5 Talking Points in the Euro 2024 Qualifiers

In a thrilling UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers match on Saturday, September 9, Italy was held to a 1-1 draw by North Macedonia. Here are five key talking points from the game:

During the first half, Italy maintained control of the ball for nearly 80% of the time, patiently circulating it while waiting for North Macedonia to make a mistake. The hosts, however, displayed solid organization, maintaining their shape and disciplined defending. Despite Italy’s significant possession advantage, both teams managed only one shot on target each in the first half. Italy’s forwards struggled to break through North Macedonia’s defense, forcing the midfielders to take on the goal-scoring responsibility. Bryan Cristante missed two chances, and Sandro Tonali’s effort struck the post, leaving the visitors unable to trouble Stole Dimitrievski in North Macedonia’s goal.

In his debut as Italy’s manager, Luciano Spalletti fielded a new-look front three consisting of Matteo Politano, Mattia Zaccagni, and Ciro Immobile. Unfortunately, this trio appeared to lack the necessary understanding to effectively coordinate their attacks, resulting in difficulty making inroads. Consequently, the midfielders were forced to push forward, leaving the team vulnerable to counter-attacks. Although North Macedonia had just one significant chance in the first half, Italy will need to work on improving the synergy among their forwards to enhance their attacking play.

Italy initiated the second half with a strong offensive push, committing more players forward in their quest for the opening goal. They crafted a well-constructed sequence of passes that allowed Nicolo Barella to unleash a shot that rebounded off the crossbar. Ciro Immobile, displaying the instincts of a top striker, stayed onside during Barella’s shot and capitalized on the rebound, opening the scoring to make it 1-0. This marked Italy’s first goal under new manager Luciano Spalletti.

As the match neared its conclusion, North Macedonia fiercely contested Italy, leading to some robust challenges that resulted in yellow cards for three Italian players. In this heated atmosphere, North Macedonia was awarded a dangerous free-kick just outside the box. Captain Enis Bardhi stepped up and expertly struck the ball beyond Gianluigi Donnarumma into the net, sending the home crowd into jubilation. Italy looked disheartened following the equalizer, with just under 10 minutes plus stoppage time to avoid defeat or secure a victory.

Despite the Euros being one of the most prestigious international football tournaments, this particular match was marred by the subpar quality of the playing surface. Numerous media outlets, players, and staff expressed concerns about the field’s condition, which exhibited visible lesions and cracks. Such conditions can lead to players slipping and causing unnecessary injuries, either to themselves or their opponents. This was evident as many players struggled to maintain their footing, especially during quick turns and tackles. However, despite the challenging pitch conditions, the game provided a captivating spectacle as Italy and North Macedonia treated the fans to an exciting match.

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