FOOTBALL – The Azzurri are 90 minutes away from a spot in the delayed Euro 2020 final. Tonight, they face Spain in London.
Italy and Spain are in their fourth consecutive European Championship knockout game against each other. So far, Italy have triumphed in all but one of those meetings – the 2012 final. Then Spain won emphatically, 4-0.
Wembley is venue for tonight’s match
With London the destination for tonight’s Euro 2020 semi-final, and the UK’s tight quarantine rules, there will be few supporters from either nation in the crowd.
“It is unfair that there are no fans from Italy and Spain,” said Italy manager Roberto Mancini. “But it is better to play in front of the public than in front of a few people – that is the beauty of sport.”
There is a notable ex-pat community of both Spaniards and Italians in the UK, and Spain’s manager Luis Enrique hopes they will turn out for the teams.
“It is a strange situation. I hope there are Spanish and Italians more than English fans, but they are things we cannot control,” he said. “I am not going to waste any energy on it. We wish it was different but we accept it.”
Italy unbeaten in three years
Italy are on a run of 32 unbeaten games, spanning almost three years. As far as results show, they have been the most impressive team in this tournament.
Italy had the perfect group record, winning all three games. They had to go to extra-time to beat Austria, but saw off the number one ranked team in the world, Belgium, 2-1 in the quarter-finals.
However, they will be without a key player, left-back Leonard Spinazzola. A man-of-the-match winner twice, Spinazzola ruptured his Achilles tendon against Belgium. His place may well go to Chelsea’s Emerson.
Spinazzola has surgery
Spinazzola has had surgery on his Achilles, with recovery time is around six months. He is likely to be missed in the match tonight. The 28-year-old Roma player has played very much as an attacking defender.
His statistics are impressive: 18 dribbles (eight more than any other Italian), 11 crosses (almost twice the number of any team-mate), seven shots and creating eight chances for his team mates
Mancini on Spain’s style of play
Since Mancini took over in May 2018, he has ensured the Azzurri have a solid defence. Key to that are the veteran Juventus centre-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Bonucci – with a combined age of 70.
However, Mancini won’t be changing the Italian format to accommodate the Spanish style of play.
“In the last 20 years Spain have dominated world football so I don’t think they will change their style of play now,” Mancini said. “They have a style of play, invented by them, which has led them to extraordinary successes and they continue to do it well.
“Ours will be slightly different, we are Italian and we cannot suddenly become Spanish. We will try to play our game.”