Spain Vs. Italy Euro 2024 Match Will Indicate Where Both Teams Are In Their Rebuilds

Spain Vs. Italy Euro 2024 Match Will Indicate Where Both Teams Are In Their Rebuilds
Spain Vs. Italy Euro 2024 Match Will Indicate Where Both Teams Are In Their Rebuilds

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 06: Giorgio Chiellini of Italy interacts with Jordi Alba of Spain during the … [+] UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Semi-final match between Italy and Spain at Wembley Stadium on July 06, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Andy Rain – Pool/Getty Images)

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In historical terms, tonight’s Spain vs Italy game in Gelsenkirchen isn’t one of the biggest fixtures between the two nations, but there’s still a lot riding on it.

After all, these two have contested European Championship quarterfinals, semifinals and finals for several years, not to mention the odd 1994 World Cup quarterfinal. If you think about Spain against Italy it takes you back to Roberto Baggio’s 88th-minute winner in the US 30 years ago; Mauro Tassotti’s brutal elbow on Luis Enrique in the same game; Spain finally banishing their inferiority complex against Italy at Euro 2008; that demolition of a final in Kyiv four years later in which Spain ran Cesare Prandelli’s worn outside to pieces; the semifinal at Wembley three years ago in which Giorgio Chiellini bear-hugged Jordi Alba and tossed him around like Andre the Giant picking up a child before the penalty shootout. This is a tie dripping with history.

This bout has almost gone under the radar, in some respects. Going into Euro 2024, both teams have been less fancied by pundits and bookmakers than in prior years. There is recognition in both nations that they are in a rebuilding phase, with Spain just coming out of the Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets’ era. Italy, meanwhile, is still feeling its way in the dark in the aftermath of Roberto Mancini’s departure for Saudi Arabia and a defense that is now shorn of Leonardo Bonucci and Chiellini, both of whom have called time on their careers. Most of the attention has been on France, England and to a lesser extent, Portugal as potential winners.

Make no mistake, both teams aren’t as strong as perhaps a decade ago, but there is still plenty of quality. Spain, especially, has a new generation of players who could take the world by storm in the next few years, but a serious crack at Euro 2024 feels like a tournament too soon. Yet in the shape of Lamine Yamal, Nico Williams, Pedri, Martin Zubimendi and Gavi, the Spanish machine is still producing top talent.

However, the lack of center-forward is a concern for Luis de la Fuente. Alvaro Morata, a striker Italy knows all about having played for Juventus in two different stints, led the line against Croatia and scored. Morata is now captain of La Rojabut doubts have always centered on his temperament at the very highest level, and the lack of a genuine world-class striker, like David Villa or Fernando Torres in years gone by, could hinder Spain going forward in Germany.

While Spain has at least been considered by pundits in terms of tournament favorites, the same cannot be said for holders Italy. Luciano Spalletti has only been in the job less than a year, but the former Napoli coach is slowly turning Gli Azzurri into a more potent side. By the end of the Mancini era, Italy had stopped scoring goals, and while they aren’t exactly raining goals under Spalletti, there has been an uptick. Two goals against Albania should’ve been four by halftime. Yet much like Spain, this tournament is arguably one too soon for Spalletti and many of the current squad, with only 10 players from the title-winning side three years ago making the plane to Germany. Reaching the quarterfinal would be considered a good showing for the reigning champions, with an eye on actually qualifying for a World Cup again and building towards the US, Mexico and Canada in 2026.

BOSTON,: Italian forward Roberto Baggio (R) dribbles past Spanish goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta to … [+] score his team’s first goal 09 July 1994 at Foxboro stadium in Boston during their Soccer World Cup quarterfinal game. Italy won 2-1 as Baggio scored twice. AFP PHOTO/TIM CLARY (Photo credit should read TIM CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

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For decades Italy and Spain were stylistically opposed, yet over the past 10 years, they’ve become more similar. Italy was pragmatic while Spain was ferocious but both now want their foot on the ball and to retain possessions. Italy has adapted most with Mancini’s iteration being the most attack-minded side in Azzurri history to ever win a title.

Out of all the big teams, Spain has arguably produced the best display at the tournament thus far, seeing off Croatia with relative ease on Saturday, but this will be their biggest test. They haven’t beaten Italy in a major competitive fixture since the Euro 2012 final, despite winning the majority of friends and UEFA
Nations League games in between.

This is considered the game of the group stage in prestige terms, and it’ll be a good indicator to both coaches where both teams are in their development, and what needs to be done.



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