Luciano Spalletti leads a new-look Italy to Euro 2024 as the Azzurri defend their continental crown in Germany and try to emulate World Cup heroes past.

Italy are in their first major tournament since triumphing at the last Euros three years ago and Spalletti has been entrusted to guide his nation out of another bout of deep soul searching.

Spalletti takes Italy back to the scene of perhaps the country's greatest footballing triumph, the 2006 World Cup won by a golden generation of players which included Gianluigi Buffon, Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero, Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Cannavaro.

The national team has been going through something of an identity crisis ever since, unsure of its position in the global game and no longer feared as in decades past.

Even the 2021 victory, which made national heroes of the team and Spalletti's predecessor Roberto Mancini, came as a thrilling surprise to supporters who had become accustomed to international mediocrity.

And the heroes of Wembley, who beat England on their own patch to win the last Euros, have largely been cast aside by Spalletti after failing to reach a second straight World Cup less than a year after glory at the Euros.

In their place a younger generation will aim to again rebuild Italy's reputation where some of the game's greats had their biggest international success.

"In football you need new incentives, new blood, people who are willing to put themselves forward and show what they're made of," said Spalletti on Monday.

"If you're not ready to take on these challenges, or you're not ready to take on this responsibility you will lose."

Spalletti only called up five of the team that started the final victory over England for his initial 30-man squad, which will be whittled down to 26 on Thursday.

Young guns

And while age caught up with some of the notable absentees, including retired captain Giorgio Chiellini and his centre-back partner Leonardo Bonucci, others, like Lorenzo Insigne, Marco Verratti and Leonardo Spinazzola, have simply fallen by the wayside.

Spalletti also surprised fans by deciding to leave at home Manuel Locatelli, who was a revelation at the Euros and played in both of March's friendlies with Venezuela and Ecuador.

That was a decision which led the Juventus midfielder to post a black screen on Instagram in dismay at being dropped, while his club team-mate Nicolo Fagioli got a call-up despite sitting out most of the season after a seven-month ban for gambling on football matches.

"I went through seven very difficult months... I was on the front pages every day for two weeks and that wasn't exactly enjoyable," said Fagioli on Monday.

"It's a dream for me to wear this jersey and I'll give 100 percent for it. That's more important than tactics or skill."

Fagioli is one of a raft of players in the squad with little international football experience, with nearly half of Spalletti's initial selection having fewer than 10 caps for their country, and 12 with fewer than five.

Spalletti is in many ways the star of this Italy team, much as he was when he led Napoli to a historic Serie A title just over a year ago.

The 65-year-old pre-emptively ended his post-Scudetto break to take on the biggest job of his career after Roberto Mancini jumped ship to Saudi Arabia in August.

At the time Italy had a task on their hands to qualify, but Spalletti confidently took the reins and gave fans hope of another dramatic summer.