Best of Enemies | Italy v Spain at the European Championships

As Italy and Spain prepare to do battle once again at a European Championship, we take a look back at previous encounters involving the two protagonists.

Thursday night’s showdown in Gelsenkirchen, will be the fifth consecutive time that the Azzurri has faced Spain on Europe’s biggest stage.

Back at Euro 2008, which was co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland, Roberto Donadoni’s Italian side was eliminated by Luis Aragones’ all-conquering Spanish side at the quarter-final stage.

Goalless after 180 minutes, Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas was the star of the show as the Azzurri crumbled during the penalty shoot-out.

The Spaniards went onto to lift the trophy for the second time, Italy meanwhile, went back to the drawing board.

Four years later, the two sides were drawn together in the same group, as Poland and Ukraine co-hosted the championships. 

Antonio Di Natale gave Cesare Prandelli’s side an unexpected lead on 61 minutes, before Cesc Fabregas levelled for the defending champions just three minutes later.

Little did we know at the time, that this game would be the dress rehearsal for the final that would take place at the Olympic Stadium in Kyiv.

Vicente Del Bosque’s Spain dominated the game to retain their title, running out comfortable 4-0 winners thanks to goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba,Fernando Torres and Juan Mata, although Italy had to play the final 28 minutes with just ten players, after their third substitute, Thiago Motta, had to be stretchered off with an injury.

The Stade de France was the setting for their 2016 round of sixteen encounter,as Italy exacted revenge for their humiliation four years earlier.

Giorgio Chiellini put Antonio Conte’s Italy ahead on 33 minutes, Graziano Pelle put the result beyond doubt in the closing stages.

With the Spaniards now dethroned, Italy would once again suffer penalty heartbreak in the quarter-final against Germany.

And so to Euro 2020, which was delayed by 12 months due to the Covid pandemic and a memorable semi-final at Wembley, which Italy eventually won on penalties despite being second best for large parts of the game.

Federico Chiesa gave Roberto Mancini’s Italy the lead on 60 minutes, Alvaro Morata levelling for Luis Enrique’s side 10 minutes from time.

In the dreaded penalty shoot-out, both sides missed their opening spot-kicks. As the pressure became unbearable, it was Morata who cracked to give Italy their place in the final, where they go on to beat England once again, on penalties.

Now it’s onto Gelsenkirchen, with a new chapter about to be written.

 

 

Steve Mitchell | GIFN

 

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