Yeremy Pino and Borja Iglesias have been called up to Spain's squad for their upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Norway and Scotland.

Pedri and Gerard Moreno withdrew from the squad over the weekend due to injury.

Barcelona star Pedri missed Sunday's crucial Clasico win over Real Madrid after he failed to recover from a hamstring issue, and he will not feature in Luis de la Fuente's first games as Spain boss.

Moreno, meanwhile, suffered a muscular problem during Villarreal's 3-0 LaLiga win over Osasuna.

Winger Pino teed up Villarreal's final goal in that win, and the 20-year-old – who has netted three times in LaLiga this term and was included in Spain's World Cup squad – has been called in.

He is joined by Real Betis forward Iglesias, who returns to the national team after missing out on Luis Enrique's squad for Qatar.

The 30-year-old has scored 12 league goals this season, trailing only Enes Unal (13) and Robert Lewandowski (15).

Spain must try to stop Erling Haaland when they host Norway on Saturday before facing Scotland three days later.

Gareth Southgate saw no need to lift Harry Kane after the striker's penalty miss sent England out of the World Cup.

Kane missed a spot-kick late on against France in the quarter-finals, having previously beaten his Tottenham team-mate Hugo Lloris from 12 yards in a thrilling clash that Les Bleus won 2-1.

Yet that failure has not seemed to disrupt Kane's fine season with Tottenham. The 29-year-old has scored 10 goals since the season resumed, with his latest coming against Southampton on Saturday.

And Southgate never felt he had to "pick up the phone" to his captain, who matched Wayne Rooney as England's record goalscorer with his successful penalty against France.

"I don't think it's a big hurdle really," Southgate said of Kane, who has been named in England's squad for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine.

"I had a good chat with him while we were away. I sent him a message before he went back to his club and then I took a step back and had a look at how it was, and I haven't really felt the need to pick the phone up.

"It is there in his performances for Spurs. Sometimes you can busy yourself and look for a pat on the back by getting in touch with a player but I can't take any credit for what he's done."

Kane became Spurs' leading goalscorer in the club's history when he netted against Manchester City in February, surpassing the great Jimmy Greaves.

"What I've observed is a player still super-confident, still ready to perform, still hungry to score goals," Southgate continued.

"He's obviously gone through the personal landmark with Spurs and then there's this one that he's going to nail with us at some point.

"I actually spoke to him earlier this week, but I've been able to take a step back and let him get on with it. Sometimes there's no need to interfere."

Other players who have overcome a setback while on England duty to thrive at club level this season are Arsenal's Bukayo Saka and Manchester United star Marcus Rashford.

Both enjoyed strong World Cups, having failed to score from the spot in the penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the final of Euro 2020.

Saka has scored 10 goals and assisted a further nine in the Premier League for leaders Arsenal, while Rashford has netted 27 times for United.

"[He] makes me smile. You feel a warmth," Southgate said of Saka.

"You feel a fabulous human being who has broken his way into the team at Arsenal at a time they weren't playing so well – and excelled. Now here they are pushing for the title – and he's excelling again.

"He's recovered from the obvious setback with us. He has the warmth of the fans with him who can see what he's about, can see the genuine nature of his personality.

"He's a top player. He's more and more of a goal threat, he's creating chances, he is totally reliable without the ball. He's a proper team player. I can't speak highly enough of him."

On Rashford, Southgate enthused: "You can see the confidence. He is benefiting from the environment at the club.

"He's in that flow that every player and athlete wants to be in. You can't remain in it forever and you have to try to get back into it when you are out of it, but he is definitely in that moment and he must feel super-confident."

Ronald Koeman's first squad in his second stint as Netherlands coach included five uncapped players as Georginio Wijnaldum returned to the fold but Ryan Gravenberch was not selected.

Koeman, who was previously Oranje coach between 2018 and 2020, replaced Louis van Gaal following last year's World Cup in Qatar.

The Netherlands face France and Gibraltar in qualifying for Euro 2024 in Koeman's first two matches after returning to the post.

And the returning coach could hand debuts to Sven Botman and Brian Brobbey, who have impressed this season for Newcastle United and Ajax respectively.

Both players were called up previously under Van Gaal without appearing.

Koeman has also drafted in Anderlecht's Bart Verbruggen and Feyenoord pair Lutsharel Geertruida and Mats Wieffer.

