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Italy and Spain go head to head in a European Championship knockout game for the fourth tournament in a row, with a place in the Euro 2020 final against England or Denmark up for grabs.
This is the countries’ seventh meeting in the Euros, with Spain’s only win in 90 minutes coming in the 2012 final – which they won 4-0. Italy beat Spain in the last 16 at Euro 2016.
Spain are looking for a third European title in four events, while Italy have surprisingly only won it once, all the way back in 1968.
The game is at Wembley, the same venue as Wednesday’s match between England and Denmark and Sunday’s final.
There are unlikely to be too many fans of either side at the game. Anybody flying from Spain or Italy into England would have to quarantine and therefore not be able to attend.
Italian FA president Gabriele Gravina says they have been given 125 tickets – out of a possible 60,000 crowd.
“It is unfair that there are no fans from Italy and Spain,” said Italy boss Roberto Mancini. “But it is better to play in front of the public than in front of a few people – that is the beauty of sport.”
Spain manager Luis Enrique said he hoped there would be plenty of Spanish and Italians who live in the UK in the crowd.
“It is a strange situation. I hope there are Spanish and Italians more than English fans, but they are things we cannot control,” he said. “I am not going to waste any energy on it. We wish it was different but we accept it.”
Italy – who are unbeaten in almost three years – have been arguably the most impressive team in Euro 2020 so far.
They won all three group games before beating Austria in extra time and then Belgium, the number one ranked team in the world, 2-1 in the quarter-finals.
But they will be without left-back Leonardo Spinazzola, who has been one of the best players in the tournament, after he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon against Belgium. The 28-year-old Roma player has had surgery and is set to be sidelined for around six months.
Spain have been less impressive – winning just one of their five games in 90 minutes.
A 5-0 win over Slovakia in the final group game took them through after two draws. They beat Croatia 5-3 in extra time in the last 16 – having led 3-1 with 10 minutes to go – and then beat Switzerland on penalties in the quarter-finals.
Unlike some other teams at Euro 2020, both managers have enjoyed great success as bosses in club football.
Spain’s Enrique won the treble with Barcelona – and another La Liga title. Italy’s Mancini won three Serie A titles with Inter Milan and the Premier League with Manchester City, as well as six cups in Italy, England and Turkey.
“In the last 20 years Spain have dominated world football so I don’t think they will change their style of play now,” Mancini said.
“They have a style of play, invented by them, which has led them to extraordinary successes and they continue to do it well.
“Ours will be slightly different, we are Italian and we cannot suddenly become Spanish. We will try to play our game.”
Spinazzola’s place in the Italy starting line-up is likely to go to Chelsea left-back Emerson.
Spain winger Pablo Sarabia is a major doubt after being forced off with a muscle problem against Switzerland and may be replaced by Dani Olmo.
How well can you remember who started the 2012 final? We have given you the initials of each player and – be warned – not everybody played in the position you might associate them with.
Can you name Spain and Italy starting line-ups from Euro 2012 final?
Score: 0 / 22
Can Italy replace Spinazzola?
Roma left-back Spinazzola has been one of the breakout players of this tournament – despite being 28.
He has only ever played one Champions League game, and had never scored a top-flight goal this time last year, meaning he has not really been a household name outside his homeland.
His importance on the Azzurri in this tournament cannot be overstated. He was a constant source of attack at left-back – playing more as a forward than a defender at times.
Spinazzola created eight chances for team-mates (the fourth most of any Italian player – or of any defender at Euro 2020) and attempted 18 dribbles (eight more than any other Italian).
He put in 11 crosses (almost twice the number of any team-mate) and had seven shots (Denmark’s Joakim Maehle is the only defender to try more).
BBC Sport pundit Chris Sutton said: “He’s irreplaceable. They’re some boots to fill. He has been my player of the tournament.”
Which Spain will we see?
It feels a bit of an oxymoron to say that one of Spain’s biggest problems at Euro 2020 has been scoring goals… when they find themselves as top scorers in the tournament.
Alvaro Morata’s finishing was under particular scrutiny.
Spain have scored 12 goals in their five games – but 10 of those came in two matches.
They wasted a huge quantity of chances in their opening group games before beating a woeful Slovakia 5-0 in the third game.
Enrique’s side followed that up with five goals again – beating Croatia 5-3 in extra time. But they would have not needed the extra 30 minutes if they had held on to their 3-1 lead with six minutes left.
They seemed to be back to their old wasteful selves against Switzerland, with 28 shots and 10 on target only wielding one goal – an own goal at that – before penalties.
“Seven clear chances in extra time but we didn’t have a clinical finisher,” said Spanish journalist Guillem Balague.
On expected goals – the Opta measure that calculates the probability of scoring from each shot you take – Spain are on 15. Italy are next on 10. But in actual goals the gap is just 12-11.
Only the joint top scorer in the tournament, Cristiano Ronaldo (4.9), has a higher xG than Spain pair Alvaro Morata (4) and Gerard Moreno (3.3). Morata has two goals and Moreno is yet to score.
“He is a friend, we are often together,” Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci said of Juventus team-mate Morata.
“He is one of the best strikers in the world. We will need great attention for him and for everyone on Tuesday.”
Mancini helps Italy find their way again
Mancini has turned Italy round since taking over in May 2018. The Azzurri had failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, with one newspaper comparing it to the Apocalypse.
Italy have won 28 of his 37 games in charge – a 75% win rate – and are now unbeaten in 32 games, a run going back to a 1-0 Nations League defeat by Portugal in September 2018.
They have now won 13 games in a row too.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of the recent Azzurri success has been built on a solid defence.
Italy had kept 11 consecutive clean sheets until a goal each from Austria and Belgium in the last two games.
They were able to attack more in the group stages but needed to do plenty of defending in the knockout games.
“We were seeing a different side of Italy,” said Sutton. “Bodies behind the ball and defending deeply. It was a different Italian side to what we have seen earlier in the tournament, it was back to the old guard – they were so impressive.”
Legendary Juventus centre-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Bonucci – with a combined age of 70 – have performed well in front of 22-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and alongside a mix of full-backs.
Can Spain take inspiration from Portugal in 2016?
Spain’s one win in five games in 90 minutes may seem poor for a big nation – but it is one more than Portugal had at this stage five years ago on their way to winning the tournament.
This is now the round that Portugal finally managed a win in 90 minutes, 2-0 against Wales.
And Spain, like Portugal five years ago, came through a last-16 tie by beating Croatia in extra time.
One more possible bit of inspiration for Spain – Portugal beat Euro 2016 hosts France in extra time in the final.
Spain’s possible opponents in the final could be the hosts of the latter stages, England, at Wembley.
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