OVER THE YEARS there has been little to separate Spain and Italy, who will contest the final of Euro 2012 at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium tonight.
Since a 0-0 draw in their first meeting in March 1924, there have been seven wins for Spain, eight victories for Italy, and 10 draws, including the 1-1 stalemate between the sides in their opening Group C match on June 10. We look back at some of the more recent encounters between the countries.
ITALY 2 SPAIN 1 (1994 World Cup quarter-finals)
July 9, 1994
Roberto Baggio’s 88th-minute winner took Italy into the semi-finals at the 1994 World Cup, after Dino Baggio’s 25-yard strike in the first half had been cancelled out by Spain’s Jose Luis Caminero.
The match is perhaps best remembered for the moment late in the game when Italy’s Mauro Tassotti swung his elbow into Luis Enrique’s face, breaking the Spaniard’s nose and later earning the perpetrator an eight-game ban.
Italy beat Bulgaria 2-1 in the last four before facing Brazil in the final, when their hopes of a fourth World Cup crown were dashed by Roberto Baggio’s ballooned spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out.
SPAIN 1 ITALY 0 (friendly)
March 26, 2008
A stunning left-foot volley from David Villa gave Spain victory in a pre-Euro 2008 friendly match in the Spanish town of Elche. The Valencia striker fired a sumptuous volley into the top right-hand corner of Gianluigi Buffon’s goal in the 77th minute after Fabio Cannavaro had headed away a long ball.
Italy had their moments, with Luca Toni having a goal ruled out for offside in the first half and Mauro Camoranesi hitting the bar in the second, but it was Spain who prevailed to extend their unbeaten run to 14 matches.
ITALY 0 SPAIN 0 (Spain win 4-2 on penalties; 2008 European Championship quarter-finals)
June 22, 2008
A turning point in the history of the Spanish national side, as Luis Aragones’ men secured a victory that gave them the belief to establish themselves as the world’s top national team. A tight game at Vienna’s Ernst Happel Stadium went to extra time and penalties, and after Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas denied Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Di Natale, Cesc Fabregas stepped up to put Spain in the semi-finals.
“This is an important victory for this young side,” said the Arsenal midfielder. “We have been waiting for this for a long time.”
One week later, Spain beat Germany 1-0 in the same stadium to claim their first European Championship title since 1964.
ITALY 2 SPAIN 1 (friendly)
August 10, 2011
Alberto Aquilani’s late goal in Bari gave Italy a 2-1 victory over the side who had succeeded them as world champions 13 months earlier. Riccardo Montolivo rewarded Italy’s purposeful start to the game by putting the hosts ahead in the 11th minute, but Xabi Alonso replied from the penalty spot after Giorgio Chiellini was penalised for a foul on Fernando Llorente.
Aquilani claimed the winner with six minutes remaining, his shot deflecting off Raul Albiol to wrong-foot Spain goalkeeper Victor Valdes, as Italy recorded their first win over La Roja in 17 years.
SPAIN 1 ITALY 1 (2012 European Championship group stage)
June 10, 2012
The sides last met three weeks ago in their opening Group C match in the Polish city of Gdansk, which witnessed tactical innovations from both teams.
While Spain coach Vicente del Bosque deployed Fabregas as a ‘false nine’ at the tip of a fluid 4-3-3 system, his Italy counterpart Cesare Prandelli lined his team up in an experimental 3-5-2 formation.
“We were surprised (that Spain played with no recognised strikers),” said Prandelli. “But we decided to keep our system because we hurt Spain on the flanks.”
Di Natale put Italy ahead in the 61st minute, racing onto Andrea Pirlo’s pass before neatly beating Casillas, but Fabregas earned Spain a share of the spoils by equalising just three minutes later.