Italy will be "hungry for revenge" following their World Cup absence when they meet Spain at the Nations League Finals in June, Roberto Mancini's assistant Alberico Evani has told Stats Perform.

The European champions missed out on a second consecutive edition of the global tournament last year after falling to a shock qualification play-off defeat against North Macedonia in March.

However, the Azzurri bounced back to top a competitive Nations League group containing Hungary, Germany and England as they qualified for the competition's final four for the second edition in a row.

Italy will face Spain – who beat them in the 2021 semi-finals at San Siro – on June 15 following Wednesday's draw, while hosts Netherlands will meet Croatia.

Evani, who was a World Cup runner-up as a player in 1994 before joining Mancini's backroom team in 2018, knows Spain will be tough opponents but hopes Italy can prove a point.

"We've struggled against them in the past because of their style of play," Evani said of the threat posed by La Roja. 

"We would have preferred to avoid them, but it's also nice to have to play against them, as we can see if we have improved. 

"We are the only two teams who reached the final four in the last two consecutive editions. Let's see if we can change the result. 

"We are hungry for revenge and to take back what we have left in London two years ago [when winning the delayed Euro 2020]. 

"We have the skills to do it and we are doing all we can to be competitive again, we are working to be in the best possible conditions in June."

Mancini recently called for coaches to be braver in giving top-level experience to young Italian players, something Evani is also keen to see. 

"We had a camp right before Christmas and we called up all these young players. There is a lot of quality, they are interesting players with big futures ahead of them," he said.

"We hope their respective clubs will let them play more and more so they can gain the right experience. We have the talents, I think the future is bright."

Evani was speaking less than a week after Serie A giants Juventus were issued with a 15-point deduction following an investigation into the club's past transfer dealings.

Italy won the 2006 World Cup amid investigations that saw several of Serie A's top clubs punished in the aftermath of the Calciopoli scandal, and Evani hopes the Azzurri can again find motivation from a crisis affecting the country's domestic league.

"Our country always find strength in hardships," he said. "We didn't qualify for the World Cup and we now have this issue with the entire Italian football system. Who knows, we might be able to find the right boost to reach new heights."

European champions Italy will face Spain in the last four at the Nations League Finals in June, with hosts Netherlands drawn against World Cup semi-finalists Croatia.

Italy, who were absent from a second consecutive edition of the World Cup in Qatar last year, reached the Nations League semi-finals by edging out Hungary for top spot in a group which also contained Germany and England.

Standing between Roberto Mancini's men and the final are Spain – who beat the Azzurri 2-1 at the same stage of the competition in 2021 before losing the final against France.

Spain, who saw off Portugal to win Group A2, will be led by new head coach Luis de la Fuente after Luis Enrique departed in the aftermath of their surprise World Cup exit against Morocco.

The Netherlands, who were beaten finalists at the inaugural 2019 Nations League Finals in Portugal, will face Croatia in a home semi-final at De Kuip in Rotterdam.

The Oranje are also under new management, with Ronald Koeman returning to the role in place of Louis van Gaal after their World Cup quarter-final loss to eventual champions Argentina.

While it's all change for Spain and the Netherlands, there will be a familiar look to Croatia's side in June, with talismanic midfielder Luka Modric pledging to continue his international career after helping the team win bronze in Qatar.

The semi-final fixtures will take place on June 14 and 15, with the third-place play-off and final being held on June 18.  

Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz have been confirmed as participants in the 2023 FFA Cup of Nations in Australia from February 13-25.

The 44th ranked Girlz will battle Spain, Czech Republic and the hosts in the four-team tournament.

The teams will play a round-robin tournament where the winner will be determined by who finishes with the most points after their three games.

The event was last held in 2019 with Australia coming out on top ahead of South Korea, New Zealand and Argentina.

Pedri hopes Barcelona team-mate Sergio Busquets stays with the Blaugrana, but identified Frenkie de Jong as a capable replacement for the evergreen midfielder.

Barca great Gerard Pique confirmed his retirement in November and Xavi's side may be set to lose another veteran, as Busquets nears the end of his contract in June.

