Mateo Retegui is a surprise inclusion in Italy’s squad that is gearing up for next Thursday’s Uefa Nations League semifinal encounter with Spain. The 24-year-old has grabbed 28 goals in 39 appearances for Argentine top flight side Tigre where he is playing on loan from Boca Juniors. Azzuri’s Euro 2020 winning boss Roberto Mancini has turned to the Argentine born Retegui as he tries to make amends for Italy’s failure to qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
The 6ft 1 striker is pushing for a starting slot as the reference point in attack, with Juventus’ Federico Chiesa, Lazio’s Ciro Immobile and Napoli’s Giacomo Raspadori, all of whom have suffered injuries while featuring for their clubs at some point in the 2022/23 season providing the supporting cast. Leeds United’s 19-year-old wing live wire Wilfred Gnonto will be part of the supporting cast despite suffering the ignominy of relegation from the Premier League.
2021 Uefa Nations League losing finalists Spain boss Luis de la Fuente has opted for experience over youth by naming Sevilla’s 37-year-old Europa League winning captain Jesus Navas in his 23-man squad along with veteran left back Jordi Alba, 34, a week after he was released by Barcelona. Fast improving La Masia product Alejandro Balde is omitted, with his place going to Paris Saint Germain’s Juan Bernat.
Both coaches have ignored the vagaries of fatigue by including players set to feature in the Uefa Champions League final on Saturday June 10. Manchester City pair Aymeric Laporte and Rodri Rodrigo are in De la Fuente’s squad whereas Mancini has included Inter Milan quartet Matteo Darmian, Alessandro Bastonj, Federico di Marco and Francesco Acerbi, who has enhanced his reputation with his no nonsense man marking.
The winner of the Spain versus Italy tie meets the victor of the semifinal showdown between Netherlands and Croatia on Wednesday, June 14. Runners up to Portugal at the inaugural tournament in 2019, the Dutch are counting on the vociferous home support at Feyenoord’s De Kuip Stadium to propel them to their first international silverware since Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard guided them to Euro 88 success.
Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman is going with the tried and tested. Virgil van Dijk retains the captaincy, with fellow English Premier League stars Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Sven Botman (Newcastle United), Cody Gakpo (Liverpool) and Wout Weghorst (Manchester United) all featuring prominently.
Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic is reliant of the same core that excelled at Qatar 2022 where they finished third. Skipper Luka Modric is to lead from the front, with RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol, who was voted best defender at the World Cup, Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper Dominic Livakovic and Spurs forward Ivan Perisic all playing a part as the small Balkan nation goes about punching above it’s weight yet again.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14
Holland v Croatia
THURSDAY JUNE 15
Spain v Italy