Euro 2016

Old foes Italy in Spain's way again

Spain's (from left) Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Iker Casillas and Cesc Fabregas sharing a lighter moment in training ahead of their last-16 tie with familiar foes Italy. The Spanish hold the upper hand in the form book, having met and defeated the It
Spain's (from left) Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Iker Casillas and Cesc Fabregas sharing a lighter moment in training ahead of their last-16 tie with familiar foes Italy. The Spanish hold the upper hand in the form book, having met and defeated the Italians in the past two Euros. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Holders hope to continue recent fine form against opponents in repeat of 2012 final

ROUND OF 16

Italy v Spain

Singtel TV Ch142 & StarHub Ch220, 11.50pm

PARIS • Spain might have the better head-to-head record against Italy from their past five meetings at major championships, but defender Giorgio Chiellini believes that the Azzurri will give it everything to end their opponents' hopes of a record third consecutive European Championship crown.

"Against all expectations, we've got this far after beating Belgium and then Sweden and now we face Spain, who are back-to-back European champions as well as World Cup winners," Chiellini said.

ONLY OUR BEST WILL DO

We need to get back to playing our best football because they will not stop running and fighting for every ball. They have a very strong defence and they know how to take their chances.

CESC FABREGAS, Spain midfielder, on facing Italy.

"In a way, they're our bogey team. They haven't conceded a goal against us (in open play) since (Antonio) di Natale scored against them in the group stages of Euro 2012.

"But let's keep things in perspective. The Ireland match (which Italy lost 0-1), with all respect to them, didn't really count for us.

"And if we play to our potential, give it everything and limit them (Spain) where they are strong, I think we can create something special."

In five previous encounters at major tournaments, including the 2013 Confederations Cup, Spain have prevailed three times while losing and drawing once.

Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas has been a constant menace to Italy. He scored the winning penalty in 2008, Spain's equaliser in the 2012 opening game and set up David Silva's opener in the final.

But the midfielder, who will also be coming up against his future boss as Italy coach Antonio Conte will take over at Stamford Bridge next season, is not taking victory for granted.

  • State Of Play

    RESULTS

    ROUND OF 16

    Switzerland 1 Poland 1 (after extra time, Poland win 5-4 on penalties)

    Wales 1 Northern Ireland 0

    Portugal 1 Croatia 0 (after extra time)

    France 2 Ireland 1


    FIXTURES

    ROUND OF 16

    Italy v Spain

    Singtel TV Ch142 & StarHub Ch220, 11.50pm

    England v Iceland

    Ch142 & Ch220, tomorrow, 2.50am

"The way they play will demand the absolute most of us," he told Spanish sports daily Marca.

"We need to get back to playing our best football because they will not stop running and fighting for every ball.

"They have a very strong defence and they know how to take their chances."

Spain started the tournament in great form, sweeping aside the Czech Republic and Turkey.

However, a shock 2-1 defeat by Croatia on Tuesday cost Vicente del Bosque's men top spot in Group D and an easier route to the final.

Even if they see off Italy, Spain now face having to beat world champions Germany and hosts France for the right to defend their title in Paris on July 10.

Conte's men have been unfortunate in finding themselves on the tougher side of the draw despite beating highly fancied Belgium to top Group E.

The former Juventus boss made eight changes in total for the 1-0 defeat by Ireland on Wednesday with qualification to the last 16 already assured.

One absentee from the Italy line-up today will be influential midfielder Antonio Candreva, who is ruled out due to a groin injury.

While Conte was tinkering with his squad in the group stage, del Bosque has faced criticism for largely using the same line-up in all three games.

"I accept it (the criticism) because it goes with my position," the World Cup-winning coach told AS newspaper.

"Had I made changes and we lost, people would have said, 'Why change something that works?' But there was nothing to alter."

Spain have the upper hand against Italy in recent history, having not lost a competitive match against Italy since the 1994 World Cup.

"If we were to play the match on paper, there would be no contest but luckily there's the pitch," said Conte.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2016, with the headline 'Old foes Italy in Spain's way again'. Print Edition | Subscribe