Euro 2020: Daily briefing
The Azzurri have perhaps been the most impressive side at the tournament so far this summer, barely setting a foot wrong as they topped their group in style following the opening night win over Turkey. After Switzerland and Wales were also beaten, they knocked out Austria in the last 16 after extra time – arguably the only less-than-stellar showing of their games so far – and beat Belgium in impressive fashion in the quarters.
Spain have had a far more up-and-down ride to the last four, drawing their first two group games against Sweden and Poland before a five-goal thrashing of Slovakia sent them through in second place. Then followed one of the most memorable matches of this edition of the European Championship, as a crazy 90 minutes against Croatia ended 3-3, with Spain scoring twice more in extra time. A penalty shoot-out against Switzerland brought them through to the semis against Italy.
Leonardo Spinazzola will be a big miss for Roberto Mancini’s side after suffering injury last time out, but otherwise both nations are likely to have full squads to choose from, though there are questions over Pablo Sarabia’s fitness. Follow the Euro 2020 semi-final between Italy and Spain here:
Euro 2020: Azpilicueta praises La Roja’s mentality
Defender Cesar Azpilicueta has praised the side’s mentality ahead of tonight’s semi-final against Italy, as La Roja aim for their first tournament final since Euro 2012.
“It’s true that we didn’t have a good start to the Euros in terms of results – because the play, our domination, didn’t translate into results,” the Chelsea right back said.
“I think the team is doing incredible work. It’s true that in the 10 minutes before extra time against Croatia there were plays we should have defended better and we lost the ball.
“We improved that in extra time, which tired them and allowed us to control the game. We have the ambition and hope of an entire country. We know that when you get to this stage against a team like Italy you have to take care over every detail.”
Michael Jones6 July 2021 19:12
Euro 2020: The Mancini effect
Roberto Mancini has turned around Italy’s prospects since taking over as coach in May 2018. The Azzurri had failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, which did not go down well with the fans and Italian media.
However, Mancini has brought on an uplift in form. Italy have won 28 of his 37 games in charge and are now unbeaten in 32 games, a run going back to a 1-0 Nations League defeat by Portugal in September 2018.
They have also now won 13 games in a row too.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of the recent Azzurri success has been built on a solid defence. They had kept 11 consecutive clean sheets until a goal each from Austria and Belgium in the last two games.
Couple that with a fearless attack, Italy are second to Spain in goals scored at Euro 2020, and Mancini has created a very threatening Italian side that can compete for major trophies.
All that remains is to see if his team can go all the way and with the way they’ve lit up this tournament not many would put it past them.
Michael Jones6 July 2021 19:07
Euro 2020: Koke – a pivotal role in Spain’s success?
One of many questions raised over the Spanish team throughout this tournament has been Koke’s ongoing involvement, even despite winning LaLiga this season with Atletico Madrid.
Howver, the truth is he has played a very different role for La Roja – and a very important one from a tactical perspective.
A player who likes the ball at his feet, Koke loves to find the pockets of space to support both the wingers and defence, he has been a key player in Spain’s midfield, dictating the tempo of play and transitioning defence to attack.
Now with 55 caps to his name at age 29, Koke has still yet to score for the national team at senior level (and only once surpassed six in a season for Atletico Madrid).
Beyond his below-par finishing, his final-third productivity is vital for Spain, so often good in circulating the ball but without the right pace to their game or final pass to really open up the opposition:
Michael Jones6 July 2021 19:00
Euro 2020: Bonucci on Morata
Italy captain Leonardo Bonucci is taking nothing for granted when he comes up against Juventus team-mate Alvaro Morata in their Euro 2020 semi-final.
The Spain striker has been the target for much criticism in his homeland due to his relatively poor form with two goals in five matches at the finals, a disappointing return for the number of chances he gets.
Bonucci saw Morata score 19 goals while on loan at Juve from Atletico Madrid last season and while he has every sympathy for what his club-mate has had to endure with offensive messages on social media, the veteran defender will not treat him differently to any other opponent at Wembley.
“Alvaro is a friend of mine, we often spend a lot of time together in Turin and I was really struck by what happened to him and what we all have to go through,” he told a pre-match press conference.
“I’ve had to go through what he went through and I know what it’s like to read and feel certain things as well.
“I’ve always been right behind him. He’s always had my support. He’s a great guy and a terrific footballer, a complete striker because he can run into space, he holds the ball up well.
“He is one of the best centre-forwards in world football and we need to make sure we are switched on, not only to keep an eye on Morata but the team as a whole.”
Morata starts on the bench for Spain tonight.
Michael Jones6 July 2021 18:54
Euro 2020: Roberto Mancini hits out at ‘unfair’ euros crowd
Italy manager Roberto Mancini has said it is ‘unfair’ that the majority of fans at the semi-final against Spain will not be from the respective countries.