Verbruggen's inclusion sees Koeman change all three goalkeepers from the squad Van Gaal selected for the World Cup, with recalls for Jasper Cillessen and Mark Flekken.

Wijnaldum was recalled, too, having missed the World Cup with a leg fracture suffered in August, robbing the Netherlands of a key man in midfield.

The Roma man's return perhaps contributed to the absence of Gravenberch, who has started only a single Bundesliga match for Bayern Munich this season. He was included instead in the Netherlands Under-21 squad.


Netherlands squad in full: Jasper Cillessen (NEC), Mark Flekken (Freiburg), Bart Verbruggen (Anderlecht); Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Daley Blind (Bayern Munich), Sven Botman (Newcastle United), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Denzel Dumfries (Inter), Lutsharel Geertruida (Feyenoord), Matthijs de Ligt (Bayern Munich), Tyrell Malacia (Manchester United), Jurrien Timber (Ajax); Steven Berghuis (Ajax), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Davy Klaassen (Ajax), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Xavi Simons (PSV), Kenneth Taylor (Ajax), Mats Wieffer (Feyenoord), Georginio Wijnaldum (Roma); Steven Bergwijn (Ajax), Brian Brobbey (Ajax), Memphis Depay (Atletico Madrid), Cody Gakpo (Liverpool), Wout Weghorst (Manchester United).

England manager Gareth Southgate had doubts over his future ahead of the World Cup but is now targeting Euro 2024 success.

The Three Lions reached the quarter-finals in Qatar, losing 2-1 to eventual runners-up France, though had up to that point been one of the most impressive teams in the tournament.

Yet his position had been called into question in some quarters given England's poor form prior to the World Cup.

After starting 2022 with friendly wins over Switzerland and Ivory Coast in March, England failed to win any of their six Nations League matches, with their campaign including a humbling 4-0 home defeat to Hungary.

A 3-3 draw with Germany in September gave Southgate cause for optimism, but he conceded he came close to calling it a day.

"The doubts I had came before the [World Cup], really," Southgate told reporters after naming his squad for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine.

"I spoke about this a couple of months ago so I'm going over old ground, but I never wanted to be a divisive figure, in terms of me doing the job affecting the performance of the team.

"Then there would be a debate where people say 'I'd rather you lose so you're gone'. I did worry before the World Cup whether I should say I was going at the end, to allow the team the freedom to play.

"I decided not to do that, because when we left Wembley after the Germany game there was an uplift with the mood, and we've always known where we stand with the players.

"I also wanted to show that you've got to come through tough spells as a manager, I'm not going to duck a challenge just because there's criticism.

"But if there's not the level of support and it starts to affect the team, that's something I'm conscious of and that was my thought well ahead of Qatar."

Having committed to staying on for the Euros in Germany next year, Southgate is now looking for a fresh start as he set out his aim for England to go a step further than they managed in the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, when they lost to Italy on penalties in the final.

"I think it's right to assess after a tournament," he added. "We have to start from scratch.

"We have some great experiences over the last few years, which mean being European champions is a realistic aim.

"But we're starting from the beginning again, and we've got to find the hunger to qualify.

"We've got two crucial games and we need everybody firing for two really difficult qualifiers."

Southgate stuck with the majority of his World Cup squad for the first fixtures of 2023, though Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben White both missed out, with Conor Coady replaced by March Guehi.

Ivan Toney was included despite an ongoing Football Association (FA) investigation into alleged breaches of gambling rules, while Raheem Sterling was absent due to injury.

Kylian Mbappe is a leading candidate to become captain of France, head coach Didier Deschamps confirmed on Thursday.

Deschamps will need a new skipper for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland after Hugo Lloris retired from international football.

Lloris stepped down from national team duty after the World Cup, where France lost to Argentina in the final, and tournament top scorer Mbappe is considered to have leadership qualities.

"There are some that I consider possible," said Deschamps. "Kylian is one of them.

"This will go through discussions with them before I make my decision. There is a responsibility in relation to being captain, with a little more important responsibility, but I want to have this discussion internally before I make my decision."

Deschamps cast doubt on Adrien Rabiot being in the picture to lead Les Bleus.

He said of the Juventus midfielder: "Even if he has some experience, we know him well, as it is he has a possible form of leadership. But the captaincy, I don't know if he really wants it deep down. To let him stay as he is already will be very good."

