Euro 2008 Quarter Final Preview Spain v Italy
And so the last of the quarter finals is upon us and of course this is the one with most needle involved. To say that there is a little bit of animosity between these two sides would be an understatement and it is 88 years since Spain beat Italy in a competitive fixture, way back in the 1920 Olympics. A clash between the biggest underachievers in world football and the side that wins tournaments even when they play badly, it is all set for cracking match. How on earth Italy are here is down to a fantastic penalty save by Buffon and the drive and determination that saw them easily over power France in Group C’s must win clash. Tonight both sides go into this game knowing that they have to face Russia who were dynamite last night. David Villa and Fernando Torres have been in sensational form up front for the Spanish and their pace alone could cause panic in the Italian rearguard. Add to that the scheming midlfield of Xavi and Iniesta and Italy know they’ll have their hands full coping with the passing and movement of Spain tonight. Yet, you can’t write Italy off, they are the defending World Champions and will always give you a hard game, no matter how down and out you think they are. They are used to pressure and have the neccessary mental strength to deal with anything you can throw at them.This is also a big game for Luca Toni. He has been in sparkling form this season with Bayern Munich but has yet to find the goal for the Azzurri so far in Euro 2008. To be honest, he could have had a hat trick against France before half time and Spain have to keep an eye on him, I feel he’s due a goal. It’ll probably be one he knows nothing about, a deflection or rebound but he’s crucial tonight. With Gattusso missing, Italy may seem a little weaker than they’d like but they’ve already shown that you write them off at your peril. De Rossi and Ambrosini come in for the suspended duo of Pirlo and Gattusso but could that derail them, it’s hard to say.Omens are all over this game as well, Spain are on a 9 match winning streak, equaling a record that has stood since 1927 until they lost to Italy in the 10th match of that run. Even the date is crucial tonight, Spain have gone out of 3 major tournaments in 1986, 1996 and 2002 in the quarter finals on penalties no less, on June 22nd and it’s a record they will certainly not want to be adding to. Add to that the fact that none of the First round group winners has gone through to the semi’s and you’ve a lot of nervous Spaniards fretting even more.It’s easily the pick of the four quarter finals but will need to go some way to match the quality of the game we saw yesterday. How on earth Russia only scored 3 is beyond me. Italy coach Roberto Donadoni is looking at every alternative however, “All I can say is that Spain are in great form. If you don’t get a handle on them right away, it risks becoming very complicated. We know what they bring to the table.” He added: “We’ll talk more specifically about it on Sunday, although we did train on penalties yesterday and the day before, so I already know which players are better suited than others.”Aragones was in more bullish mood though “I believe I’ve a group of players that deserve to end this record and because we have developed a winning momentum. The team are going to give 110% and I know that if they have to go out there and die on the pitch they will – speaking in sporting terms that is.” With a fit Puyol back in the strongest Spanish line up possible, This could be the game of the tournament so far though it could go all the way through 120 minutes. Lets hope we get another sensational game.