There was a time when the Spanish didn’t like playing the Italians. La Roja’s style suited the Italians who regularly suffocated the Spanish attack before picking them off on the break.
The turning point might’ve been the Euro 2008 Quarter Final between sides where the Spanish prevailed on penalties en route to lifting their first major price of silverware in almost 60 years.
Six years on and the tide seems to have turned as the Italians just don’t like playing the Spanish.
Ahead of their fourth meeting in as many years, Italy coach Cesarre Prandelli was already speaking of a ‘psychological’ effect a loss could have. The former Fiorentina boss obviously had the 4-0 rout in the Euro 2012 final as well as last year’s loss – on penalties – in the Confederations Cup in mind.
Prandelli said: “I have to say initially I was against this game,” going on to add that he felt it was a risky ploy to play the world and European champions so close to the World Cup.
Much of the pre-match talk had circulated around Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa who was now playing for the La Roja instead of his native Brazil. The striker got a start but playing in what is his own backyard – the match was held at the Vicente Calderon – he wasn’t allowed to make the sort of impact he normally does with his club side. The Italian center back pairing of Juventus’ Andrea Barzagli and Parma’s Gabriel Paletta – making his debut – was solid as they denied the Spanish any space to maneuver into and dealt well with the physical threat of Costa.
The Italians were the first to create a chance as Torino’s Alessio Cerci hit the far post but nothing came off the rebound as a grateful Iker Casillas gathered. The Spanish settled and as is customary, put the Italians through a trail of concentration by jabbing away via long bouts of possession. The problem for the Italians, as with most teams playing against this Spanish side, is winning the ball. The Azzurri’s midfield was unable to exert much influence despite Prandelli starting Riccardo Montolivo, Claudio Marchisio and Thiago Motta.
Despite hogging the ball, the home side were unable to really cause significant damage. The real game changer was David Silva’s addition in the second half as the Manchester City man gave Spain a much needed incision and directness, something they lacked for much of the first forty-five minutes. The 28-year-old played a big part in the game’s decisive move as he exchanged passes with the excellent Andres Iniesta and broke into the Italian box where the ball eventually broke for Pedro to lash home.
Both sides had a few chances for the remaining minutes but the Italian’s just couldn’t create enough chances as both Javi Martinez and Sergio Ramos mopped up anything that came their way. At full time both Vicente Del Bosque and his Italian counterpart would’ve been satisfied in their own ways. For the Italians, they would tell you that any revenge would be best served in Brazil.