Italy searches for striker solution ahead of Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and Englandtext_fields
With two crucial Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and England on the horizon, Italy's manager Luciano Spalletti faces a long-standing striker problem for the Azzurri.
Despite being the European champions, Italy has scored only six goals in four Group C matches, lagging 10 goals behind the leading England, who are six points ahead of the second-placed Italy, Ukraine, and North Macedonia. To complicate matters further, Italy will also be without Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo, as both were sent home due to an investigation into alleged gambling offenses.
Adding to Italy's striker woes, both veteran Lazio striker Ciro Immobile and Argentina-born Mateo Retegui, who recently joined Genoa, are currently injured.
This leaves Spalletti with limited and uninspiring options up front.
Gianluca Scamacca has scored twice in six appearances for his new club, Atalanta, but he has been hindered by an early-season hamstring injury. Despite earning 11 international caps, Scamacca is yet to score for the Azzurri.
Moise Kean, who has been a bit-part player at Juventus and is yet to score this season, has been called up to the national team for the first time in two years.
One of these two forwards will likely lead the line against Malta, who currently sit at the bottom of the group, in Bari on Saturday. Federico Chiesa, another potential forward option, is expected to return on Tuesday at Wembley, where Italy triumphed in the Euro 2020 final against England.
Giacomo Raspadori, who played well in last month's 2-1 win over Ukraine, is seen as a promising player under Spalletti's leadership. However, the coach has expressed a desire for a more physically imposing presence in the forward position. He stated, "A striker needs to have the right physique, the right frame. Scamacca and Kean have it," while suggesting that Raspadori may be better suited to playing off a central striker or on the wing, reported AFP.
With over 50,000 tickets already sold, enthusiasm for the national team appears to be on the rise as Italy prepares to play its first match at the Stadio San Nicola since 2016. Italy, under Spalletti's management, has had a promising start, earning four points in its first two matches against North Macedonia and Ukraine last month.
Italy currently leads the group in head-to-head record over third-placed Ukraine and North Macedonia, holding a game in hand over the other teams.
The England clash carries special significance for Italy, as it was the site of their thrilling win in the last Euro. The outcome of this match could play a pivotal role in Italy's hopes of securing the group's other automatic spot in Germany next summer. Italy's final two qualifying matches in November will see them host North Macedonia and face Ukraine in Leverkusen, and the result at Wembley could significantly impact the competition for second place.
Spalletti remains determined to play quality football and believes in his team's ability to do so. "On Tuesday, we're going to the home of the inventors of football to play our own game," he declared.
Despite the group's outcome, Italy has secured a spot in the play-offs thanks to its performance in the Nations League. However, after missing out on the last two World Cups via this route, few in the country are eager for another high-stakes knockout match to determine their major tournament fate.