Euro 2020 semifinals | Football

Italy appears to have the edge over Spain

Italy's Jorginho during training, The Hive Stadium, London, Britain - July 5, 2021   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Luis Enrique thought for a couple of seconds, looked straight back at the questioner, and gave the curtest of replies.

“No,” said the Spain coach, with a blank look on his face, after being asked if he had seen a better team than his at the European Championship.

An answer out of blind loyalty? Perhaps. Or was it the fact that Spain was the leading scorer at Euro 2020? Maybe.

Or the fact that La Roja is on an unbeaten streak stretching back to October, a run of 13 games? Quite possibly.

Spain’s opponent in the European Championship semifinals on Tuesday might have something to say about all that.

Better run of form

Italy, another of the continent’s traditional powers, brings an even better run of form to Wembley Stadium — a national-record 32 matches unbeaten, going all the way back to September 2018.

Maybe Enrique isn’t aware, but Italy is rolling at the moment.

Much has changed since Roberto Mancini took charge in May 2018, with the team having evolved into a high-energy unit that presses hard and attacks at pace. But the Azzurri’s defence needs little introduction.

Formidable centre-backs Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are still holding fort, like they have been for more than a decade, and Italy has conceded only two goals so far.

Spain’s defence, on the other hand, is a work in progress while centre-back Aymeric Laporte integrates following his switch of nationality from France.

In attack, striker Alvaro Morata continues to frustrate for Spain and Enrique has seemingly yet to settle on his preferred wingers. Italy, though, has had strong and reliable performances from striker Ciro Immobile and wide forward Lorenzo Insigne, the scorer of the decisive second goal against Belgium.

It’s in midfield where Spain can seriously challenge Italy, potentially making it the department where the match could be won or lost. Jorginho, Nicola Barella and probably Marco Verratti for Italy versus Sergio Busquets, Pedri Gonzalez and Koke for Spain is a must-watch duel all by itself.

Neither team has made it this far in a major international competition since 2012, when they met in the Euro final in Kyiv. Spain won 4-0. Two players remain from each country — Bonucci and Chiellini for Italy, and Jordi Alba and Busquets for Spain.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 9:07:48 PM |

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