REVIEW | Italy 2-1 Albania

Italy have opened their EURO2024 campaign with three points against Albania.

It’s fair to say that this EURO2024 encounter between Italy and Albania couldn’t have started any worse for the Azzurri. Nedim Bajrami scored the fastest goal ever scored at a European Championship and put Albania ahead after just 23 seconds.

The goal came courtesy of some sloppy play from the Italians, but moments later they began to dominate the game, and it wouldn’t be long before they got on the scoreboard too.

Albania’s opener was cancelled out by Italy after just 11 minutes when Alessandro Bastoni met a corner at the back post. Fluid attacks and ferocious pressing from the Italians had turned the tide of this game very quickly.

Five minutes later a stunning strike from Nicolo Barella gave Italy the lead. The ball flew around the Albania box and was finally settled by a fine strike from the Inter midfield maestro. Even if Albania had plenty of chances to avoid conceding during a messy period of play.

Italy swarmed Albania like locusts when they lost the ball. They had clearly enjoyed a productive camp under new boss Luciano Spalletti pre-tournament and were putting his game plan into practice. Italy had 1.47 xG to Albania’s 0.18 in the first half and enjoyed 72% of the ball possession.

Thankfully for Italy it was a pretty quiet second period. The Azzurri looked far more likely to add another goal than Albania, and the depth available on the bench helped Italy to hold onto a vital three points with games against Spain and Croatia still to come. In the final moments of the match Gianluigi Donnarumma had to make a vital save for Italy, but that was the first time Albania had gotten near the Italian goal in the second half.

Despite the scoreline not lookling the most impressive against lower ranked opposition, Italy earned a vital victory and showed some periods of real quality and domination; had they been more clinical the scoreline would have been a lot more flattering. They also managed the game very well. Let’s see how Spalletti’s men can grow into this tournament but it’s certainly a positive start.

Joseph O’Sullivan | GIFN

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