Sacchi: “Italy, believe in yourself. And press, don’t be soft: Croatia dominated us”


Former Italy national team coach Arrigo Sacchi believes the Azzurri need to ‘wake up’ following their 1-1 draw with Croatia. Mattia Zaccagni’s late equaliser was enough to secure a place in the last 16 of the competition, but writing for La Gazzetta dello Sport, Sacchi is adamant that the team need to show more in the competition:

“I don’t believe in luck, I never have. Zaccagni’s goal, wonderful in its execution, is a reward for effort, because the Azzurri showed, despite a thousand difficulties, that they always believed, that they never gave up despite the many mistakes made. Now, however, for this splendid goal that sends us to the round of 16 against Switzerland to represent a positive turning point, Spalletti’s boys need to wake up. Yes, you heard right: wake up!

Because to me, at times, they seemed fearful, tense and, consequently, not very reactive. Now these fears must be put aside, courage must be taken, the opponent must be attacked, whoever it may be. We got an incredible scare, we had the strength to stay on our feet until the last second, and so it’s necessary to change register and take the right path.


Let’s celebrate but be calm about dreaming – If we look at the result, it’s logical that we Italians should celebrate. But woe to us if we start dreaming! Let’s keep our feet on the ground, please, and analyze well what happened. In the first half Croatia dominated us, no use denying it. The Azzurri were not very compact, very frayed between the lines, the marking always approximate despite Spalletti having inserted an extra defender. And then, I’ll never tire of saying it, Italy doesn’t press, and nowadays if you don’t press you don’t go far. In midfield they had three players, Jorginho Barella and Pellegrini, who before each pass touched the ball at least three or four times more than necessary. Obviously, by doing so, the actions coming out of our defense were more cumbersome and more easily contained by the Croats. Barella didn’t seem to be having a great evening, Pellegrini is clearly tired after a particularly intense season, Jorginho no longer has the rhythms of the past: it’s the evidence of things. We managed, sometimes, to push with the wingers, Di Lorenzo on one side and Dimarco on the other, but we never gave continuity to these attempts. Plus the pair of attackers, perhaps also because they’re not very in tune, didn’t move with the right synchronisms. Retegui did very little, and even Raspadori, whom I know well, didn’t do much. With such a picture it was difficult to build something positive.

Errors – Soft and distracted also in the second half

In the second half, as soon as we returned to the field after the break, we made the same mistake as at the start of the match: soft, distracted, and so Croatia started strong and put us in difficulty. Donnarumma made an amazing save on Modric’s penalty, and then I thought: maybe now we’ll wake up. But no: cross from the three-quarter line, another defensive lapse and Croatia’s goal. I wonder: is it possible to make two mistakes like those of Frattesi on the penalty and Bastoni on Modric’s goal? In certain cases it’s necessary to be more attentive, more reactive.

Spalletti’s substitutions, if we have to look at the result obtained (goal by substitute Zaccagni), produced something positive, but I expect much more from this group. I know there’s no time to work, that they can’t perform miracles, but I’d like to see more courage on the field. Scamacca, when he came on, moved a bit more than usual, and this is a positive factor. Chiesa, every time he gets possession of the ball, seems like he’s going to tear the world apart and then, instead, doesn’t do much: he has great qualities that he needs to learn to exploit better. But in general it’s the whole National team that needs to believe more in itself. I really liked Calafiori’s action that led to the equalizing goal. An action done with personality, with courage, with technique. This is where we need to start again. The growth of the Azzurri must be based on these episodes. And in midfield we need to touch the ball less and attack more, because when you attack and steal the ball the opponents go into meltdown and you, instead, get excited. The psychological aspect is often decisive and Spalletti will work on this to obtain that leap in quality that everyone expects.”


Serie A obsessive.