Things are boiling between the Italians, and now, of all times, their opponents are again called North Macedonia (today, 8:45 p.m.). The rival who brings bad memories in his mind. The small Balkan country has angered Italy many times.
The 1-0 home defeat in the recent World Cup qualifiers, which denied Italy participation in the tournament in Qatar, was particularly painful. The Azzurri need a win at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome today to level on points with the Ukrainians, who finish second in the group. At the end of qualifying next Monday, a summit meeting with the Eastern Europeans at their alternative venue in Leverkusen is on the agenda. Leaders England have already secured their European Championship ticket thanks to five wins from six matches.
Luciano Spalletti looked calm ahead of meeting North Macedonia again. “Fear? It just keeps us going.” Spalletti was already feeling the North Macedonian indomitability: a 1–1 draw in Skopje in the first duel in September was his debut as “commissario tecnico” of the national selection.
The Italians still have everything in their hands. There is also a possibility of qualifying through the Nations League play-offs. However, dark clouds have gathered: European champion Roberto Mancini suddenly preferred to train in Saudi Arabia rather than his home country “for personal reasons”. Two national players, Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Fagioli, were banned for illegal betting. Nicolo Zaniolo, a third international player in the group who has not yet been banned, is said to be an active part of the gambling ring.
There is a lot of pressure on Spalletti. A win in the first game will give a good advantage in the second game,” he commented briefly on the situation. Despite the difficult situation, Spalletti has nominated two new signings: midfielder Andrea Colpani (24) from Monza and defender Andrea Cambiasso (23) from Juventus Turin.