Spain v Italy – Euro 2012 Preview
With 12 of the Spanish squad playing for either Real Madrid or Barcelona, there has been talk of a division in the reigning world and European champions’ camp. There is never any love lost when the two teams meet, after all, but surely the players won’t be holding any grudges when donning the same shirt and it’s not a new problem.
Spain’s powers have no shown no sign of waning since they won the World Cup in 2010 but the loss of top scorer David Villa is a big blow to a side that’s always struggled to convert terrific approach play into goals. With a midfield which will feature the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso, Juan Mata, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Silva, making chances isn’t going to be a problem for the Spanish but they may have to take a more direct approach if coach Vicente Del Bosque opts for the towering Fernando Llorente as the lone striker in preference to Fernando Torres, who scores the big goals but not often enough. Spain’s defence may also be a little more porous than it was a couple of years ago (neither Gerard Pique nor Sergio Ramos are exactly mobile) and the feeling persists that this tournament could see the Spanish bubble burst, despite them being pre-tournament favourites after an impressive qualifying record.
The champions could also not have got a tougher start against the durable Italians. Italy are never more dangerous than when they’ve been written off and not many pundits are expecting much from Cesare Prandelli’s team with Italian football rocked by match-fixing scandals and the country gripped by financial strife and still mourning after a couple of devastating earthquakes in the north, the second of which caused the cancellation of one of their warm-up games against Luxembourg.
Bribe allegations has already seen Tarandelli have to change his original squad selection and his team were a little too over-reliant on the goals of Antonio Cassano in their qualifying group, though they did emerge undefeated. Mario Balotelli has the potential to be a star for his country but the Manchester City striker, never one to hold back, has already said he’ll walk off the field if subjected to racial abuse at Euro 2012 and is rarely far away from controversy. The resurgence of Andrea Pirlo at Juventus is a positive, however, while Italy are always difficult to break down in front of veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Both these teams can be slow starters in tournaments but tend to improve as the competition progresses. A draw (5/2 ) wouldn’t be a disaster for either side with the promise of less-daunting opposition in Group C ahead though it could be also worth having a second look at the enigmatic Italians in the Draw No Bet at 5/2. The Draw/Draw on the Half Time/Full Time is 7/2.