The 34-year-old remains a pivotal part of Xavi's midfield trio, alongside youngsters Pedri and Gavi, helping Barca to sit two points clear of Real Madrid at the LaLiga summit heading into the World Cup.

While 20-year-old Pedri continues his seismic rise in both international and domestic football, Busquets called an end to his Spain career after their World Cup elimination in the last 16 to Morocco.

Pedri urged his midfield partner to continue with Barca past the end of his existing contract, though he feels De Jong could step into the role given his experience with the Netherlands.

"I would like him to continue, he is a key piece," he told Catalunya Radio. "Frenkie de Jong could be a good replacement for Busquets, he has played in that position with the Netherlands in the World Cup."

Spain's early World Cup exit in Qatar culminated in the departure of Luis Enrique - much to Pedri's disappointment - with Luis de la Fuente replacing him.

Meanwhile, team-mate Ousmane Dembele suffered final heartbreak with France, with the 20-year-old suggesting the winger has returned a different player after the agonising defeat to Argentina.

"[Luis Enrique] transmits things very well. It's a shame, but we will now play with Luis de la Fuente to the fullest," he added. "[Dembele] is now more professional than he was before, and it shows."

Pedri and Busquets will hope to pick up where they left off as Barcelona restart their LaLiga campaign against rivals Espanyol on December 31.

Barcelona coach Xavi says midfield duo Gavi and Pedri are better than he and fellow Blaugrana legend Andres Iniesta were at 20 years of age.

Gavi and Pedri each started all four of Spain's games at the World Cup in Qatar, having also assumed key roles for LaLiga leaders Barca since Xavi took charge last year.  

The duo's incisive passing and telepathic relationship has attracted comparisons to Xavi's own partnership with Iniesta, with that pair experiencing remarkable success at club and international level.

However, when speaking to Barca's media channels on Tuesday, Xavi said the Blaugrana's current midfield duo had developed quicker than their illustrious predecessors.

"Me at 20 years old and Andres at 20 years old were not at the level of Pedri or Gavi," Xavi said. "How Gavi competes, the passion he puts in... we were not at his level.

"We have very young players. Eric [Garcia], Pedri, Ansu [Fati], Gavi... Frenkie [de Jong] is young. We have Barca for the present and for the future."

Xavi did concede the demands on some of Barca's young players may be too great, adding: "Gavi has played practically everything. Ansu is a talent, but perhaps we are asking too much of them."

Barca are two points clear of rivals Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga, winning 12 of their 14 games this season after investing heavily in the transfer window.

The Catalan giants put together big-money moves for the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha in the off-season, but Xavi does not expect a repeat in January.

"I told [director of football] Mateu [Alemany] not to play too much, that I'm happy with the family, it's a fantastic group," Xavi said. "We don't know if we'll be able to incorporate new players.

"I think we can be competitive. I'm happy with the leaders, we train at 100 per cent and it shows on the field. If we don't touch anything, I'll be very happy."

Luis de la Fuente tried to convince Sergio Busquets to postpone his international retirement, but the new Spain head coach will respect the veteran's call.

The 34-year-old called time on his career with La Roja following their World Cup exit to Morocco in the last 16, departing with 143 caps and two goals to his name.

Busquets' announcement came following the news De la Fuente would succeed Luis Enrique in charge of the national set-up, after their under-performance at Qatar 2022.

The new head coach has now revealed he sought to convince the Barcelona stalwart to reverse his decision, and acknowledged he will miss his experience as he takes charge.

"It's a shame that, at international level, he wants to close the book, but I can only respect him," he said.

"He is one of the most important players in Spanish football, because of what he has achieved on the field.

"I had the privilege of receiving a call yesterday in which he informed me that he had made that decision.

"I tried to convince him otherwise, but he is a man with clear ideas and he has made his call.

"But football continues, and we will have to think about the future. There are players who have already occupied that position, like Rodri.

"We are following other players and surely there are those who will have their chance. There is still time until March to see the evolution of the players."

De la Fuente will take charge of his first matches as Spain coach in a pair of Euro 2024 qualifiers against Norway and Scotland in three months' time.

Xavi paid tribute to Sergio Busquets following his decision to retire from international football, describing him as one of the greatest midfielders in history.

