Three key battles: Italy vs Spain

Author : esmeraldacalhounnew
Publish Date : 2021-07-06 13:59:47
Three key battles: Italy vs Spain

Three key battles: Italy vs Spain
Tuesday 6 July 2021

Where could the game be won and lost? Our team reporters analyse the first semi-final.

Midfield creators: Jorginho and Sergio Busquets
Midfield creators: Jorginho and Sergio Busquets
©Getty Images
Italy take on Spain in the opening UEFA EURO 2020 semi-final, having scored 23 goals between them in getting this far.

Neither side have lost a game at the finals yet; could these head-to-head contests decide whose unbeaten run will end at Wembley?


Jorginho vs Sergio Busquets
Star of the Match: Busquets highlights
Paolo Menicucci, Italy reporter
Team-mates call Jorginho 'Il Professore' or 'Radio Jorginho' because of the continuous instructions the 29-year-old gives during games, nicknames that would probably suit Busquets too. Watch closely and you can see all the tiny but crucial contributions Chelsea's deep-lying playmaker makes. "He lets us all play better," said team-mate Manuel Locatelli. When it comes to footballing IQ, Busquets is also at genius level, so both teams will have a great orchestra conductor on the pitch.

Graham Hunter, Spain reporter
Jorginho possesses loads of skills which are akin to those of Sergio Busquets. Just take note of the fact that Pep Guardiola, at Manchester City, wanted to take on the Italian midfield organiser before Chelsea beat him to the deal.

Guardiola was the man who 'discovered' Busquets; the midfielder was about to be ushered out when the coach took over at Barcelona and he has been looking for a younger replica of the 32-year-old ever since he left the club. Busquets has revitalised Spain since returning for the Slovakia game, but will Jorginho's greater athleticism and mobility give him the edge in midfield?

Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci vs Álvaro Morata
Paolo Menicucci, Italy reporter


Up against Belgium's Romelu Lukaku in the last round, Italy's veteran centre-backs (combined age: 70) came out with their usual masterclass in the art of defending. That was a physical duel, something Chiellini and Bonucci love, but their Juventus team-mate Morata presents a very different challenge. Spain's No7 knows everything about Italy's centre-backs, and can also cause plenty of problems with his constant movement. It will be a different kind of contest to the one with Lukaku, and not necessarily an easier one for Azzurri's two defensive lions.

Graham Hunter, Spain reporter
At Juventus, Morata took regular chiding from Chiellini and Bonucci about the toughness of his character because they wanted him to realise his full potential. Morata is still happy-go-lucky, but the striker has matured since EURO 2016, when he was taken off with 20 minutes left of Spain's 2-0 defeat against the Azzurri. He had a soupçon of revenge, scoring in a 3-0 European Qualifiers success a year later, but this is the test of tests. How ironic if it's here, against his 'maestri', that Morata starts scoring freely again.

Gianluigi Donnarumma vs Unai Simón
Paolo Menicucci, Italy reporter
Donnarumma and Unai Simón have both showed two great qualities in goalkeepers during EURO 2020. For Simón, it was the ability to shake off mistakes; he needed a strong character to deal with his blunder from Pedri's back pass against Croatia, but made heroic saves in that game before starring in the quarter-final shoot-out against Switzerland.

Gianluigi Donnarumma and Unai Simón
Gianluigi Donnarumma and Unai Simón
Donnarumma, meanwhile, has mastered maintaining focus after games when he may have felt like a non-paying spectator. Underemployed in the group stage ("I could have played those games," said ex-Azzurri No1 Walter Zenga, now 61), he has stepped up since; Kevin De Bruyne may still be having nightmares about that save the Italy goalkeeper made against Belgium. "Gigio gives everyone security," Zenga continued. “He can become the number one in the world."

Graham Hunter, Spain reporter
At 24, Unai Simón is a couple of years older than Donnarumma, but he is way, way behind in terms of both club and international experience. When the Italian was making his AC Milan debut in Serie A – aged 16, in a 2-1 win over Sassuolo Calcio – Unai was still playing for Athletic's feeder club, Basconia, in Spain's fourth tier. Yet here they are today: two exceptional talents.

