Italy take on Spain in Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley on Tuesday; winner will play England or Denmark in the final on July 11; Leonardo Spinazzola missing for Italy, while Pablo Sarabia is an injury doubt.
Italy and Spain are two teams that seem to have forgotten what it feels like to lose – but something must give in their semi-final showdown at Euro 2020. Spain have shrugged off pre-tournament tension, corona virus chaos and grueling knockout clashes to extend an impressive run that has seen them suffer just one defeat in 29 games and go unbeaten in 13.
A transitional side are aiming for a third European Championship crown in four editions but Italy, another continental heavyweight revived under Roberto Mancini, head to Wembley having not tasted defeat for 32 fixtures, going back to September 2018. The teams have met 10 times at major tournaments, with Italy retaining the upper hand until Spain beat them on penalties en route to their Euro 2008 triumph – before thrashing them 4-0 in the final four years later.
A simmering rivalry had boiled over before then at the 1994 World Cup when Italy prevailed in the quarter-finals but injury was added to insult for Spain as an elbow from Mauro Tassotti – an act that later earned him an eight-match ban – left Luis Enrique bloodied.
Fresh success is now sought – the Kiev showdown of 2012 was the last time side either made it this far in the tournament – and while they have traditionally been deemed footballing opposites, Luis Enrique believes the current crops are more philosophically aligned.
“This Italy side isn’t, perhaps, like the ones of years gone by – one that would sit back and wait to see what happened,” the man whose debut as national coach brought a win at Wembley told UEFA ahead of the game.