Deschamps left out Axel Disasi and Matteo Guendouzi as he named a 23-player group for the games at home to the Dutch on March 24 and away to the Irish on March 27.

He could hand first caps to Chelsea defender Wesley Fofana, Nice midfielder Khephren Thuram and Lens goalkeeper Brice Samba, who all earned call-ups.

Khephren Thuram joins brother Marcus in the squad, with the sons of France great Lilian in contention to feature alongside each other in the national side.

Deschamps summoned Milan veteran Olivier Giroud, with the 36-year-old having elected not to retire from France duty after the World Cup, where he became the team's all-time record scorer.

"As long as he maintains his level of performance with his club and remains eligible for selection, he is there," Deschamps said.

A string of players Deschamps could have called upon are sidelined due to injury, including Ousmane Dembele, Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kante and Christopher Nkunku.

Deschamps said of Pogba and Kante: "I always remain positive and knowing NG and Paul, they will do everything to become competitive again."

Looking at the qualification task facing France, Deschamps said: "We must not tell ourselves that we are already qualified for the Euros because we were in the final of the World Cup. We must not rest on our laurels."

France squad:

Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Mike Maignan (Milan), Brice Samba (Lens); Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Wesley Fofana (Chelsea), Theo Hernandez (Milan), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool), Jules Kounde (Barcelona), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich); Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real Madrid), Khephren Thuram (Nice), Jordan Veretout (Marseille); Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen), Olivier Giroud (Milan), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Marcus Thuram (Borussia Monchengladbach).

UEFA has confirmed format changes to both the Nations League and qualifiers for the European Championships and World Cup.

The changes to the Nations League, which began in 2018, include an additional knock-out element, with League A group winners and runners-up taking part in two-legged quarter-finals.

Teams that finish third in League A and League B will face off against the runners-up of League B and League C in two-legged promotion/relegation play-offs.

Changes to qualifying for European Championships and World Cups will now see 12 groups of either four or five teams drawn, with group winners qualifying and runners-up either also qualifying or entering play-offs.

"The introduction of the UEFA Nations League was a success story, replacing friendly games with more competitive matches," said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin. 

"And now, by introducing the new knock-out phase, teams will be given even more opportunities to progress while keeping the same number of games within the international match calendar.

"The predictability of the European Qualifiers has also been addressed and tackled, with a fresh new format that will offer all the teams an equal chance to qualify for major tournaments."

The amendments to qualifying will come into effect after Euro 2024.

It was also decided at an Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday that next season's UEFA Super Cup will be moved from its original host city of Kazan in Russia to Athens, Greece.

UEFA confirmed that the game between the winners of the Champions League and the winners of the Europa League will be played at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in the Greek capital on August 16.

Roberto Mancini believes Italy have four or five young players on the same level as England's Jude Bellingham, but the Azzurri boss says coaches must be brave enough to give them minutes.

Having failed to qualify for last year's World Cup, Italy will get their bid to defend the European Championship trophy they won in 2021 under way with a qualifier against England in March.

England's run to the last eight in Qatar saw a number of young players – including Borussia Dortmund midfielder Bellingham and Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka – come to the fore.

Mancini does not believe Italy lack talented young players. The Azzurri's problem, he claims, lies in coaches' reluctance to hand them top-level experience. 

"I think Italy have four or five talents with the quality of Bellingham, but they need to be given playing time," Mancini said at a press conference on Wednesday.

"There are talented young people, I hope they can play and gain experience with their clubs to be useful to us.

"In England, the Netherlands or Germany, if a player is talented, he will be allowed to play. Here we've got four or five at this level, but they need to play."

Italy scored just 13 goals in eight games as they finished below Switzerland in their World Cup qualification group, before falling to a crushing play-off defeat against North Macedonia.

Mancini has made revamping Italy's attack a priority ahead of their next campaign, saying: "In the past there was a lack of defenders or midfielders, today we don't have great forward players.

"We are trying to find them. If we succeed, it will be a good thing. Gianluca Scamacca, for example, is gaining good experience, the Premier League is difficult. 

"Young people have to play, in Italy or abroad. In our opinion, there are quality players, the hope is to have them gain more experience.

"Do the coaches lack the courage? The coaches have to achieve results, so each pursues his own course."

Thierry Henry should be the man to replace Roberto Martinez as Belgium head coach, according to striker Romelu Lukaku.

Belgium are seeking a new boss after Martinez stood down following a galling group-stage exit from the World Cup, having spent six years and four months in the role.