The Basque has more trophy wins: three to Donnarumma's one, but the Italian´╗┐ has the higher profile by far. Where will he play his club football next season, after his contract with AC Milan expired? And will he, or Unai, have finished the summer by playing in a EURO final?

• The sides' only EURO finals meeting came in 1992, a goalless draw in Malmö on Matchday 1. While England bowed out after failing to win a game (D2 L1), Denmark finished second in Group 1 behind hosts Sweden, then beat holders the Netherlands 5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in the semi-final before defeating world champions Germany 2-0 in the final to claim what remains their only major honour.

• England triumphed in the only game between the sides at a FIFA World Cup, first-half goals from Rio Ferdinand (5), Michael Owen (22) and Emile Heskey (44) sealing a 3-0 victory in the 2002 round of 16 in Niigata. Current head coach Gareth Southgate was an unused substitute.

EURO facts: England
England and Denmark complete final four
• England have lost both of their UEFA European Championship semi-finals:
1968 L 0-1 v Yugoslavia
1996 L 1-1 v Germany (aet, 5-6 pens)

• This is England's tenth appearance in the UEFA European Championship; they finished third in 1968 and also reached the semi-finals on home soil in 1996.

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• England failed to qualify for the final tournament in 2008, the only time they have missed out since 1984.

• A team managed by Roy Hodgson won all ten qualifiers on the way to UEFA EURO 2016, where they finished second behind Wales in their section after taking five points from three matches, only to be shocked by Iceland in the round of 16 (1-2).

• Southgate's side finished top of Group A in UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying, winning seven of their eight matches (L1) to progress six points ahead of the Czech Republic. A 2-1 loss in Prague was England's sole defeat.

• In the group stage of this tournament England beat Croatia and the Czech Republic both 1-0 either side of a goalless draw against Scotland. All three games took place at Wembley.

• England then overcame Germany 2-0 in the round of 16, again at Wembley, thanks to second-half goals from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. It was their first EURO knockout win since beating Spain on penalties in the EURO '96 quarter-finals, also at Wembley; their only other EURO finals win outside the group stage was a 2-0 defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1968 third-place play-off.

• England then enjoyed their biggest EURO final tournament victory in the quarter-finals, goals from Kane (2), Maguire and Jordan Henderson securing a 4-0 victory against Ukraine at the Olimpico in Rome.

• Kane finished as the overall top scorer in the qualifying group stage with 12 goals, including at least one in every game, and also provided five assists. The goal against Germany was his first in a EURO finals.

• Sterling was involved in 15 of England's 37 qualifying goals, scoring eight himself with seven assists, and also got the winners against Croatia and the Czech Republic before finding the net again against Germany.

• The defeat by Iceland in the last 16 at UEFA EURO 2016 is England's only reverse in 16 EURO finals matches (W9 D6), with the quarter-final eliminations on penalties by Italy (2012) and Portugal (2004) counted as draws.

• England have kept clean sheets in their last ten EURO matches at Wembley, qualifiers and final tournament combined. Indeed, the last goal they conceded there in the competition was a Henderson own goal in a 3-1 win against Slovenia in November 2014, a run of 932 minutes without conceding during which England have scored 31 goals themselves. The last opposition player to score against England at Wembley in a EURO match was Switzerland's Tranquillo Barnetta, who struck twice in a 2-2 qualifying draw on 4 June 2011.

• Their three wins and a draw at UEFA EURO 2020 mean England's record at Wembley is now W186 D73 L39. They have won 12 of their last 14 matches at the stadium, including UEFA EURO 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic (5-0), Bulgaria (4-0) and Montenegro (7-0); they have lost only two of their last 26 matches at Wembley (W19 D5), most recently that UEFA Nations League defeat by Denmark in October.

• England have never lost in the finals of a major tournament at Wembley (W10 D4), with that 1996 semi-final against Germany classed as a draw.



Category : sports

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