Saint-Martin-de-Ré (France) (AFP) – Spain forward Nolito insists the two-time defending European champions have no reason to fear a blockbuster Euro 2016 last-16 clash with old foes Italy in Paris on Monday.
A shock defeat to Croatia saw Spain lose out on top spot in Group D after starting the tournament in impressive fashion with victories over the Czech Republic and Turkey.
“We weren’t so great before, nor are we so bad now,” said the Celta Vigo frontman, who is a target for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
“We know how this works. We can’t look back, we have a difficult game ahead of us, but Spain are Spain, we play good football, we’ve got a good team. We respect everyone, but we don’t fear anyone.”
Ivan Perisic’s late winner for Croatia in Bordeaux on Tuesday forced Spain from a dream part of the draw into a devilishly difficult half that could also involve a quarter-final against world champions Germany and a semi-final clash with hosts France.
However, Nolito believes the extra two days off gained by losing to the Croats could help a Spanish side worn down by the toils of a long season.
“These rest days have helped us. It’s in our hands, but the route is difficult.”
Despite a first competitive defeat since October 2014, Spain remain strong favourites to make the last eight.
However, having seen an unfancied Italy side sweep aside Belgium in their opening game on the way to topping Group E, Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke insisted Spain’s chances of going through are no more than ’50-50.’
“In a game with two teams as big as this there are no favourites. It will be a very tight match, it is a huge game and we will have to suffer to win. It’s 50-50.
“Against Italy we need to go out to win. We need to show that this team has the hunger to win.”
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