Fans from Spain and Italy are unable to fly over specifically for the match at Wembley due to UK quarantine rules, meaning the majority of spectators will be UK residents.
“I think it’s pretty unfair if I’m perfectly honest,” Mancini said. “We’re better off playing in front of any crowd as opposed to playing in front of a small number of people; that’s what’s great about football and entertainment in general.
“But I do think it’s very unfair that we don’t have half the stadium full of Italian fans and half the stadium full of Spaniards.
“We know that we need to produce a big performance because Spain are a top side. Despite the fact they have brought through some younger players, they still have an excellent squad and a very capable coach, so it will be a tough match.”
I’m not so sure Roberto. There’s more than a few Italian and Spanish fans knocking around Wembley.
Michael Jones6 July 2021 18:46
Euro 2020: Italy vs Spain team news
Italy XI: Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne
There is only one change for Roberto Mancini’s Italy as Emerson comes in for the injured Leonardo Spinazzola.
Spain XI: Unai Simón; Azpilicueta, Laporte, Eric García, Jordi Alba; Koke, Busquets, Pedri; Dani Olmo, Ferrán Torres, Oyarzabal
Spain make three changes to their starting XI with Eric Garica replacing Pau Torres as Aymeric Laporte’s central defence partner. Up top Dani Olmo comes in for the injured Pablo Sarabia and Mikel Oyarzabal replaces the underperforming Alvaro Morata.
Michael Jones6 July 2021 18:35
Euro 2020: Italy without Spinazzola
Italian left-back Leonardo Spinazzola has been one of the best players of Euro 2020 with his driving runs and fearless nature but he is out of the tournament after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon against Belgium last time out.
The 28-year-old Roma player has had surgery and is set to be sidelined for around six months.
He has only ever played one Champions League game and had never scored a top-flight goal this time last year. However his importance on the Azzurri in this tournament cannot be overstated.
He was a constant source of attack and played more as a forward than a defender at times.
Spinazzola created eight chances for team-mates (the fourth most of any Italian player – or of any defender at Euro 2020) and attempted 18 dribbles (eight more than any other Italian).
He put in 11 crosses (almost twice the number of any team-mate) and had seven shots (with Denmark’s Joakim Maehle the only defender to try more).
Spinazzola’s place in the Italy starting line-up is likely to go to Chelsea left-back Emerson but his absence will be keenly felt.
Michael Jones6 July 2021 18:32
Euro 2020: Italy vs Spain talking points
The match kicks off is just under two hours time and whilst we wait for the official team news to drop here’s what you need to know about tonight’s match and what questions still need answering.
The main talking points are:
– Who will win the midfield battle?
– Can Italy’s defence cope against a mobile Spanish side?
– Will Spain get more from Alvaro Morata?
– Will injury put Italy in a spin?
Michael Jones6 July 2021 18:24
Euro 2020: Who are the favourites?
Italy have been sensational under Roberto Mancini and they’ve taken Euro 2020 by storm with flowing, possession-based football and clinical finishing.
With their track record in European Championship knockout games against Spain many spectators across Europe will peg them as favourites to reach the final.
Certainly, Mancini has utilised his squad to the best of his ability. His man-management skills have been sensational and people may argue that his side have been the team of the tournament so far.
But, Spain defeated them 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final and although Luis Enrique has a new-look squad those memories aren’t easily forgotten.
They’ve managed to find hold their nerve against Austria and Switzerland despite not yet finding their best form. If they turn it on and get firing in front of goal, they may just overwhelm Italy’s aging defence.
Michael Jones6 July 2021 18:19
Euro 2020: Who will win the midfield battle?
This game is too close to call beforehand. Who’s going to win Italy or Spain?
Could it be simply a case of which midfield has the better night? Will Jorginho, Verratti and Barella outclass Busquets, Pedri and Koke?
The battle to control the middle of the pitch in this first semi-final of Euro 2020 is mouth-watering, and could well decide the outcome of tonight’s clash at Wembley.
Italy’s Nicolo Barella thinks so too saying:
“Busquets has been one of the best midfielders in the world for many years. Then they have Pedri and Koke… it will be a tough game, we are similar as we both want to dominate the possession. Midfield is a crucial department, we have Jorginho and Verratti, who are great champions, and I give my help with runs into open spaces.”
Spain’s Pedri echoed those sentiments and said the team who makes the least mistakes will likely come out on top:
“Both teams have a very strong midfield and a great deal of quality in that area of the pitch. It’s going to be a very hotly-contested match in midfield. The team that gets the better of it will be the team that makes the fewest mistakes.”
Michael Jones6 July 2021 18:13