Spain, in their absolute tiki-taka pomp, swept Italy aside 4-0 in the final of UEFA EURO 2012, but the balance of power has shifted a little since. Italy eliminated La Roja with a 2-0 win in the 2016 round of 16 and came to Wembley having won each of their last 13 international matches, while also being unbeaten in 32 (W27 D5). Their dizzying pace and killer finishing proved too much for a talented Belgium team in the quarterfinal game.
Luis Enrique’s Spain have been enigmatic to say the least; after group stage draws against Sweden and Poland, they beat Slovakia 5-0 to reach the last 16, where they scored five again, though it took extra time to finish off Croatia. A string of missed chances then allowed ten-man Switzerland to take them to penalties in the quarter-finals, but top-class opponents like Italy may yet bring out the best in them.
View from the camps
Roberto Mancini, Italy coach: “It will be difficult, even if Spain are different from Belgium. It will not be the same kind of game compared to the previous one, but it will present many difficulties for sure. Spain have been extraordinary for years, even if now there has been a change and they are a younger side. They have a good coach and very good players.”
Luis Enrique, Spain coach: “I don’t think both of us can dominate, so it’ll be interesting to see who wins this tussle. Apart from having top players, Italy are a real team. They attack and defend as a unit, which is really similar to what we do. They also employ a high press, which it would be hard to imagine an Italian side from the past doing. Now they’re strong in several ways of playing, meaning that the game will be really interesting. Both teams will have their moments.”