Italy vs Spain: Pre-match comments as two European heavyweights face off

The teams met in the final of Euro 2012 when Spain recorded a resounding 4-0 victory.

Italy vs Spain: Pre-match comments as two European heavyweights face off
The two teams met in the final at Euro 2012 (Picture from Zimbo.com)

Two of Europe’s football heavyweights will go head to head at the Stade de France on Monday evening for a place in the quarter-finals at Euro 2016.

Italy vs Spain was the final at these Championships four years ago, yet for one of these established nations the reality of an early exit will hit home hard when the final ball has been kicked in this last 16 clash.

Whether that is in 90 minutes, extra time or a decisive penalty shoot-out, remains to be seen. For many this encounter is too close to call, after both impressed in their respective group games.

Germany await in the quarter-finals

Defending champions Spain will go in as slight favourites, despite a mishap against Croatia which saw them finish second in Group D. That defeat courtesy of a late Ivan Perišić goal, has left them with - on paper – a much tougher route to the final.

Whoever triumphs in Paris will face World Cup winners Germany in the last eight before a potential semi-final match-up with England or the hosts France.

That is hard on Italy who were the first side to reach the knock-out stages thanks to back to back victories over Belgium and Sweden in their opening two group games.

Italy should be back to full strength 

Knowing that his side had already topped the group, Antonio Conte could afford to make eight changes for the Azzurri’s final game with the Republic of Ireland, and despite the Italian manager’s indentations to win the game there is no question that his side were considerably weakened.

Yet the Italian manger was keen to focus on his side’s strengths ahead of their meeting with the defending champions.

“We have a great deal of respect for Spain: they are one of the best teams in the world and among the favourites to win Euro 2016. Even so, we've worked and prepared, and we must not have any regrets.

“Everybody talks about defence, about being wary of all their players, but I say let's make sure Spain are wary of what we do. There is organisation in our defence, but there is also organisation in our attack. We've got to try to pull off a shock”.

Spain hoping for a repeat of the final four years ago

Spain are also expected to be at full strength and could name the same eleven which started against Croatia - though Sergio Ramos is one yellow card away from a suspension.

“In the last European Championship, our first game was against Italy. They were better than us, but we drew and then we ended up beating Italy in the final” said Spanish boss Vicente del Bosque.

“We hardly changed anything in between those two matches, although coaches do obviously have to have a bit of flexibility so they can make changes at any given moment”.