19.06.2024 03:40 h

Inter super-sub Frattesi central to Euros title defence

Davide Frattesi will be key to Italy's hopes of beating red-hot Spain at Euro 2024 on Thursday after earning the faith of coach Luciano Spalletti despite his peripheral role at Inter Milan.

Midfielder Frattesi started just six matches in Inter's charge to the most recent Serie A title but earned himself plaudits for a series of super-sub displays in his first season for Simone Inzaghi's table-topping side.

The 24-year-old netted eight goals and set up five more in the equivalent of 15 games in all competitions for Inter last term and his knack of popping up at the right place at the right time has translated to the international stage.

Four of Frattesi's five Italy goals have come since Spalletti took charge of the national team in August last year.

And he was only denied a sixth international strike in 16 caps by the post in the Azzurri's opening 2-1 win over Albania, in which he impressed playing behind his former Sassuolo teammate Gianluca Scamacca.

"It's never easy to insert yourself into a new team in the first year especially if they've just got to the Champions League final," Frattesi said on Monday of his lack of starts at Inter.

"The most tiring thing for me this year was the travelling. But the more you play, the more time you have on the pitch, the better condition you'll have.

"You get tired mentally, but your form comes from playing matches. I would have liked it to have been different."

Frattesi is part of a block of four Inter players set to start for Italy on Thursday, with fellow midfielder Nicolo Barella, buccaneering left-back Federico Dimarco and defender Alessandro Bastoni all fixtures for the European champions.

"Being together for a year has definitely helped because sometimes we don't even need to talk to each other because things happen almost automatically," said Frattesi.

"It's a bit like that with Scamacca too because it comes naturally, we understand each other and what we have to do."

Italy impressed in fits and starts against Albania, showing character to bounce back from conceding the fastest goal ever scored in a European Championship match and at times playing football that was very easy on the eye.

That opening win relieves some of the pressure against Spain who demolished Croatia and so far -- with Germany -- look the most accomplished side in the tournament.

Spain lead Group B on goal difference ahead of Italy, who know that a point on Thursday will probably be enough to ensure at least one of the four best third-place finishes which gives a spot in the knockout stages.

Frattesi expects Italy to have "less of the ball" and be on the back foot against a Spain attack featuring Barcelona's teen sensation Lamine Yamal.

"We're not only finding out about him now, he's had a great year. For a such a young player to have such character means that he's destined to become one of the best players in the world," said Frattesi.

"To be quite frank Spain are a better team than us individually. So we have to have that Italian spirit on the pitch, help our teammates out and fight, and hopefully from there we can win.

"Because if it comes down to individual battles than it will be very hard, but if we can make it a collective fight in which everyone makes sacrifices then we can put in a good performance."