Italy vs Albania 2-1: Bastoni and Barella Revive Azzurri After Dreadful Start

Italy got the job done at the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund and debuted at Euro 2024 with a win. The Azzurri tamed Albania 2-1 after going down 23 second into the game. Inter men Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolò Barella set things straight for Italy, who had the merit of reacting fast after a dreadful start. 

Luciano Spalletti’s lineup dominated the first half and maybe deserved to build a two-goal cushion before the half time break. They didn’t manage to be equally dangerous after the restart and risked conceding again in the dying minutes of the game. All in all, Italy did what they were largely expected to do and got off their European adventure on the right foot. But, to be fair, the impression that the likes of Germany and Spain made in their opening games was on a different level.   

After much speculations, Spalletti finally opted with a 4-2-3-1 setup. Captain Gianluigi Donnarumma was in goal, Napoli outcast Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Inter’s Federico Dimarco were the fullbacks. In the middle of the defense, Bologna starlet Riccardo Calafiori featured alongside Bastoni. 

Barella and Jorginho covered the double pivot role, while Federico Chiesa, Davide Fratesi, and Lorenzo Pellegrini supported central striker Gianluca Scamacca. 

Albania’s Sylvinho mirrored the Azzurri‘s setup and deployed a lineup that knows calcio very well, with six out of eleven starters having featured or currently featuring in Serie A.

In a major tournament opener, it’s all about setting foot on the pitch with the right approach. In that regard, Dimarco’s start was nothing less than shocking as the Inter fullback came up with a careless throw-in right in the middle of his own box. No one was ready to pick it, save for Sassuolo’s Nedim Bajrami, who couldn’t believe his eyes and was ready to pounce on the ball and whip it past Donnarumma at the near post. 

That happened exactly 23 seconds into the game. It was the fastest goal ever conceded by the Azzurri in an international tournament. Talk about good starts. 

Luckily enough, Italy were fast to react and to show that their approach, in terms of team spirit, was the right one. The Azzurri‘s reaction was fast and furious and resulted in a swift one-two that turned the score in their favor.

On 11 minutes, they gained a corner kick. Pellegrini and Dimarco whispered something to each other before combining to set up Bastoni for a clinical header that canceled Albania’s lead. Five minutes later, it was Barella to make it to the scorecard, finalizing for the best a chaotic action in the Albanian area with a stunning right-foot conclusion.  

Italy’s ball possession left no spaces to Sylvinho’s troops. They could have added at least one more to their tally in the first half, but Frattesi was denied by the post after being caught by Scamacca with a brilliant pass through, and thanks to Thomas Strakosha’s deflection. Then, the former Lazio goalkeeper did a good job again as he blocked Scamacca’s foray into the red-and-black box. 

The Azzurri should have tried to increase their lead after the restart and, indeed, the match seemed to follow the same pattern. Italy dominated when it came to ball possession while Albania put all their hopes in their attempts to strike on the counter. However, as the minutes went by, Spalletti and his boys started to be much less effective in the final third, their only real chance coming from a Chiesa curl that sailed off target.

Dimarco and Pellegrini continued to confabulate every time there was a corner to take but no more dangers came for Strakosha, save for a long range shot from the Inter full back that the former Lazio shot-stopper easily blocked. A slim one-goal lead was not enough for Italy to feel safe as a simple fast break could have disrupted their plans.

Which is exactly what risked to happen during added time, when substitute Rey Manaj (another one with many past experiences with Italian clubs under his belt…) was picked with a long-range cross and tried to beat Donnarumma with a fine diagonal shot. Luckily for the Azzurri, his conclusion hit the goalkeeper’s back and bounced away off the danger zone.

Italy took all three points on offer as expected, but their next game against Spain on Thursday will require a different level of attention and effectiveness.  



June 15, 2024 – Euro 2024 Group B

SCORERS: 1′ Bajrami (A), 11′ Bastoni (I), 16′ Barella (I)

ITALY (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bastoni, Calafiori, Dimarco (82′ Darmian); Barella (92′ Folorunsho), Jorginho; Chiesa (77′ Cambiaso), Frattesi, Pellegrini (77′ Cristante); Scamacca (82′ Retegui) (Vicario, Meret, Buongiorno, Gatti, Raspadori, Bellanova, Mancini, Zaccagni, Fagioli, El Shaarawy) Coach: Spalletti
ALBANIA (4-2-3-1): Strakosha; Hysaj, Ajeti, Djimsiti, Mitaj; Asllani, Ramadani; Bajrami, Asani (67′ Hoxha), Seferi (67′ Laci); Broja (76′ Manaj) (E. Berisha, Kastrati, Balliu, Gjasula, Mihaj, M. Berisha, Ismajli, Daku, Abrashi, Kumbulla, Aliji) Coach: Sylvinho

REFEREE: Mr. Zwayer (Germany)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Pellegrini, Calafiori (I), Broja, Hoxha (A); Added Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 4′