Euro 20012 finalists Italy and Spain will reprise their rivalry much earlier this time when they face-off in the round of 16. This Euro 2016 knockout match will be played at the Stade de France on Monday, June 27.
Italy had a difficult start to the tournament as they struggled to convince their own supporters that this squad can live up to its rich history. They were barely mentioned among the potential challengers for the title and even the coach Antonio Conte was quick to rebuff any hopes. But they dumped all these concerns with their performance against Belgium in the opening match. Pitted against one of the strong favorites, Italy defended fantastically and gave a glimpse of what their experienced squad can bring to the table. Overnight, Italy became favorites to top the group, again! And although they had problems in reprising the same form against Sweden, they did just enough to win the game and book their place in the knockouts. The thought of having already won the group saw them make some wholesale changes to the starting team against Republic of Ireland eventually ending in a loss. Italy will be saddened by the thought of having landed a tough fixture in the very first knockout round, even after topping the group.
Spain had so many questions to answer ahead of the continental tournament most notably the effectiveness of their strikers. They have been the most dominating team on global arena in the past decade and carry the same approach to their game – focused on possession and patient with the build-up. Spain almost found out the flaw of this approach against Czech Republic but the 3-0 romp over Turkey was a tribute to their strikers who have answered the critics emphatically. But their last game against Croatia opened the can of questions again where after an initial goal they fizzed out and had no reply to the midfield mastery of the Croats. A missed penalty by Sergio Ramos did not help matters as Spain slumped to a loss that eventually cost them the top spot. With Italy lying in wait for the first knockout match, Spain will have to be at its best if they want to entertain any thoughts of moving into quarter-finals.
Italy have lost just once in their last five matches – which is an anti-thesis to the entire theory of this ageing squad not being capable enough. Though questions remain on the effectiveness of the forwards, Italy remains solid at the back which should serve them well against Spain.
With just two losses in their last ten matches, Spain look formidable in the build-up to one of the most important knockout matches of Euro 2016. Questions remain on the effectiveness of their strikers but the midfield sorcery of Andres Iniesta is a huge positive for them.
Key players and team news
Antonio Candreva is a huge doubt for Italy and his absence could be a loss for them especially since he has been impressive in the Euros. Key players should return to the starting lineup after missing the last game and should slot into their usual 3-5-2 formation.
Spain have no concerns on injuries or suspensions but may look to shake up things after the loss to Croatia. Alvaro Morata could play as a single striker with David Silva and Nolito running in the spaces behind him.
Italy have not conceded a single goal in their last five matches. In only three of their last ten encounters did the opponent team score more than a goal – a testimony to the strength of their defence! Backing them to concede less than two goals is a worthy punt.
Five of the last ten matches for Spain has seen them emerge with a clean sheet. David De Gea may have made a blunder against Croatia but should be back to his best. Under 2.5 goals for the match is a realistic bet considering the battle between two of the world’s best goalkeepers.
Spain have an upper hand over Italy recently with two wins, three draws and one loss of their last six meetings. It could be another tight game between these two continental giants which could see an Italian win – over extra time or penalties.
Italy win or draw at odds of 1.73 with Coral