Busquets announced his retirement from Spain duty on Friday having captained La Roja in each of their four games at the World Cup in Qatar.

Busquets' miss in a penalty shoot-out defeat to Morocco in the last 16 provided a less-than-fitting end to his stellar career with Spain, for whom he made 143 senior appearances.

The 34-year-old starred alongside his Barcelona team-mate-turned-coach Xavi as Spain won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, and the Blaugrana boss believes few can match his impact.

"In the end, it's a personal decision that you make when you feel the time is right," Xavi told Barcelona's website. "I wish him the best, now he will be able to rest more and focus on Barca.

"He is a player who has made history. He is one of the best midfielders that football has produced worldwide and, for sure, the best defensive midfielder in the history of Spain."

Fellow Barcelona star Jordi Alba said Busquets will be "sorely missed" by Spain, who will be led by Luis de la Fuente in Euro 2024 qualifying after Luis Enrique left his role as head coach. 

"You have always been a great leader for all of us who are part of the team, both in good times and in bad," Alba wrote on Twitter.

"After so many training sessions and games together in the national team, today you say goodbye and you will be sorely missed, friend. 

"Thank you for what you have contributed to us and for everything you have given."

Spain's third-highest appearance maker Sergio Busquets has announced his retirement from international football.

The 34-year-old captained Spain in each of their four games at the World Cup in Qatar, missing a penalty in the shootout as Luis Enrique's side were knocked out by Morocco at the last-16 stage.

Busquets made his debut for La Roja against Turkey in April 2009 and went on to make 143 appearances, behind only Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos in the country's history.

The Barcelona midfielder, who scored two international goals, was an integral part of the Spain squads that won the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship two years later.

"I would like to thank all the people who have accompanied me on this long journey," he wrote on Instagram. 

"From Vicente del Bosque who gave me the opportunity to start, to Luis Enrique for making me enjoy it until the last second.

"I also thank Julen Lopetegui, Fernando Hierro and Robert Moreno for their trust, as well as all their staff.

"And, of course, to each and every one of my team-mates, with whom I have struggled to try to take the team where it deserved, with more or less success but always giving everything and with the greatest of pride.

"It has been an honour to represent my country and take it to the top.

"To be a World and European champion, to be captain and to play so many games, with greater or lesser success but always giving everything and contributing my grain of sand so that everything went the right way."

Luis Enrique says Atletico Madrid "have to love me first" amid rumours the former Spain boss could be a long-term replacement for Diego Simeone.

La Roja and Luis Enrique parted ways in the aftermath of a shock last-16 defeat to Morocco on penalties at the World Cup last week, with Luis de la Fuente named as his replacement.

Spanish publication AS reported the former Barcelona head coach is a target for Manchester United and Atleti, despite both positions being occupied.

The links to Atleti would seemingly hold more credence. Diego Simeone has been in charge since 2011, winning two LaLiga titles, as many Europa Leagues, and the Copa del Rey, while they have finished as Champions League runners-up twice.

But with Atleti fifth in the table this season and already 13 points off the pace in LaLiga, there is a feeling the Argentine coach's time at the Wanda Metropolitano is winding down.

Atleti midfielder Koke and the club's CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin have over the past week endorsed Luis Enrique, who says no offers have come his way for his next venture.

"Hey, they have to love me, this is the usual," he said on a Twitch stream with Ibai Llanos.

"If they don't call me, if I don't have offers, I can't decide. I don't have any offers at the moment."

 

Luis Enrique, who in the same interview said he will wait until next season before deciding his next move and is planning to take part in a mountain bike race with his brother, was also asked about Barca's young midfield talent Pedri.

The 20-year-old was one of Spain's star performers and has been tipped to enjoy an exciting future at club and international level.

Luis Enrique is of the same opinion, likening him to a Barca legend and one of the world's most famous fictional wizards.

"For me Pedri is Harry Potter, he's a different player," he added.

"Watching him play, the closest [comparison] is [Andres] Iniesta. And Pedri as a person is a number one."

Luis Enrique acknowledged Spain's failings at the World Cup against Morocco in which "everything went to hell" as La Roja exited in Qatar.

Morocco, the surprise packing of the tournament, dumped Spain out on penalties after a goalless draw in Tuesday's last-16 clash.