Former Arsenal, Barcelona and France striker Henry joined him as assistant for two stints, either side of spells in charge of Monaco and Montreal Impact.

If Belgium are seeking a clean break from the Martinez era, then Henry would not be an option, but Red Devils record goalscorer Lukaku believes there should be continuity.

Inter frontman Lukaku also says his country's so-called 'golden generation' deserve another chance to deliver on the big stage, although Eden Hazard has already retired from international football.

"For me, Henry is the next coach of Belgium. There are no doubts. I say it openly: he will be the next coach," Lukaku told Italian broadcaster Sky Sport.

"He has the respect of all the players, he has won everything. He knows how to coach, he knows what we have to do to get there.

"He knows the team, the league, the staff. For me, he is the ideal coach for our national team. Then I don't know who they will take. But I don't think Belgium should start from scratch.

"So far this generation hasn't won, but we have to keep trying to win. He wants to win, and I don't think the federation is going to get a coach who wants to change everything and start from scratch. It's not worth it to me."

Lukaku's comments may prove awkward if another coach is picked to lead Belgium.

Belgium struggled to beat Canada in their opening World Cup game before suffering a 2-0 defeat against Morocco, with their exit confirmed by a goalless stalemate with Croatia.

The Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) has said it will look to hire "a serial winner with an experience in managing top players".

Belgium have slipped from second to fourth in the latest FIFA rankings after their dismal performance in Qatar, where they failed to reach the knockout stage for the first time since the 1998 finals in France.

The RBFA said, in advertising for Martinez's successor, that it was looking for applications to arrive by January 10.

Belgium have been drawn alongside Austria, Sweden, Azerbaijan and Estonia in the qualification process for Euro 2024, with the first round of games coming up in March.

Zlatko Dalic is optimistic Luka Modric will play for Croatia at Euro 2024.

Modric won the Ballon d'Or after leading Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia four years ago, and the Real Madrid star enjoyed another fine tournament as Dalic's men reached the final four in Qatar.

However, the 37-year-old was unable to inspire his team to a semi-final victory over Argentina on Tuesday, leading to suggestions he may retire from the international game.

Modric refused to give anything away regarding his future after the defeat, and Dalic is hopeful he will stay on for at least another 18 months.

"I hope that he [Modric] will be there [at Euro 2024]," Dalic said. "I am looking forward to it.

"It is not certain that he will there be and he will personally decide how he feels. I personally feel that he will be, but it ultimately is his decision."

Croatia started their World Cup campaign with a 0-0 draw against Morocco in Group F, and they face the African side again in Saturday's bronze-medal match.

Walid Regragui's outfit have been the surprise package of the tournament, with Dalic comparing their stunning run to Croatia's surge to the 2018 final.

"Morocco remind me of us four and a half years ago," he said. "Nobody expected them to be this high, but they got to where they are with their quality and emotions.

"From game to game, they only grew and I think we are in for a much more difficult match than the one from the opening group.

"We have full and great respect for them. They show unity and are not afraid of anyone."

Morocco captured the imagination of football fans around the world during their World Cup campaign, which saw them stun Belgium, Spain and Portugal.

They suffered a 2-0 defeat to France in the semi-final on Wednesday and boss Regragui is struggling to get excited about the third-place play-off.

"It is a little bit difficult," he said. "It is very complicated for both teams. You are so disappointed; you have just lost a semi-final and then two days later you have to go back out there.

"It is like the booby prize. I'm sorry for speaking like this. I understand it should be important, I understand it is better to finish third than fourth, but, for me, my takeaway is just that we didn't get to the final.

"Even if we did get to the final, and I finished second, I would be saying the same thing to you.

"We want to be as positive as possible, especially for our fans. Finishing third would be great for our image."

Luka Modric opting to retire from international duty would be "a pity" for all football fans, according to Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic, who hopes the midfielder will continue with his team.

Modric won the Ballon d'Or after leading Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia four years ago, and the Real Madrid star enjoyed another fine tournament as Dalic's men reached the final four in Qatar.

However, the 37-year-old was unable to inspire his team to a semi-final victory over Argentina on Tuesday, leading to suggestions he may call time on his international career.

Modric refused to give anything away regarding his future after Tuesday's defeat, but Dalic hopes his captain will still be available after Saturday's bronze medal match. 

