The holders are much changed from three years ago but if they can get out of a tough group then, as they showed last time, they can’t be discounted

The Italian players and mascots belt out the national anthem Il Canto degli Italiani before their Euro 2024 qualifier against North Macedonia. Photograph: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2024 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 24 countries who qualified. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.


The champions are back, with a different coach, different leaders, and a different style. A lot has changed in the past three years, in the country and the national team. Italy has elected its first female prime minister, Covid is hopefully behind us and La Nazionale start a new adventure with no pressure.

Italy are not among the favourites in Germany, and the coach Luciano Spalletti, appointed after Roberto Mancini left Italy for Saudi Arabia, enters the tournament as an underdog. Not a bad perspective for a man that, only a year ago, won the scudetto with Napoli against all odds.

The holders qualified after finishing second in Group C behind England, the key game being a goalless draw with Ukraine in Germany. At Euro 2024, Italy will play Albania, Spain and Croatia in one of the toughest groups of the tournament. “Being the reigning champions is a stimulus,” Spalletti says. “In 2021, Italy were not among the strongest teams on paper, but then they became a special team. Three years later, we have to play a free football. Personally, I win if I manage to create a team.”

Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, the defensive duo that led Italy to glory in 2021, will watch from home. Nicolò Barella and Gianluigi Donnarumma must step up and be the key players, in a team that is struggling to find offensive solutions and will miss the injured quartet of Destiny Udogie, Nicolò Zaniolo, Francesco Acerbi and Giorgio Scalvini.

The striker problem in particular seems to be endemic within the genetics of Italian football, having also concerned the youth teams. Mancini won Euro 2020 with only two goals from Ciro Immobile, his starting striker, and Spalletti’s quest for a centre-forward lasted months. Can Gianluca Scamacca or Mateo Retegui be the heir of Paolo Rossi, Totò Schillaci, Christian Vieri and the strikers that wrote history in a maglia azzurrra?