The Italy Men’s National Team squeezed into the 2024 European Championship knockout stages despite scoring just three goals in their Group B fixtures. They need to see a significant improvement if they are to overcome Switzerland in the Round of 16, and certainly if they hope to retain their continental crown.

On a positive note, goals from defender Alessandro Bastoni, midfielder Nicolo Barella and winger Mattia Zaccagni suggest the Azzurri have threats throughout the team, but the last-gasp nature of the Lazio man’s equaliser against Croatia highlighted the lack of contribution from the striking options available to Luciano Spalletti.

Atalanta frontman Gianluca Scamacca began the competition as the first-choice No.9 and Genoa‘s Mateo Retegui started the final game of Euro 2024 Group B alongside Giacomo Raspadori.

Who should lead the Italy attack against Switzerland and fire the Azzurri to victory?

Is Atalanta’s Scamacca the man for Italy?

Gianluca Scamacca celebrates scoring for Atalanta. (Photo: Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio Facebook)

Ahead of the tournament in Germany, when Scamacca was handed the coveted no.9 shirt by Spalletti, the 25-year-old was the obvious choice to be the focal point of the Azzurri attack, especially after helping Atalanta lift a historic first European trophy just a few weeks earlier.

In addition, the former Sassuolo striker had played a major role in another strong Serie A campaign. With La Dea securing another top-four finish, Scamacca netted in six of his last eight Serie A appearances, yet he has looked a shadow of that player at Euro 2024.

However, one of the strongest arguments for Scamacca to start against the Swiss is his ability to conjure a goal out of nothing, and Italy are creating very little. When he does score, he often hits a patch of good form over a run of matches.

Given the nature of knockout football and Italy being on the weaker side of the Euro 2024 knockout draw, Scamacca finding form could propel them to victory in a competition where few teams have been convincing.

Can Mateo Retegui lead Italy?

Mateo Retegui celebrates against Malta. (@Azzurri)

An impressive record of 35 goals in 70 games for Tigres in Argentina led to a surprise call-up for a striker-light Azzurri and a subsequent move to Genoa in the summer of 2023.

Although he helped Italy to qualify for Euro 2024, Retegui has struggled to acclimatise to Serie A and European football.

Against Croatia, it was notable that the 25-year-old was given an opportunity as part of a strike partnership rather than Spalletti’s preferred 4-2-3-1 and failed to form a successful relationship with another newcomer to the XI, Raspadori, and certainly didn’t show that he is ready to shoulder the striker burden alone.

With everything we’ve seen – or not seen – so far, it is hard to make the case for Retegui ahead of Scamacca.

Italy’s stiker problem: Spalletti’s other options

Stephan El Shaarawy and Giacomo Raspadori celebrate for the Italy Men’s National Team. (@Azzurri)

The performance of Raspadori against Croatia mirrored the struggles he has had at Napoli since leaving Sassuolo, where he has scored just seven Serie A goals in two seasons. He is another player in their mid-20s who should be approaching his prime, but instead floats around the edges of not just the starting XI but the squad as a whole.

Spalletti could use Raspadori to run the channels or be seen as a wide attacker, similar to El Shaarawy and Zaccagni, if he was looking to vacate central areas for midfield runners, instead of having Scamacca or Retegui occupying the opposition centre-backs. This was shown in his famed 4-6-0 formation at AS Roma, where Azzurri legend Francesco Totti played as a deep-lying striker.

However, after having such little time to align this Italy Euro 2024 squad to his strategic preferences, and devoid of such quality in attacking areas, that level of tactical risk looks unlikely at this crucial stage of the competition.