The Euro 2020 semi-final between Italy and Spain promises to be one of the most compelling matches of the tournament so far with both sides looking to reach the final against Denmark or England.
We asked our colleagues in the Eurosport Italy office, Carlo Filippo Vardelli, and the Eurosport Spain office, Daniel Ecija, for their insight on how both countries are approaching the match.
Just how confident are Italy after their impressive performances at Euro 2020 so far? How can Spain stop them and impose their own game? Here’s what they had to say...
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What is the mood in your team's camp ahead of the game?
Vardelli: The mood is excellent. Italy made it to the semi-final by winning five games and playing perhaps the best football in the tournament. Considering where we were four years ago, this semi- final is already a victory for Roberto Mancini's team.
We are back at the top of football playing games that matter, and this is fundamental. The only negative is Leonardo Spinazzola's Achilles tendon injury, but otherwise there is great happiness and concentration in the squad.
Ecija: Spain are feeling very positive about tomorrow's match. Throughout the tournament the team has received a lot of criticism for their young squad, but thanks to their hard work they have been highly motivated to reach the semi-finals.
They have shown they can beat top teams like Croatia and win penalty shootouts, like they did in the quarter-finals. While they know Italy are one of the toughest opponents in the tournament, they are confident of being able to beat them.
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Where do you think the game will be won and lost?
Vardelli: It will be decided by who can convert their chances. In some ways, Italy and Spain play similar football, but both had problems translating dominance into goals. From my point of view, whoever is able to be more effective in the final third will have the upper hand. The quality of both team’s defence and midfield is, in my opinion, the same.
Ecija: The match is going to be extremely close. It’s true Italy have played very well and are slight favourites after eliminating Belgium. However, Spain have improved a lot during the tournament and have a good chance of dominating the match and knocking out the Italians.
Do you think your manager will spring a surprise at all?
Vardelli: I don't believe so. With Spinazzola out, Emerson Palmieri will take that starting position, while Federico Chiesa is the favourite to start in attack over Domenico Berardi. Italy will want to play their usual dominant game, so not even the quality of the Spaniards will make Mancini change his mind. During the game, however, expect anything. So much will depend on the result.
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Ecija: Luis Enrique has shown he has players he's not going to drop. He will trust them to beat Italy. With Unai Simon in goal, Jordi Alba, Aymeric Laporte and Cesar Azpilicueta will almost certainly start in defence.
We will see if Luis Enrique picks between Pau Torres or Eric Garcia, but he will most likely opt for the Villarreal defender. The midfield with Sergio Busquets, Koke and Pedri seems untouchable and in attack it will probably be Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres. It remains to be seen if Dani Olmo or Pablo Sarabia will play on the left.
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Which of your players do you think is most important and which of your opponent’s players do you think is most important?
Vardelli: Jorginho and Pedri. The attack will be the key department, but these two guys are the soul of Italy and Spain. Without them, there wouldn't even be a game.
Ecija: Busquets and the defensive pair Leonardo Bonucci-Giorgio Chiellini. Without the Barcelona midfielder, Spain has struggled at Euro 2020. He is the head that organises the team. On the Italian side, if the two veterans play well, their defence will be impenetrable. But if they falter, Italy could have a lot of problems.
Finally, what are your predictions?
Vardelli: Spain will win, but the game will be very, very, very, very balanced.
Ecija: Spain will win in extra-time in a very close match.
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