Italy’s Europa League prospects in doubt as Barella calls for team improvement
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Italy’s Europa League prospects in doubt as Barella calls for team improvement

Italy’s poor qualifying record in recent years has seen it fail to qualify for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, much to the dismay of its fans. After winning Euro 2020, Italy suffered a setback in their title defense, losing 1-3 to England in qualifying. Barella said it was imperative for Italy to win their final two matches.

Nicolo Barella said Italy “must improve” after their UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying fate was left hanging in the balance with defeat in England, but coach Luciano Spalletti saw some positive signs.

The Azzurri, returning to Wembley for the first time since beating the Three Lions on penalties to lift the Euro 2020 trophy two years ago, fell to a 3-1 defeat in London.

Things started promisingly when Gianluca Scamacca fired the visitors ahead early on, but Harry Kane levelled from the penalty spot before two goals on the break punished Spalletti’s side – one finished by Marcus Rashford, the other by Kane.

“In the first half we played, but we could have taken our chances better. When you make mistakes at this level, this is what happens,” Barella told RAI.

Italy have now slipped three points behind Ukraine into third in Group C, but the Azzurri have a game in hand.

Spalletti, who succeeded Roberto Mancini as national boss this summer, now faces two make-or-break qualifiers against North Macedonia and Ukraine next month – although the Italians do have the comfort blanket of a guaranteed play-off spot due to their UEFA Nations League performance.

The Azzurri won’t want to leave anything to chance though after suffering play-off misery against Sweden and North Macedonia in their last two World Cup qualifying campaigns, as they failed to reach the 2018 or 2022 tournaments.

“We have started something new,” Barella said.

“We must win to go to the Euros. We need to do better than we did today. I have faith, but we must do better because we have good players.”

Spalletti, taking charge of his fourth game as Italy boss, suffered his first defeat in the job after a draw against North Macedonia and wins over Ukraine and Malta.

Italy’s Europa League prospects in doubt as Barella calls for team improvement

But the title-winning former Napoli coach saw promising signs from the performance despite the result.

“We played a good game for 90 minutes, but obviously we are influenced by the result,” he said.

“We paid dearly for their counter-attacks, which put us in difficulty. But conceding counter-attacks is normal if you want to play a physical, European game.

“We don’t need to throw everything away, I got a lot of good responses from the guys.”

Italy will host Northern Macedonia at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on November 17, 2023, before concluding their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign away to Ukraine on November 20th.

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