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Italy coach Spalletti blasts critics

LEIPZIG, GERMANY (AFP) – Italy coach Luciano Spalletti lashed out at critics after his team drew 1-1 against Croatia on Monday to reach the Euro 2024 last 16.

Only a brilliant 98th minute winner from Lazio winger Mattia Zaccagni sent Italy through second from Group B behind Spain, leaving Croatia third and on the verge of elimination.

Italy scraped a 2-1 win over Albania in their opening fixture and were then outplayed by Spain in a 1-0 defeat.

Italy’s forward Mattia Zaccagni celebrates after scoring a goal. PHOTO: AFP

“Everybody is trying to get us out (of the tournament),” Spalletti told reporters after his team snatched their late draw.

“If I were afraid I would have done another job. There’s no point in being afraid.

“I don’t want to be more concerned than I need to be or load up additional pressure that people are putting on my shoulders.

“There’s venom coming from all sides and I inject myself with this venom, if it’s not.”

Italy’s head coach Luciano Spalletti reacts during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Croatia and Italy. PHOTO: AFP

Spalletti also blasted players potentially leaking information to the media, with the news Italy would line up in a 3-5-2 formation coming out ahead of the game.

“This is a weakness of those who are leaking things,” said a furious Spalletti.

“If there are people who are leaking things it hurts the national team, whoever has told you that.”

Spalletti insisted his team deserved to progress but also admonished them for aspects of their performance, with Italy seemingly content to play for the draw before Luka Modric struck in the second half, becoming the tournament’s oldest ever scorer at 38. 

“We deserved to go through tonight, in terms of what we produced out there – sure we were a bit soft at times tonight, we didn’t necessarily play our best football,” said the 65-year-old coach.

“Psychologically sometimes these things (playing within themselves) can happen without meaning to, when you can afford to draw the game, that’s the way the game pans out.

“You go out there knowing that a draw is enough, you do things in a slightly more timid way – we were giving them chances, we were timid, I don’t know why that happened.”

Italy will face Switzerland in the last 16 in Berlin on Saturday June 29. Croatia need several results to go their way to be able to progress as one of the four best third-place teams.

Spalletti said his players also felt the pressure put on them by the media and fans.

“It’s hard to make it through this group, you (journalists) said to me it was the group of death, I didn’t say it was,” he continued.

“Spain are brilliant, Croatia are excellent…

“When you drop beneath the minimum standards, as came to pass at times for us in the first half, it’s because we feel the bite of pressure in terms of how important the game is.”

Croatia’s midfielder Luka Modric (R) scores his team’s first goal against Italy. PHOTO: AFP
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