MILAN (AP) — After avoiding the dreaded playoffs, the “real work” starts now for Italy and coach Luciano Spalletti.
And that includes everything from drones and smartphone apps to dinners and difficult matches.
Italy booked its spot in next year’s European Championship with a 0-0 draw against Ukraine on Monday. A loss would have consigned the defending champion to the playoffs – a nightmare for a nation that missed out on the past two World Cups because of playoff defeats to Sweden and North Macedonia.
However, he started his tenure with a disappointing draw in North Macedonia before getting Italy back on track with a victory over Ukraine and playing like the Napoli team he had led to the Serie A title a few months previously.
“It’s not easy to come in and immediately make the right choices, some things I learned after I started this new job and now I think I know a bit more,” Spalletti said after Monday’s match. “I came here to qualify, not to find excuses if we didn’t.
“And the real work starts now, now I can really get working. When I accepted the role, I knew that I had to qualify.”
With something to work toward next summer, Spalletti is planning more changes to the way the national team operates. He has already introduced an app that will allow the players to watch video lectures and tactical analysis even when they are away from the Italy training camp.
He added on Monday that they will now also start training with a drone to ensure the Italy staff can upload the best possible images.
Spalletti also has in mind a more basic method for Italy to improve: getting to know his players. And he said he will not wait until the next international break in March to do so.
“With the national team we want to try to get as close as possible to what happens at a club,” Spalletti added. “We want to stay in contact, have the possibility to talk to each other and meet each other several times. I will go to watch team training sessions and then go for dinner with them to ask for their opinions.
“We have serious players in this Italy team and I want to get to know them without that pressure of needing the result. Now I can get closer to them because they also have things to tell us.”
To help his teams still further, Spalletti is hoping to schedule matches for March against tough opposition.
“I will ask for difficult friendly matches, the most difficult,” he said. “That’s also because many of these players need to get experience of playing against top-level opponents, many of them don’t play in European competition and so where would they build up this experience if not in these matches.”
The last time Italy went to the European Championship after failing to qualify for the World Cup, it won the tournament — beating England in the final at Wembley Stadium two years ago.
Next year it will have another chance at redemption.
“Now comes the fun part,” Spalletti said with a broad smile.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
Daniella Matar, The Associated Press