Luis Enrique was subsequently dismissed from his role as head coach on Thursday, with former Spain youth boss Luis de la Fuente named as his replacement.

While pointing to the lasting legacy his Spain side may leave on future generations, Luis Enrique suggested it only takes 90 minutes for years of planning to derail.

"In 90 minutes, everything went to hell. It is clear that we did not play a good game against Morocco," he said on Twitch.

"I saw it positively. Right now I am calm and satisfied with what we have done. We generated enthusiasm and desire to see the national team.

"We have seen it. Many young people and children came to see us at the hotel. We could do better, I am aware, but I tried to take the best players and those who embodied my ideas."

 

The former Barcelona boss came under scrutiny for his squad selection ahead of FIFA's top tournament, with questions over his preference to play Ferran Torres and not call up a traditional striker option.

The inclusion of Sergio Roberto and Eric Garcia led to further debates over the La Roja squad, though Luis Enrique has no regrets over his decisions.

"It consoles me that the same thing happens to others. I don't enter the debate. I respect it," he continued.

"I make the decisions with my staff. Nobody makes recommendations to me, nobody from the press has dedicated even 10 per cent of the hours that my staff and I have dedicated."

Manchester United, now managed by Erik ten Hag, were previously reportedly interested in Luis Enrique, who will wait for the new season before considering his next move.

"I want to continue training at a club to develop what I did in the national team," he added. "That has been a dream. This stage is over. I'll wait for the start of next season."

Luis Enrique acknowledged Spain's failings at the World Cup against Morocco in which "everything went to hell" as La Roja exited in Qatar.

Morocco, the surprise packing of the tournament, dumped Spain out on penalties after a goalless draw in Tuesday's last-16 clash.

Enrique was subsequently dismissed from his role as head coach on Thursday, with former Spain youth boss Luis de la Fuente named as his replacement.

While pointing to the lasting legacy his Spain side may leave on future generations, Enrique suggested it only takes 90 minutes for years of planning to derail.

"In 90 minutes, everything went to hell. It is clear that we did not play a good game against Morocco," he said on Twitch.

"I saw it positively. Right now I am calm and satisfied with what we have done. We generated enthusiasm and desire to see the national team.

"We have seen it. Many young people and children came to see us at the hotel. We could do better, I am aware, but I tried to take the best players and those who embodied my ideas."

 

The former Barcelona boss came under scrutiny for his squad selection ahead of FIFA's top tournament, with questions over his preference to play Ferran Torres and not call up a traditional striker option.

The inclusion of Sergio Roberto and Eric Garcia led to further debates over the La Roja squad, though Enrique has no regrets over his decisions.

"It consoles me that the same thing happens to others. I don't enter the debate. I respect it," he continued.

"I make the decisions with my staff. Nobody makes recommendations to me, nobody from the press has dedicated even 10 per cent of the hours that my staff and I have dedicated."

Manchester United, now managed by Erik ten Hag, were previously reportedly interested in Enrique, who will wait for the new season before considering his next move.

"I want to continue training at a club to develop what I did in the national team," he added. "That has been a dream. This stage is over. I'll wait for the start of next season."

Luis Enrique was not let go as Spain coach for his extracurricular activities such as his Twitch streams, Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales has insisted.

The former Barcelona boss was dismissed from his post following La Roja's World Cup exit to Morocco in the last 16 earlier this month, with former youth boss Luis de la Fuente named as his replacement.

Before and during the tournament, Luis Enrique caught the eye with several additional activities, such as announcing his Qatar 2022 squad on a bike ride and streaming daily on the video site Twitch.

Some had wondered if he had paid the price in part for those distractions, but Rubiales has now sought to shut down such speculation, stating it was simply time for a change of leadership.

"I've read a lot of stories, that [it] was his Twitch, that it was his bicycle [rides], things like that," Rubiales said. "But there was nothing like that.

"The three of us, the outgoing sporting director [Jose Molina], the new sporting director [Albert Luque] and I, we agreed we should start a new project. There's nothing else.

"The relationship with Luis Enrique is magnificent. We're very grateful to him. There were different conversations. We always said we'd talk after the World Cup.

