|< Prev||Next >|
Group C favourites Spain and a better than expected Italian side played out a superbly entertaining 1-1 draw in Gdansk, with both sides possibly looking back on the game as a chance to grab all three points thrown away. The game, despite some bright possession play, failed to impress in the first period, but really took off after the interval, with Antonio di Natale and Cesc Fabregas bagging goals to ensure that neither side claimed an early advantage in what could be a closely-competed Group.
In an incredibly brave team selection by manager Vicente del Bosque, cup holders Spain started the game with no recognised striker on the field, instead choosing to play Cesc Fabregas, Andreas Iniesta and David Silva upfront. They were trailed by an equally impressive trio of Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso and Xavi, with Sergio Ramos moving into centre-half in place of the injured Carles Puyol. Jordi Alba, as expected, took the left-back role, with Alvaro Arbeloa on the other wing.
The volatile duo of Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli were played in tandem upfront by the attack-minded Italy manager Cesare Prandelli, with Juventus duo Emanuele Giaccherini and Andrea Pirlo starting alongside Christian Maggio in support of the strikers. Thiago Motta and Claudio Marchisio were assigned to hold fort in the centre of midfield and break down the fluid Spanish passing play, with their three-man backline consisting of Juve pair Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini along with AS Roma man Daniele De Rossi, the latter played out of his natural position.
With each of Spain's ten outfield players equally adept at playing with the ball at their feet and also proficient passers, La Roja unsurprisingly kept a lot of the ball in the opening stages on a pitch that on occasion saw the ball move around rather sluggishly. The first chance of the encounter fell the way of Silva on 12 minutes, the winger, after finding some space inside the box, dragging a rather tame attempt right down Buffon's throat.
The Italians however were causing the Spanish backline a fair share of trouble on the counter, and did fire a warning strike via a Pirlo freekick just outside the area that Casillas had to sprawl across to to save. Cassano had a strike on goal soon afterwards, but saw his attempted finish across the face of goal roll wide of the target.
Much like in the World Cup, Spain's tiki-taka play was rather slow and predictable, with the Italians not having much trouble negating the threats Del Bosque's side were posing. The Azzurri on the other hand were looking much more menacing when they did reach the periphery of the Spanish area, with Marchisio showing immaculate technique to smack a first-time volley from 30 yards that was too close to Casillas' reach to trouble the Real Madrid custodian.
Italy grew in confidence as the half wore on, with Cassano testing Casillas' handling with a low, driven attempt, while Iniesta spurned a chance on the other end with his attempted lob flying over the crossbar. Casillas, Spain's busiest player of the half, needed to prove his mettle just on the stroke of halftime, denying a Motta header that was heading for the back of the net.
His opposite number Gianluigi Buffon was called into action early in the second half, needing to make two solid saves right, tipping efforts from Fabregas and Iniesta around the post. At the other end, some very lackadaisical play from Balotelli saw the volatile forward spurn a great chance to find the net, the 21-year old taking ages to apply a finish after stealing the ball off Ramos, resultantly seeing the Spaniard rush back and effect a clearance.
Italy however were not dwelling on that missed opportunity for too long, and on the stroke of the hour mark scored the opener through substitute Antonio di Natale, who had come on in place of Balotelli just minutes before the goal. Pirlo, usually the orchestrator in Italy's midfield, again was the one pulling the strings, and brilliantly slipped a pass into the path of Di Natale, who provided an equally applied finish past the onrushing Casillas.
The Azzurri's joy however was short-lived, as Spain brought themselves back on level terms just four minutes after the Italians drew first blood. It was Fabregas who found the net, the midfielder who was initially doubtful for the game vindicating his selection as the side's furthest attacking option. He was well set up by Silva, who provided Fabregas a brilliantly deft reverse pass from the edge of the area, the latter expertly drilling a finish underneath Buffon to bring the defending champions level.
Spain sensed a chance to push on and complete the comeback, bringing on Fernando Torres from the bench, and the Chelsea player could have made a telling contribution only moments later if not for some brilliant defensive play by Buffon. He beat Italy's offside trap to race through on goal, only to be thwarted by Buffon as he tried to take the ball around the experienced 34-year old.
With tired legs appearing on the field, the game was opening up much more, and Italy almost instantly had a glorious chance to score themselves, one that goalscorer Di Natale was unable to take. The forward was played in by fellow substitute Giovinco, but was not able to direct a poke with his outstretched leg on target from point-blank range.
Chances came thick and fast in the final ten minutes of the tie, with Torres again guilty of missing a chance he would have snapped up in his heyday. A brilliant one-two with Xavi allowed the forward a clear run on goal with the Italy defence at sixes and sevens, but with only Buffon to beat and an unmarked Jesus Navas on the right, Torres attempted a fancy lob over the keeper's head that ballooned over the crossbar, much to the dismay of the Spanish contingent.
Some intricate footwork and incisive running by Motta and Marchisio allowed the latter a good sight at goal from inside the box minutes later, Marchisio though did not do the brilliant move justice with a finish that again was too close to Casillas to trouble him.
There was lots of desire from both sides to claim a late winner, but the goal did not come for either outfit, with Italy possibly ending the game the happier of the two nations after holding current world and European champions Spain to a draw in their Group C opener.
Spain (4-3-3):Casillas, Arbeloa, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Alonso, Silva (Navas 65'), Fabregas (Torres 74'), Iniesta
Subs: Valdes, Albiol, Javi Martinez, Juanfran, Pedro, Torres, Negredo, Mata, Llorente, Santi Cazorla, Jesus Navas, Reina.
Italy (3-5-2): Buffon, Chiellini, De Rossi, Bonucci, Giaccherni, Marchisio, Pirlo, Thiago Motta (Nocerino 90'), Maggio, Cassano (Giovinco 65'), Balotelli (Di Natale 56')
Subs: Sirigu, Ogbonna Obienza, Balzaretti, Abate, Di Natale, Barzagli, Borini, Montolivo, Giovinco, Diamanti, Nocerino, De Sanctis.
Final Score: Spain 1 - 1 Italy (Di Natale 60', Fabregas 64')
- 11/06/2012 22:18 - Euro 2012: Shevchenko brace leads Ukraine to shock win against Sweden
- 11/06/2012 19:56 - Euro 2012: England and France settle for scored draw to kick-off Group D
- 10/06/2012 23:19 - Euro 2012: Croatia hammer Ireland 3-1 to go top of Group C