Nations League defeat against Spain leaves Italy drifting, with Euro 2024 qualification looking tough

Italy put in a passive and lacklustre display on the whole against Spain to be knocked out of the Nations League. The form and performance leaves the team and the fans feeling confused about where this Italy team stands.

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Italy seem to be stuck in a rut, with all of their recent matches having the shadow of North Macedonia hanging over them. The Azzurri have been unable to put together the sort of form that could repair the pain that the fans were put through by missing out on the World Cup, and it has made them a very hard team to read.

The latest disappointment for Roberto Mancini’s side came in the Nations League semi-final against Spain on Thursday evening, as a late Joselu goal made sure that the Spanish won 2-1 and progressed to face Croatia in the final.

Spain’s Rodri takes the ball away from Italy’s Davide Frattesi. [@SEFutbol]

Italy have a lot of work to do on regaining belief from fans

There is a base level of support that the Italian national team is always going to possess. There are many very patriotic people in the country, and almost everyone likes football. That being said, it can be very hard to win some people back when you hurt them as badly as occurred before the World Cup.

Having won the Euros in 2021, many Italy fans quite fairly assumed that the team would then qualify for the World Cup and perhaps cause a bit of an upset in Qatar. Instead, they were beaten by North Macedonia in a playoff and collective morale dropped to a stunning low.

There is not one single way for the Azzurri to immediately turn that around. It has to be a gradual process that comes from beating major nations, and then qualifying for Euro 2024. It doesn’t end there, though, as they have to then provide the fans with at least one big moment of joy. They don’t have to win the tournament, but they have to put in a showing that the fans will be proud of.

On the basis of the Nations League showing against Spain in the Netherlands, this Italy team is too passive to win a major tournament again. There are better teams than Spain in Europe, and La Roja had so much more effective possession than the Azzurri. Roberto Mancini’s side was unlucky with a disallowed goal for Davide Frattesi, but they showed little intent to beat Spain.

Italy’s Ciro Immobile scores a penalty against Spain. [@Azzurri_En]

Italy’s recent struggles make expectations confusing

This is an Italy side that really does not know where it stands in regard to the rest of Europe. The Azzurri are the current European champions which was a wonderful achievement in itself.

To follow that up by not qualifying for the 2022 World Cup was a truly remarkable set of events. It has plunged the team into a state of confusion. Nobody knows what they are supposed to expect when they see Italy take the field against other good teams.

This was exhibited in last year’s Nations League when Italy managed to get a draw against Germany and England, as well as a narrow win over England. They were also heavily beaten 5-2 by Germany. Just before that, they were dismantled 3-0 by Argentina in the Finalissima.

They also put in a very poor performance against England in the last set of Euro 2024 qualifiers and given the current strength of England, that may have already consigned Italy to second place in that group.

It is this inconsistency that means even if Italy do make it to the Euros, there will not be a huge amount of confidence that they can defend their crown. Time has shown that tournament in 2021 to be something of an anomaly. Italy are not as good as that tournament suggested.

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