"He didn't tell me that he wanted to carry on. The conversation went along other lines, that a project was ending and another was beginning."

De la Fuente was officially unveiled on Monday, and will begin his tenure in charge with Euro 2024 qualifiers against Norway and Spain next March.

Koke has cited Luis Enrique as a potential replacement for Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid.

Luis Enrique left his position as Spain boss after they were dumped out of the World Cup round of 16 on penalties by Morocco on Tuesday.

AS reported the former Barcelona coach could be a target for Manchester United and Atletico, despite both clubs having their positions currently filled.

Simeone has been Atletico head coach since 2011, leading the team to two league titles and a pair of Europa League triumphs, while they also finished Champions League runners-up in both the 2013-14 and 2015-16 campaigns.

But a poor start to this season which sees them fifth in La Liga and out of the Champions League at the group stage has fuelled rumours Simeone could leave the club.

Atletico midfielder Koke was part of the Spain team that crashed out of the World Cup, ultimately costing Luis Enrique his job, yet the midfielder still believes the 52-year-old would be a suitable replacement for Simeone.

"Luis Enrique is a spectacular manager and coach," Koke told reporters. "It's a different idea than what we have now at Atletico, but why not?"

Atletico's CEO, Miguel Angel Gil Marin, also spoke of his interest in bringing Luis Enrique to the club, telling TVE: "I really like him personally and professionally. I think he has the talent to coach any team in our league.

"It is clear that he adds up for everyone. For the media, for the players and for the clubs because he offers performance. I think he is good."

Spain's decision to part ways with Luis Enrique following their World Cup exit was "yet another mistake," according to former La Roja head coach Javier Clemente.

The former Barcelona boss' departure was confirmed on Thursday, two days after the 2010 world champions were eliminated by Morocco on penalties in the last 16.

Luis Enrique's contract was due to expire at the conclusion of the finals, and the Royal Football Federation (RFEF) opted not to renew his deal and announced current Under-21 boss Luis de la Fuente is set to take over.

Former Spain boss Clemente feels Luis Enrique, who he coached at the World Cup in 1994 and 1998, should not be blamed after overseeing a second successive last-16 exit, having fallen at the same stage to host nation Russia four years ago.

"I think it is not a success to have dispensed with Luis Enrique as coach," he told El Programa de Ortega. "This is yet another mistake.

"Luis Enrique is a very good coach, with his ideas, with his personality, friendly, pleasant, man of the house. The problem of the Spanish team is a problem of Spanish football.

"[Morocco] stood up and closed well behind, and the players did not have the temperament to overcome it.

"You always talk about the coaches, but when you play badly, you also have to talk about the players. Is Luis Enrique to blame [for the penalties]? Not really.

 

The RFEF is expected to officially announce De La Fuente as Luis Enrique's successor on Monday.

The 61-year-old has spent close to a decade coaching Spain's age-grade sides, winning the Under-19 European Championship in 2015 and the Under-21 equivalent in 2021.

He also took charge of the Under-23 side at the Beijing Olympics last year and won a silver medal following defeat to Brazil in the final.

"You don't imagine he'll end up as a coach," said Clemente, who coached De La Fuente at Athletic Bilbao during the early stages of his playing career.

"I think it's good, he's been in the Under-21s, and he's had good results. He's done well, he already knows the kids. I don't know how he coaches, but I tell you he's very good because he's a friend of mine."

Spain have made further changes to their coaching set-up by replacing Jose Molina with Albert Luque as their new sporting director.

La Roja announced head coach Luis Enrique's departure earlier on Thursday, two days after losing to Morocco on penalties in the World Cup last 16.

Luis de la Fuente, who has had success at Under-19 and Under-21 level, as well as winning a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics last year, is set to take over next week.

Molina is the latest high-profile figure to leave his role, with the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) confirming he will not be renewing his contract in January 2023.

Luque will take up the position of sports director, while Francis Hernandez will work alongside the former Spain international.

Spain twice reached the Nations League Finals and the semi-finals of Euro 2020 during Molina's four years in the job.

The 2010 world champions are next in action at the end of March with opening Euro 2024 qualifiers against Norway and Scotland.

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