Italy and Spain are set to clash in the semifinal of the 2020 European Championships Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. ET in Wembley Stadium in London, England.
The winner will advance to the final and will take on the winner of the England and Denmark game, which will take place on Wednesday.
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Italy vs Spain: Only One Can Win
This matchup pits two teams that were thought to be decent, but not seen as clear candidates for the penultimate stage in the tournament.
The Italians have been on a historic streak before and during the tournament, going 32 games unbeaten and having won 13 straight. The 32 games without a loss if a national record and a testament to the manager, Roberto Mancini, who had completely flipped the script on the Italians’ typical boring style of play, and turned them into a pressing, a high-flying side that likes to fly down the wings and win the ball back in the attacking third.
Italy will be without their starting left-back and Player of the Tournament candidate, Leonardo Spinazzola, who ruptured his Achilles while sprinting for a loose ball during a 2-2 victory over Belgium. Emerson Palmieri was subbed on for the AS Roma player and is expected, though not confirmed, to see starting action from here on out.
Emerson is not the player that Spinazzola is, but he was a rotational piece in a Champions League-winning Chelsea squad; Italy has also had tremendous success plugging in substitutes and new starters and keeping the chemistry and unity within the squad, regardless of if the players’ profiles might be different.
Spain will employ a much different set of tactics against their opponent; although they have scored the most goals of any team thus far with 12, they are far from an offensive juggernaut.
The Spaniards scored five goals in consecutive games before a 1-1 win on penalties in the quarterfinal, two of which were own goals, and two that were scored in extra time. From the six remaining, two were scored by defenders that had never scored for Spain as an international before.
La Roja also has a notoriously ineffective striker up front in Alvaro Morata, who has a decent goal-scoring record but has made a plethora of blunders throughout his career.
Morata recently spoke out against the hatred that he has received as a result of his international career, stating that he and his family have received death threats throughout the competition. He is tied with Ferran Torres and Pablo Sarabia for the team-lead with two goals in five games.
What to Expect
To match Italy’s high press and penetrating runs from the fullbacks, Spain is likely to sink into a low defensive block and attempt to use their technical ability to pass their way up the field. This will be a high-risk strategy, given Italy’s incredible defensive record at the tournament, but is their only real chance at limiting the damage.
Italy is much faster and industrious than Spain’s team has been at the Euros and should be expected to fling men forward and bring the fight to Spain, rather than sit back like their teams of old would.
Ciro Immobile will be especially important, not only as the team’s most clinical attacker, but for his ability to drop into the false-nine territories and link up the play from overlapping runners as Spain’s lower defensive line sinks in to absorb the attack. If he can spend some time on the ball and get involved early, his reputation suggests that he will contribute at least one goal or assist.
Italy vs Spain Pick
According to BETUS, Italy is a slight favorite at +145 to Spain’s +200; odds of +225 have been given to a full-time draw, while Italy is -145 and Spain is +115 to advance.
Italy truly is and has been the better team throughout the tournament, and their overwhelming style of attacking in defense should smother the less athletic Spaniards. Expect the Italians to get a comfortable result, by international standards, in a match they win by at least two goals.
Spain’s hopes rely on individual brilliance from the wingers, or even introductions of players like Marcos Llorente to match the speed and strength of Italy’s side, and they will not survive playing how they have up to this point. For that reason, Italy is the clear favorite.
Put it all on the Italians, who are the favorites to win the whole tournament at this point.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.