Thursday, September 16

Italy and Spain renew rivalry in heavyweight battle

Italy and Spain are two teams that seem to have forgotten what it feels like to lose – but something must give in their semi-final showdown at Euro 2020.

Spain have shrugged off pre-tournament tension, coronavirus chaos and gruelling knockout clashes to extend an impressive run that has seen them suffer just one defeat in 29 games and go unbeaten in 13.

A transitional side are aiming for a third European Championship crown in four editions but Italy, another continental heavyweight revived under Roberto Mancini, head to Wembley having not tasted defeat for 32 fixtures, going back to September 2018.

The teams have met 10 times at major tournaments, with Italy retaining the upper hand until Spain beat them on penalties en route to their Euro 2008 triumph – before thrashing them 4-0 in the final four years later.

Italy will face Spain in the semi-finals on Tuesday
Image:Italy beat Belgium to book a date with Spain in the semi-finals on Tuesday

A simmering rivalry had boiled over before then at the 1994 World Cup when Italy prevailed in the quarter-finals but injury was added to insult for Spain as an elbow from Mauro Tassotti – an act that later earned him an eight-match ban – left Luis Enrique bloodied.

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