By Tom Canton
Published: July 6, 2021 6:49 am
Last Updated: July 6, 2021 6:49 am
Italy vs Spain – Context:
Euro 2020 as almost been a redemption story for an Italian side which failed to even qualify for the last 2 international tournaments. Roberto Mancini has taken over and since transformed the nation’s fortunes, once again elevating themselves to a level to be feared by almost any competitor.
They were far the better side against the world number one ranked team in Belgium, and the quality and trust given to players such as Lorenzo Insigne and Nicolò Barella led to their two goals. Defensively the might of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci has shone through in yet another tournament.
For Spain, after two opening draws in the group stage, the hope was almost extinguished before any could begin. Luis Enrique was dealing with a transitional squad of significantly less quality to the Euro and World Cup winning sides which had gone before.
Yet has turned the drab opening two displays into games which are a must-see for the neutral with their attacking fluidity and, at times, suicidal defending leading to frenetic clashes.
Italy vs Spain – Head-to-head:
Having played one another 33 times in their history, both sides are very well aware of their opponent’s credentials.
Spain in fact have the edge when it comes to history with 12 wins to Italy’s 9. What stands out most though is the fact that the two have drawn 12 times, could this signal a possible extra time in the next bout?
Euro 2012 saw the pair meet in the final and Spain battered Mario Balotelli and co. 4-0. It was a game which was difficult to forget but in the 2016 World Cup, Italy got their revenge in the last 16, knocking out Spain after a 2-0 win.
This is the only Italy victory in the last 8 meetings between the pair but the Azzurri certainly will be overriding favourites going into Tuesday’s contest.
Italy vs Spain – Key battles:
Italy’s weakness will certainly be in their full-back positions. Giovanni Di Lorenzo has come in for the injured Alessandro Florenzi and Emerson is expected to deputise for the stricken Leonardo Spinazzola.
Spain have their own injury issue with Pablo Sarabia a doubt for the match. The likely replacement is Gerard Moreno who will be a direct player against the Chelsea squad player Emerson.
On the left, Dani Olmo will likely come in and try to feed Alvaro Morata, up against his two Juventus teammates Chiellini and Bonucci. Who will have the edge over one another with the trio knowing their opponent inside and out?
Spain’s defence has looked questionable at times and the front three of Insigne, Ciro Immobile and Federico Chiesa will know that La Roja’s back line will be vulnerable to quick passing and pressure.
Despite Spain being known for its midfield passing, Italy’s Nicolò Barella, Jorginho and Marco Verratti will certainly be seen to have the dominant edge over Luis Enrique’s preferred three of Pedri, Koke and Sergio Busquets. The latter of which will need all his experience to deal with the breaking runs of the Italians.
Italy vs Spain – The subplot:
Luis Enrique, Alvaro Morata and the Spain side in general has faced a swath of criticism across the tournament.
Yes the the competition opened in drab fashion but two games, in which La Roja scored 5 goals in both, soon changed the mood. Yet some questions linger on.
Goal’s Rik Sharma described Luis Enrique’s answer to a question about whether he would change his team selection in such satiric fashion it rivalled the sarcasm from the Spain coach himself.
“Bravo,” jeered Luis Enrique, voice dripping with sarcasm like chocolate running off a dunked churro.
Enrique hasn’t seemed to have found a standout XI all tournament.
Should Spain go through, the last laugh will certainly fall to Enrique after the criticism and words spoke by so many, however go out and, despite making a semi-final, expect backlash to intensify.
Italy coach Roberto Mancini meanwhile is remaining very calm. Speaking after the victory over Belgium, Mancini didn’t even want to think about Spain.
“We had no minimum target. We just wanted to do our best. There are still two games to go, we’ll see what happens,” he said.
“Let us enjoy this victory, then we can think about Spain. Congratulations to the lads, they did a great job.”
Italy vs Spain – Predicted line-ups:
Italy: Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne
Spain: Unai Simon; Azpilicueta, Garcia, Laporte, Jordi Alba; Koke, Busquets, Pedri; Moreno, Morata, Olmo
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