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Italy vs Spain – Euro 2020 Semi-Final Preview

Italy meet Spain for a place in the final of Euro 2020, with both sides enjoying very different paths to the final. Italy have been one of the most impressive teams at Euro 2020, with a solid defence and deadly attacking threat. They cruised through the group stage without conceding a goal and although they needed extra time to beat Austria in the last 16, they did what winning teams do and found a way to get over the line. They then knocked out Belgium in the last round by a 2-1 score line and even the Belgium goal came from what looked to be a very soft penalty. Spain come into this semi-final having only won one game at Euro 2020 inside 90 minutes, and that came against a pretty awful Slovakia side. They needed extra time to get past Croatia in the last 16 and then penalties to make it past Switzerland in the quarter finals. Spain seem to have gone through this tournament under the radar, they opened their tournament with two pretty unimpressive draws against Sweden and Poland, and despite putting 5 past Slovakia in their final group game, I don’t feel many people would have fancied them to go all the way to the final at this tournament.

Lets take a look at the stats on both teams at this years tournament (Remember extra time is included in our stats)

Italy have scored 11 goals, conceded 2, had 101 shots with 26 on target, they have had an average possession of 57.80%, have been given 5 yellow cards, no red cards and taken 27 corners.

Spain have scored 12 goals, conceded 5, had 99 shots with 39 on target, have had an average possession of 74%, have been given 5 yellow cards, no red cards and taken 41 corners.

The bookmakers (All prices Skybet) have Italy as the 8/11 favourites to make the final, with Spain at evens (1/1). Italy are 6/4 to see off the Spaniards inside 90 minutes, with Spain 19/10 to win in normal time, and its 11/5 that the game goes into extra time.

The referee for this game is Felix Brych (Germany) who this season has refereed 37 games, awarding 111 yellow cards and 6 red cards, for an average of 3 yellow cards per game and 0.16 red cards per game. In his career so far he has been the man in the middle of 327 games, giving out 1199 yellow cards and 73 red cards, for an average of 3.67 yellow cards per game and 0.22 red cards per game. At Euro 2020 he has taken charge of 4 games, in three of those games he really hasn’t been one to get the cards out easily. In Ukraine vs England in the quarter finals he gave no yellow cards (and he even didn’t allow any injury time at the end of the game, a sign of him having some sympathy towards the Ukrainian players), he also gave no cards in the Finland vs Belgium group game he was the referee for and he only gave one yellow card when he was the man in charge of Holland vs Ukraine in the group stage. He did however give 5 yellow cards in the Belgium vs Portugal last 16 tie. So in total he has refereed 4 games at Euro 2020 giving just 6 yellow cards and no red cards.

This looks to be a fascinating game on paper. Spain will surely not see as much of the ball as they have done in their previous games at this tournament, and in truth you would have to say this is the first big test of Spain at this years tournament, with Croatia being the best side they have played so far. Switzerland were no mugs having just knocked out the world champions, but given that they were missing their captain, had played 120 minutes vs France and had to play the last 15 minutes of normal time and all of extra time a man down, it’s fair to say Spain should probably have seen them off without the need for penalties. Italy vs Belgium in the last round was a great game of football to watch. Both teams went for the win and at time the game became like a basketball match with its end to end nature. Whilst Italy always carry an attacking threat, they were impressive defensively for much of the match, including some heroic last man defending and blocks at times. I feel the odds on Italy to go through in this game are very generous. They have easily been the more impressive team and the fact they have been tested against a genuine contender in Belgium just increases that confidence. I feel we still really don’t know exactly what this Spain side are, they lack an identity to me, with them looking vulnerable as an attacking force in their early games before finding their scoring boots in their last group game and knockout games, but they have also looked bad defensively at times in this tournament, and the fact they really haven’t played a genuine contender would concern me if I was in their camp. I feel this Italy side are a big step up from what Spain have seen at this years tournament so far, and it could expose the flaws in this Spain team.

I see this being quite a slow and methodical game for much of the 90 minutes, and when there is an injection of pace I see it coming from Italy. The one thing we do know about Spain is that they are a possession based side, they will have no problem with keeping the ball and passing it around the defence and midfield, waiting for the perfect moment to launch an attack. The worrying thing for me would be that this Italy side are proving very difficult to break down, having conceded just 2 goals at this years tournament. Italy have also proved they are versatile, whilst we are yet to see what this Spain team is like when they don’t dominate possession. In their quarter final game vs Belgium, Italy seemed more than happy for the game to become stretched and open, but we have also seen them stay compact and play with a safer approach. Spain will likely want to keep things tight and will be happy with a slower game that almost becomes a chess match, but with the like of Chiellini and Bonucci in the Italian defence, this represents by far the best defensive unit that Spain have come up against. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Italy do a bit of a number on Spain here, there is no doubting this Spain team has class, but I personally feel they are yet to put it all together and work out exactly who they are as a unit. I worry for Spain that they will become frustrated as they cannot dominate possession as they have done in previous games, and the fact that their opponents have only had the ball against them for an average of 26% of the time, it would have to be concerning that they have conceded 5 goals in that time, especially given the quality of the opposition. I see Italy coming out comfortably on top by a 3-0 or 3-1 score line.

The best bets in this game are

Italy to score 2+ goals and 5+ Italy corners – 4/1 Skybet

Italy to win, over 3.5 Italy corners, over 3.5 Spain corners, over 0.5 Italy cards and over 0.5 Spain cards – 24/5 William Hill

Italy to win 3-0, 3-1 or 3-2 – 9/1 Skybet

Both teams to score and 2+ corners each team in each half – 8/1 William Hill

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