Euro 2020 semi-final: Italy shape up for Spanish inquisition

July 6 – Thirty-two matches unbeaten and in great form, Italy are the team to beat at Euro 2020. On Tuesday, Spain, masters of the game for much of the past decades, will be underdogs in the tournament’s first semi-final. 

In the quarterfinal, Italy demonstrated they know how to win: they outclassed Belgium for much of a frantic match before reverting to some old-school defending in the dying minutes of the match to protect the lead. It was almost the perfect match for Italy, but for star man and full-back Leonardo Spinazzola being stretchered off with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

That won’t dent Italy’s confidence. “We have a very identifiable style of play,” said veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci. “We want to take the game to the opposition. You can’t boss a match for 90 minutes, but our culture and tradition allows us to dig in. We will have to defend at times to stop Spain from causing us problems.”

In 2012, Bonucci featured in Italy’s dramatic 4-0 Euro 2012 final defeat at the hands of Spain, and again for your years later when the Squadra prevailed 2-0 in Paris. He said that both teams this time would stick to their style, a sentiment echoed by his coach Roberto Mancini, who praised Spain’s possession game.

“It’s a style of football that Spain has played over the last 15-20 years and has brought incredible success,” said Mancini. “Our style of play is slightly different. We are Italy. We can’t necessarily become Spanish overnight. We have our won way of playing and we’ll try to be true to that.”

Spain will represent Italy’s biggest test yet. After a slow start in the group stages, Luis Enrique’s team have ignited and they are the leading scorers of the tournament. Unsurprisingly, they also top the possession stats. Spain are also on a run of thirteen unbeaten games. Enrique believes his team are the best side in competition. He’ll find out soon enough if he is right.

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