi (Baniyas), Jasir Asani (Gwangju FC), Mirlind Daku (Rubin Kazan), Arber Hoxha (Dinamo Zagreb).