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Spain v Italy – Match Preview

Reigning champions Spain begin the defence of their European crown against Italy with head coach Vincente del Bosque declaring that his side must retain the correct mental attitude if they are to create history.

Having triumphed at Eur0 2008 and lifted the World Cup two years later La Roja are firm favourites to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy and become the first team to emerge victorious from three successive tournaments. But Del Bosque believes the memorable feat can only be realised if his players have the appetite to win that has delivered unprecedented success during his reign.

“We have an aim that no-one has ever achieved before and that is beautiful. We do have a lot of pressure because there is a lot of optimism that surrounds us.

“But we are accustomed to the pressure because we are defending the title and we are world champions.

“However, we cannot think that we are out of this world and we are going to win. It would be a huge mistake to have that attitude.”

The former Real Madrid coach is eager to avoid their opening game defeat against Switzerland at the last World Cup warning warning his team that losing against Italy could breed serious repercussions.

“In a group of four teams the first game is fundamental,” he said. We want to start well but know we will have a very strong team in front of us.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli is confident that his squad is suitably prepared for the game and have enough in their locker to push Spain to the very limit despite their status as the world best side.

The 53-year-old is aware that his players will be without the ball for long periods but revealed that 2006 World Cup winners’ strategy will be based around containing Sunday’s opponents ensuring that the time or space they have on the ball is restricted.

Prandelli said: “We have good feelings about the match and have trained well. We have prepared in a positive way and we are fully aware that we have a good team. If we work together we can be really competitive.

“Tomorrow we want to keep our opponents away from our penalty area,” the Italian said They will probably have more possession and will cause us problems but when Italy play football as we know we can, we can fully challenge a team like Spain.

Injury News 
Prandelli will be without Andrea Barzagli who is suffering from a calf injury. Giorgio Chiellini should feature despite missing the Azzuri’s 3-0 friendly loss to Russia.
Spain have a fully fit squad to choose from but Del Bosque’s must decided whether to start with one of the Fernando’s with Llorente and Torres both vying for a spot.
Key Players
Gerard Pique
With Carlos Puyol ruled out of the tournament before it started the onus to keep Spain’s back line watertight falls on to the shoulders of Barcelona teammate Pique. The 25-year-old will need to step up to the plate and lead from the back in Puyol’s having been his able deputy during the past three-years.
Andrea Pirlo
The 33-year-old is Italy’s most capped outfield player in the current squad and Prandelli will be counting on the experienced midfielder to keep his side focused when they’re not in possession. Pirlo is a real threat from set pieces and he’ll know that any free kick in close proximity with the goal will be Italy’s best chanced of scoring.

Prediction: 1-1


Article title: Spain v Italy – Match Preview

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