Alessandro Bastoni vows Italy will play without fear in Croatia showdown

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Alessandro Bastoni;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Alessandro Bastoni</a> challenges <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Álvaro Morata;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Álvaro Morata</a> during <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Italy;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Italy</a>’s defeat by Spain.</span><span>Photograph: Image Photo Agency/Getty Images</span>

The Italy centre-back Alessandro Bastoni has promised that they will cast fear to one side when they try to avert the embarrassment of an early exit from Euro 2024.

A defeat against Croatia would almost certainly mean the reigning champions have to sweat on the shakedown of third-place finishers, with the chances high that more than four teams will finish on three points. They could even finish ­bottom of Group B if Albania simultaneously record an unlikely win against Spain, who outplayed Luciano Spalletti’s side last ­Thursday. It promises to be a knife-edge ­evening given only a win will do for their opponents and ­Bastoni believes a no-regrets approach will help banish any ­lingering disappointment.

Related: Spalletti keeps courage of convictions with Italy for Croatia challenge

“There is no such thing as fear in football,” said Bastoni, who scored in the 2-1 win against Albania. “No place for it, no reason for it either. When you lose you either get down in the dumps or try to do better than you did on the previous occasion. ­Fortunately football always gives you a second chance and we can’t wait to get out there.”

Bastoni sat alongside Spalletti. “Talk is cheap,” the manager said. “We need to walk the walk, and leave talk to one side.” But the 65-year-old rarely wants for rhetorical flourishes and invoked the Italian rail network, more briskly efficient than Deutsche Bahn services if his metaphor was anything to go by, in explaining how Italy must dust themselves down.

“That’s something you do very quickly, because if we don’t get a result we’re off home,” he said when asked if Italy could ­psychologically recover from barely laying a glove on Spain, who have won the group. “Life goes very quickly. The high-speed train in Italy spends five seconds on the platform. Either you jump aboard, or you stay on the platform and you’re walking home.”

Although Spain’s 1-0 win looked marginal on paper, Bastoni admitted it had been a “shellacking”. Italy will be more imposing against a possession-hungry ­Croatia, ­he suggested, although a side schooled in Spalletti’s fluid style will not be kicking them off the park. “That’s something you did about 50 years ago,” the Internazionale defender said. “You left a marker on someone, you gave them a kick. You’ve got to take the sting out of the opponent with your approach. It’s about being bold and daring.”

Spalletti talked of making ­alterations, although he was vague regarding whether they would be systemic or involve fresh personnel. “We’ll change our approach in some ways,” he said. Jorginho may be in the firing line after being replaced at half-time against Spain, even though Spalletti said he blamed himself for the Arsenal midfielder’s poor performance. Federico ­Dimarco, the influential left-back, faces a test on a calf injury but is likely to be passed fit.

If Italy could get away with ­clawing out a point, Croatia’s task is even more clear-cut. Three points, and nothing else, will see them safely through. They have only once fallen short at a European Championship group stage, in 2004, and their ­manager, Zlatko Dalic, has no desire to reprise any past failures.

“We’re ready,” Dalic said. “We know what the situation is, we know it’s effectively a knockout match and there won’t be any extra time. It’s a must-win. Any other result will send us home and we don’t want to go home so soon. It will be a historic match. From the word go, we want to try and put things right.”

Croatia, who have a clean bill of health bar the injured defender Domagoj Vida, may bid farewell to ageing stars such as Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic after this tournament but Dalic has refused to countenance calling time on their national team careers in front of Leipzig’s sweeping stands. “We haven’t said this might be the end of an era for us,” he said. “We need to approach it with our heads held high.”