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Euro 2024: ‘Reigning champions Italy are far from favourites’

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Against Turkey in a recent friendly that finished goalless, the players looked confused, as if overloaded with too many instructions.

There is little joy to be had when the team look robbed of their instinctual movements and the worry is Spalletti will overcomplicate matters on a tactical level when simplicity almost always succeeds in tournament football.

Yet the coach remains optimistic, while Gianluigi Buffon – in his role as head of delegation – insists this team is rather good. Well, sort of…

“An excellent team, probably underrated and this is a good thing considering how we are, we have three or four excellent individuals,” he said.

Three or four may not be enough for success.

We know Donnarumma is the only world-class player in Ancelotti’s eyes, but while the goalkeeper was player of the tournament at Euro 2020, most Italians would insist Nicolo Barella is the star of this current crop.

The Inter Milan midfielder, who just welcomed his fourth child, has long been coveted by Premier League sides.

Combining stamina and technique, Barella is tactically intelligent and highly regarded for his ability to transition defence to attack.

Boasting endless amounts of energy, he covers ground and exploits space going forward, making him the man to watch for Italy.

He has had a minor injury scare, but Spalletti seems certain Barella will be available and fit for the start of the tournament. His presence will be of the utmost importance as Italy’s midfield looks to have weakened, with many questioning how well the side can control the ball.

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