Italy show Euro 2024 defence should not be discounted after overcoming Albania scare

Good evening and welcome to live coverage of Euro 2024 as reigning champions Italy begin their defence of their crown as they take on Albania in their opening game of Group B. It has been just three years since the Azzurri triumphed over England on penalties at Wembley but they have endured a turbulent time since claiming their second European Championship. The Italians failed to make the cut for a second successive Fifa World Cup in 2022 after stumbling at the qualifying stages in 2018 for the first time since 1958. 

However, under new manager Luciano Spalletti, Italy are unbeaten in six and will be looking to make a quick start in what is likely to be their easiest fixture in the ‘group of death’. With the Italians currently 9th in the Fifa World Rankings, their group also contains Spain and Croatia, who are ranked 8th and 10th respectively. 

It wasn’t plain sailing for Spalletti’s men during qualification having been beaten twice by England. But a goalless draw in their final game against Ukraine ensured automatic entry to the tournament as they topped their opponents on goal difference. 

While Italy are searching for their second title in a row, Albania are looking forward to competing in just their second-ever Euros finals having only reached this stage in 2016. After just one win in 11 games in 2022, an impressive qualification campaign saw the Eagles top a group containing the Czech Republic and Poland after being beaten only once.

Despite friendly defeats against Sweden and Chile, the Red and Blacks enjoyed 3-0 and 3-1 wins over Liechtenstein and Azerbaijan respectively, in their final warm-up matches. Manager Sylvinho will be hoping Chelsea’s Armando Broja, who missed much of their qualifying campaign through injury, can inspire them to their second-ever Euros victory after their sole triumph eight years ago against Romania. 

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