Soccer-Italy need to start Euro 2024 like it's 2021, but Albania out to cause upset


Soccer Football - Euro 2024 - Group A - Germany v Scotland Preview - Munich Football Arena, Munich, Germany - June 12, 2024 General view inside the stadium ahead of the match REUTERS/Lee Smith/ File Photo

DORTMUND, Germany (Reuters) - Defending champions Italy need to kick off their Euro 2024 campaign against Albania on Saturday in the same fashion as the last tournament, but their opponents will see this game as the perfect opportunity to make headlines.

In 2021, Italy began the Euros with a game against Turkey, a side which many had tipped as possible tournament dark horses, but the Italians romped to an emphatic 3-0 victory, and went on to top their group winning all three games.

With Spain and Croatia still to come in Group B, Italy won't expect to have it so easy this time around, and this is the one game where they will be expected to take all three points.

Albania may be seen as the group's whipping boys, but with nothing to lose, they will be out to cause an upset wherever possible, and what better chance than catching Italy cold in the opening game.

Italy, like three years ago, come into the Euros without the weight of the favourites tag hanging over them, and while a win over Albania wouldn't necessarily change people's minds, it would give them the confidence needed for the challenges ahead.

Luciano Spalletti's side are coming up against a team filled with many familiar faces, as 10 of Albania's squad play their club football in Italy, and they have a manager who also has a past in the country.

Sylvinho was one of Roberto Mancini's assistants when he managed Inter Milan, and the Brazilian, like many in the Albanian team, and the country in general, also speaks Italian, so there won't be many secrets on or off the pitch.

Italy are still sweating on the fitness of key midfielder Nicolo Barella, and the Inter Milan man may be rested by Spalletti rather than risk his absence in the later games, while Davide Frattesi returned to regular training.

With Italy again struggling to find a goal scorer, Gianluca Scamacca looks set to be the player charged with finding the net, and against Albania he will come up against his Atalanta colleague Berat Djimsiti.

The pair helped Atalanta win their first ever European trophy just a few weeks ago in the Europa League final against Bayer Leverkusen, but this time they find themselves as rivals in Europe.

Scamacca has scored only once in an Italy shirt in 16 appearances, and if Italy are to get off to a winning start they will need to break down a stubborn Albania defence which conceded just four goals in qualifying.

(Reporting by Trevor Stynes; Editing by Toby Davis)

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