"He was very disappointed yesterday, the defeat and the game were hard on him," Dalic told reporters on Wednesday. "It's logical that he feels that way, it was really hard for him. 

"Our concentration is on the game on Saturday, we haven't talked about that [retirement]. We have to prepare for that game. 

"I hope he stays in the national team. Of course, he will decide himself. We have a game on Saturday and we'll talk after that.

"If Luka says goodbye to the national team, it will be a pity and regret for all the fans around the world. He showed so much good football, but he also proved to be a top professional. 

"When he wins and when he loses, he behaves like a true professional. It is difficult for him, and he will make his own decision. 

"It will be difficult for me, too, if he decides otherwise. The whole world respects Modric. It would be nice if he continued."

Although Modric criticised referee Daniele Orsato for awarding Argentina's Julian Alvarez a first-half penalty in Croatia's defeat, he also expressed his hope that Albiceleste great Lionel Messi goes on to lift the trophy.

Dalic believes that gesture demonstrated Modric's class. 

"The most difficult thing is to remain dignified in defeat. It shows the greatness of Luka Modric to congratulate them all, and it is difficult for him, as well as for all our players," Dalic added.

"That gesture shows that we are big. When the French bowed to us in Moscow, that's a gesture that makes you happy. Croatia is still worth something in world football."

Dalic outlined his intention to remain in charge of Croatia after Tuesday's loss, with their Euro 2024 qualification campaign set to begin against Wales on March 25.

Gianluca Vialli will temporarily step away from his role as delegation chief for the Italian national team to focus on his battle with pancreatic cancer.

Vialli announced he had undergone radiotherapy and chemotherapy in November 2018, having been diagnosed with the disease one year earlier.

The former Chelsea and Juventus forward was initially given the all-clear in April 2020, but announced he was fighting the disease again in December 2021.

Vialli was a visible presence alongside Roberto Mancini in the dugout as Italy won Euro 2020 last year, but the 58-year-old is now putting a temporary halt to his duties with the Azzurri.

"At the end of a long and difficult 'negotiation' with my wonderful team of oncologists, I have decided to suspend, hopefully temporarily, my present and future professional commitments," Vialli said in a statement released by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC).

"The goal is to use all my psycho-physical energies to help my body overcome this phase of the disease, in order to be able to face new adventures as soon as possible and share them with all of you."

FIGC president Gabriele Gravina said: "Gianluca is an absolute protagonist of the Italian national team and will be in the future as well. 

"Thanks to his extraordinary fortitude, to the Azzurro and to the affection of the whole federal family, I am convinced he will be back soon. 

"He can count on each of us, because we are a team, on and off the pitch."

Italy, who missed out on a place at Qatar 2022, return to action in March with their opening Euro 2024 qualifiers against England and Malta.

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini is excited by the prospect of facing England in Euro 2024 qualifying, declaring "it will be nice to meet again".

England and Italy were drawn alongside Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta in a challenging qualification group on Sunday, from which the top two will qualify automatically for the tournament in Germany.

The duo met as recently as last month, when Giacomo Raspadori's goal condemned England to relegation from the top tier of the Nations League, while Mancini also led the Azzurri to victory over the Three Lions in last year's Euro 2020 final. 

England's dismal Nations League campaign meant they – alongside world champions France – were in pot two for the draw in Frankfurt.

Although Mancini claims he expected Italy to land one of those two giants, he remains content with the draw and is looking forward to meeting Gareth Southgate's men.

"I was sure we would have one between England and France, but that's okay too," Mancini told Rai Sport after the draw.

"It's a group of five, it's doable. But there won't be simple games, they'll all have to be played. 

"It will certainly be beautiful with England, with Southgate we know each other and if it continues like this we are pretty good, I don't know if he agrees. 

"By now this challenge is a classic and, although we faced each other 20 days ago, it will be nice to meet again."

While Italy have happy memories of their recent games against England, remaining unbeaten in their last six head-to-head meetings, the same cannot be said about another of their opponents.

North Macedonia clinched a stunning win over Italy in the World Cup play-offs in March, ensuring the Azzurri missed out on a second consecutive edition of the tournament.

Mancini is urging caution ahead of that reunion, adding: "It's one of those games that happen every now and then. As we saw in Palermo, all matches must be played, even the simplest ones."

The Azzurri boss was also pleased to be drawn alongside Ukraine, declaring: "There will be some emotion... but Ukraine is still a good national team."

