Soccer-Italy must be meaner against Spain, Spalletti says

Soccer Football - Euro 2024 - Group B - Italy v Albania - Dortmund BVB Stadion, Dortmund, Germany - June 15, 2024 Italy coach Luciano Spalletti reacts REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

DORTMUND, Germany (Reuters) - Italy must be meaner and more direct when they face Spain, though they may get more attacking opportunities, coach Luciano Spalletti said after his side's 2-1 win over Albania at Euro 2024 on Saturday.

Having conceded inside 23 seconds, defending champions Italy were ahead after 16 minutes and limited Albania to very few chances until a frantic finish as their opponents pushed for an unlikely equaliser.

Spalletti said his team had showed character to recover from the early deficit and displayed a togetherness that will serve Italy well if they progress beyond the group stage.

"We switched off but we need to appreciate the desire to try and go and play football even when the going got tough," he told reporters.

Spalletti, who appeared frustrated during the second half, was clear Italy needed to improve, not least on Thursday against Spain who blew Croatia away 3-0 on Saturday.

"There are a number of things we still have to improve because we thought we were better than we were in too many situations," he said.

"We need to be meaner, neat and tidy in the way we build things up, you free up a man but then you need to go and hurt the opposition ... we thought we were brilliant at just keeping possession."

But Spalletti, leading the Italian side at a major tournament for the first time, suggested Spain's strengths could also play into Italy's hands.

"We need to move the ball a bit more quickly, because we did so badly on occasions tonight, but against Spain there will probably be (chances) to play the ball forward more," he said.

"Because they tend to be more aggressive in their bite and press, there might be greater scope to actually play in behind their defensive line."

(Reporting by Sam Tobin, editing by Ed Osmond)

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