Vicente del Bosque chose to start without a recognised striker again, but Cesc Fabregas, the man in the centre of attack, played higher up the pitch than usual.
Unlike when the two teams met in the group stages, on Sunday Spain attempted to get behind the Italian defence right from the whistle, a feature illustrated by Fabregas’s run behind Giorgio Chiellini for the opening goal.
Spain played at a higher tempo than previously in the tournament, attacking Italy on the flanks — its problem areas. The full-backs Jordi Alba and Alvaro Arbeloa made forward runs with ease, and the former’s pace saw him slip in behind the defence for the second goal. Their counterparts Chiellini (later Balzaretti) and Ignazio Abate pushed high up in the opening few minutes, but were soon forced back because they had little cover in front. Daniele de Rossi and Claudio Marchisio tucked in, as usual, to create space for Andrea Pirlo but their pressing was ineffective. Xavi and Iniesta were hardly troubled, while Riccardo Montolivo failed to close down Xabi Alonso. Fabregas and David Silva took turns to track Pirlo and his attempted long diagonals failed. Without frequent service, Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano (later Antonio di Natale) were less threatening, allowing Alba and Arbeloa to bomb forward with impunity. The contest was effectively over after Thiago Motta was stretchered off. del Bosque brought on Fernando Torres, Pedro Rodriguez, and Juan Mata; a tired Italy was left chasing the ball.
Keywords: Euro 2012