Montpellier (France) (AFP) – Alvaro Morata is joint top scorer at Euro 2016 but doesn’t care who hits the net if Spain beat a familiar Italy side to a coveted quarter-final place in their last 16 clash on Monday.
“I couldn’t care less about the top scorer’s chart if we lose,” Morata said after the defending champions’ shock 2-1 defeat to Croatia left them second in Group D and facing a nightmare draw as they bid to retain their title.
Against all hopes and expectations, Spain’s second-place finish means they now face what Morata, who has spent two seasons with Juventus, called a “tough” and “tactically perfect” Italy side in Paris.
Moreover, the winners of the tie on Monday could face Germany in the quarter-finals and hosts France in the last four.
“They’re undoubtedly one of the toughest teams we could have drawn,” said Morata, who will return to Real Madrid following the Euros after the Spanish giants triggered a buy-back clause in his contract with Juventus this week.
“Tactically, I think they’re perfect and we’ll have to put in a perfect performance of our own if we’re going to beat them.”
Unsurprisingly, Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque had been hoping for an easier path to the latter stages.
“We have time to analyse the next game (with Italy), but it wasn’t the route we had planned to take,” he said.
Yet, it is a game fans of ‘La Roja’, who beat Italy 4-0 to win their second successive European Championship crown in 2012, will be hoping inspires Morata.
He has played with 32-time Italian champions Juventus for the past two seasons, notably scoring the Old Lady’s only goal when they lost the 2015 Champions League final to Barcelona in Berlin.
And when he walks on to the Stade de France pitch, he will come face to face with the three-man colossal Juventus defence he encountered on a daily basis at their Vinovo training ground outside of Turin.
On paper, inside knowledge could help Morata and Spain get the better Italy’s ‘BBC’ of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, who have been formidably tight on their way to helping goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon keep clean sheets on his two appearances so far in France.
– Golden Boot race –
But at his first major finals, the 23-year-old Morata has already staked his claim to become one of the stars of the tournament.