Gareth Southgate declared England must improve on their poor record against Italy after the two nations were drawn together in a "tough" Euro 2024 qualification group.

The teams faced each other in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium last year, with Italy emerging victorious on penalties to win their first European Championship trophy since 1968 and deny England their first major title in 55 years.

The sides also met twice in the recent Nations League campaign, playing out a goalless draw at Molineux in June before Giacomo Raspadori gave Italy a 1-0 triumph in the return fixture at San Siro in September.

The Three Lions have not beaten Italy in six attempts since a 2-1 victory in 2012, and Southgate says that run needs to end.

"England's record against Italy generally is not very good," Southgate told Sky Sports. "So we've got to improve that.

"There's not too many surprises, they've changed the team a lot for all of those different matches.

"We know the quality they have, we know the depth that they have."

England and Italy have been drawn in Group C alongside Ukraine, Malta and North Macedonia, the latter of whom knocked the Azzurri out of the World Cup play-offs earlier this year, preventing the European champions from making it to Qatar.

Southgate acknowledged the overall difficulty of the group, adding: "It's clearly a tough draw, given the quality of the opposition.

"But we've had draws in qualification that have probably been a little bit more comfortable than that, although I'd have to say Poland and Hungary in the last qualifying group was particularly tough as well, so we're used to that.

"The draws are what they are, it's how you perform on the day."

England have the opportunity to gain a measure of revenge on Italy for their Euro 2020 final defeat after the two nations were drawn together in Euro 2024 qualifying.

Italy beat England 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Wembley in London on July 11, 2021 to win their first European Championship title since 1968.

Gareth Southgate's Three Lions had opened the scoring through Luke Shaw, but the Azzurri levelled via Leonardo Bonucci.

And spot-kick misses by Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka proved costly for England, who had hoped to win a first major title in 55 years.

The two will tussle again – twice – on the road to Germany 2024 after being drawn together in qualifying Group C in Sunday's ceremony, which was held in Frankfurt.

Nevertheless, both teams will still expect to reach the finals given the top two in each group progress to the tournament - joining them will be Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta.

It was North Macedonia who knocked Italy out of the World Cup qualifying play-offs earlier this year.

Group B is another standout after the Netherlands were drawn alongside reigning world champions France in a pool that also contains Republic of Ireland, Greece and Gibraltar.

Spain will be confident of plotting a way through Group A, which also contains Scotland, Norway, Georgia and Cyprus, though Belgium may face a slightly sterner examination after being grouped with Austria, Sweden, Azerbaijan and Estonia.

Qualifying is set to begin in March 2023 and conclude eight months later, with the winners and runners-up of each group going straight through to the tournament.

The remaining three teams will be decided in March 2024 via a play-off section, which will be made up of 12 group winners from the 2022-23 Nations League.

If a Nations League section winner has already qualified for Euro 2024, their play-off place will pass to the next best-ranked country from the same league.


Draw in full:

Group A: Spain, Scotland, Norway, Georgia, Cyprus
Group B: Netherlands, France, Republic of Ireland, Greece, Gibraltar
Group C: Italy, England, Ukraine, North Macedonia, Malta
Group D: Croatia, Wales, Armenia, Turkey, Latvia
Group E: Poland, Czech Republic, Albania, Faroe Islands, Moldova
Group F: Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Estonia
Group G: Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Lithuania
Group H: Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland, San Marino
Group I: Switzerland, Israel, Romania, Kosovo, Belarus, Andorra
Group J: Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Liechtenstein

When Roberto Mancini was appointed in May 2018, the only way was up for Italy.

For the first time since 1958, the Azzurri were going to miss out on a World Cup. A play-off defeat to Sweden left the four-time winners looking on from afar when the 2018 edition was staged in Russia.

Mancini himself said the country was still in mourning six months later upon his arrival. There had been tears of sadness from the great Gianluigi Buffon in the immediate aftermath following a failure to score at San Siro, as a 0-0 draw on home soil followed on from a 1-0 defeat in the first leg in Stockholm.

Just over three years later, however, and Italy's outlook ahead of a major tournament could not be more contrasting. The only tears they are hoping to see this time around are the joyous kind.

Having lacked a clear and obvious gameplan under Gian Piero Ventura, the current crop have developed a sharpness and style to match their manager's dress sense.

