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As it happened: Spain 1-1 Italy

by Nathan Carr
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[liveblog]

It’s time to get stuck into Group C! To kick us off first, World and European champions Spain take on the underrated Italians. Vicente Del Bosque’s side head into this tournament filled with confidence following their outstanding qualifiying campaign. The Spanish supporters, travelling in numbers as usual, have every right to be optimistic ahead of this clash with the strength in depth and talent their national side possesses. The big question is who will play upfront – will it be recent Champions League winner Fernando Torres? Sevilla star Alvaro Negredo? Or Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente, who brings a more physical and demanding approach to Spain’s style? There is a lot of pressure on this national team to exceed expectations, and this match tonight is crucial to how they develop and grow into the competition.

As for Italy, well there isn’t as much pressure on them as in previous tournaments. And that can only be a good thing as they seek progression from the group stages. They have a very competitive and capable squad, with Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli a familar face in attack. The defence is always pretty solid, and the midfield is also packed with grit and discipline. Cesare Prandelli’s men won’t have it easy tonight, though, as they prepare for a tough test in the Spanish.

Who to look out for

Well, I would quite happily say the whole team but to label the key, key players – I’d have to go with Barcelona duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta who are the lynchpins in central midfield. David Silva, of Manchester City, is the team’s playmaker and catalyst – he’ll look to try and create in the final third.

As for the Italians, well Mario Balotelli is always involved in the action and he will give the Spanish backline problems, that’s for sure. Ignazio Abate, if he comes on, of AC Milan will look to get forward from full-back when he can and Marchisio is an ever-present component in that Italy midfield.

Teams

Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba, Busquets, Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, Silva, Fabregas.

Italy: Buffon, Maggio, Bonucci, Chiellini, De Rossi, Motta, Pirlo, Giaccherini, Marchisio, Cassano, Balotelli.

Prediction

You can’t rule out Italy but I fancy Spain to clinch the three points in this one. I reckon it will be a tight affair – but let’s hope it’s a cracking tie with two very talented sides going head to head. Italy 1-2 Spain.

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