Spain 1 - 1 ItalySun, Jun 10 2012
Spain and Italy played out a thrilling score draw in the Group C opener. Two goals in five minutes saw the sides share the spoils as chances aplenty for both sides meant there really should have been a winner.
34-year-old, second half sub, Antonio Di Natale gave the Italians the lead on the hour mark as Pirlo split the Spanish defence with a perfectly weighted pass and the experienced striker latched on to it and deftly curled it pass Casillas to shock the World Champions.
However the Spaniards only had to wait four minutes to level. Man City’s David Silva capitalised on the first lapse in concentration in the Italian defence to play in Arsenal’s Cest Fabregas who blasted past Buffon.
Spain had failed to beat Italy in 90 minutes in 92 years and this record continues as a draw seemed a fair result. Both sides had chances to win, Mario Ballotelli and Fernando Torres were guilty of wasting the best of them.
Del Bosque raised several eyebrows when he submitted a starting XI without any recognised striker despite having Fernando Torres fit and available. This meant that Fabregas was playing up front alone and would be supported by Silva and Iniesta.
The decision to start without a striker came back to haunt De Bosque as Italy relied heavily on a solid defensive setup coupled with pacey counter attacks. Spain had to call on the experienced captain Casillas who made several reaction saves, the finest coming right before the break. Thiago Motta, from eight yards out, strongly heads the ball towards the Italian goal from a Cassano cross forcing the Madrid keeper into a great reflex save.
Seven yellow cards were handed out, but in truth it wasn’t a dirty game. Unsurprisingly Mario Ballotelli was the first to see his name go into the book. The Man City striker had a glorious chance to open the scoring on 53 minutes as a mistake in the Spanish side gifts him possession. He raced toward the goal but indecision saw him slow down and allow Ramos to come from behind and steal the ball.
Fernando Torres came on and had three chances almost immediately, the best coming when the Chelsea striker is given space to run and Buffon comes screaming off his line and the attempted lob just clears the cross bar.
Spain face Ireland in the next group game and they should have worked out any tactical naivety from this game while Italy will take heart that despite all the off-field problems they can still produce the goods on the pitch, even if they have to rely on their old-guard.
Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Alonso, Silva (Jesus Navas 65), Fabregas (Torres 74), Iniesta.
Subs Not Used: Valdes, Albiol, Javi Martinez, Juanfran, Pedro, Negredo, Mata, Llorente, Santi Cazorla, Reina.
Italy: Buffon, Chiellini, De Rossi, Bonucci, Giaccherni, Marchisio, Pirlo, Thiago Motta (Nocerino 89), Maggio, Cassano (Giovinco 65), Balotelli (Di Natale 56).
Subs Not Used: Sirigu, Ogbonna Obienza, Balzaretti, Abate, Barzagli, Borini, Montolivo, Giovinco, Diamanti, Nocerino, De Sanctis.
P.J. generally covers Drogheda games at HD Park and can generally be found at any Dublin ground when of a loose end on a Friday night.