At the very beginning of his reign, Mancini had made clear what needed to happen to get Italy off the canvas and back with a fighting chance of competing at the highest level. In hindsight, he has proven to be the ideal man for a crisis.

"It's a difficult time and there's a lot to do"

Mancini was not lying with his assessment of the situation at his first press conference after taking the job. Italy had finished second behind Spain in Group G of World Cup qualifying, though their only defeat in the round-robin stage had come away to La Roja.

However, the play-off round that followed was a disaster in football terms. Beaten by a goal from Jakob Johansson in the first meeting, Ventura's side dominated possession and attempted plenty of shots second time around, only to draw a blank. Sweden stood firm, dealing with cross after cross to keep a clean sheet and punch their ticket.

As Italy strived without success to find a breakthrough, Lorenzo Insigne sat on the bench. The Napoli forward was not called into action at a time when his team desperately needed to score, despite Daniele De Rossi's best attempts to get his compatriot involved.

This time around, Insigne is no longer a peripheral figure. Mancini's preference has been to play a 4-3-3 system, one that allows the 30-year-old to prosper.

There remains a focus on being defensively solid – this is still Italy – but not at the expense of capitalising on opportunities to attack. In qualifying, Italy managed 37 goals, a tally only Belgium (40) bettered, as they won 10 from 10, conceding just four in the process.

Andrea Belotti finished as their leading scorer (four goals), but Ciro Immobile may end up being the chosen one to occupy the central role up top. Both showed they can create too, providing a pair of assists in Group J.

"Our task will be to make Italy close to the fans again through our play and results"

September 10, 2018. That is the last time Italy lost an international game, going down 1-0 to Portugal in a Nations League contest to an Andre Silva goal.

Since that result, Mancini has overseen a 27-match unbeaten run. While the opposition has not always been of the highest standard – the qualification group draw was certainly kind – they have repeatedly churned out results.

A 4-0 thrashing of the Czech Republic in their final warm-up game before the European Championship saw history made, Italy winning eight consecutive games in all competitions without conceding a goal for the first time.

Mancini has overseen such a streak even while heavily rotating, using 40 different players during qualifying, more than any other nation.

Still, some have been regulars under the former Inter and Manchester City boss. Centre-back Leonardo Bonucci played all 10 group fixtures, while Jorginho featured in nine games, the deep-lying midfielder a key figure in helping build patiently from the back by controlling possession, with his 1,019 touches in qualifying comfortably the most by any Italian and only behind Belgium centre-back Toby Alderweireld and Germany midfielder Joshua Kimmich among all teams. Second on the list for Italy was another midfielder in Marco Verratti, who had 917 touches in just seven outings.

With those two charged with dictating proceedings, the third midfielder is afforded the opportunity to work in more advanced positions. Nicolo Barella did so against the Czechs, while there are options aplenty in the 26-man party to fill the wide positions.

The televised show to reveal Italy's final list of players certainly provided plenty of entertainment, but so too has the team on the pitch. This is a squad that Italy fans should enjoy watching in the coming weeks.

"I want to be the head coach who brings Italy back to where we belong in Europe and in the world"

Mancini was defiant when he first met the media in terms of his long-term aim, but can his Italy keep on winning?

The plans put in place have worked so far. Euro 2020, however, will be the key test as to whether such a streak has been built on solid enough foundations to achieve success against the best on the continent. Home advantage will help in the group – they play Turkey, Switzerland and Wales in Rome – as Mancini prepares for his first major tournament in charge.

A delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could have easily cost them momentum, but in the additional year they have won 10 and drawn three times. A hat-trick of 2-0 victories in March gave them an ideal start to their World Cup qualifying campaign, putting them on course to reach Qatar.

Mancini's performance led to a contract extension through to 2026, a long-term commitment that shows all is rosy in the garden. The Italian Football Federation had done the same with Ventura too, only to sack him not long after, but this feels different. There is a togetherness among the squad, aided by results on the pitch.

"Mancini has created a great group, a great spirit and has put everyone in a position to express themselves at their best and have fun. We are playing great football," Insigne told Rai Sport after the Czech Republic friendly, having scored one himself and set up a goal for Domenico Berardi.

That spirit – not to mention the streak – will come under pressure in the coming weeks, particularly as Mancini has raised hopes that this Italy can go far.

Still, for a coach who had to pick up the pieces after that miserable night in Milan, creating a situation where such lofty expectations even exist is an impressive achievement in itself.

Page 14 of 14
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.