The winners of the last two FIFA World Cups meet in their UEFA EURO 2012 opener, with Italy having an impressive record against the European champions in competitive games.
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The winners of the last two FIFA World Cups meet in their opening Group C game at UEFA EURO 2012, with Spain having not won a competitive game against Italy since their very first meeting, though the European champions did edge them out on penalties four years ago.
• Spain's record in 29 games against Italy is W8 D11 L10, but seven of those victories have come in friendly games.
• In the teams' ten competitive fixtures, Spain's record is W1 D4 L5, though those statistics include a UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-final that Spain won on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes, but which is classified as a draw. That sole outright Spanish victory, a 2-0 win, came in the sides' first meeting at the 1920 Olympic Games.
• In terms of FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship finals matches, Spain's record against Italy reads W0 D3 L3 – two of those draws and a loss coming in the continental competition.
• Italy inflicted the joint heaviest loss in Spain's history during the 1928 Olympics, beating them 7-1 in an Amsterdam replay following a 1-1 quarter-final draw. A 7-1 friendly loss against England on 9 December 1931 matched that margin of defeat.
• The sides first met at a UEFA European Championship in 1980 – the first to feature two groups of four – the game ending in a 0-0 draw. Current La Roja coach Vicente del Bosque, capped 18 times, ended his Spain career at the tournament but did not play against Italy.
• At the 1988 finals, Italy beat Spain 1-0 in the second Group 1 game in Frankfurt thanks to Gianluca Vialli's 73rd-minute goal.
• Spain's difficulties against Italy extended into the 1996 UEFA European Under-21 Championship final in Barcelona. Despite ending extra time with nine men, an Italy side featuring Francesco Totti beat Spain 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, with goalkeeper Angelo Pagotto (preferred to Gianluigi Buffon) making the decisive save from Spain's Raúl González.
Selected previous meetings
10 August 2011: Italy 2-1 Spain (Montolivo 11, Aquilani 84; Xabi Alonso 37pen) – Stadio San Nicola, Bari, friendly
Italy: Buffon, Chiellini, Criscito, Maggio, Ranocchia (Bonucci 77), De Rossi (Aquilani 65), Motta (Marchiso 46), Montolivo (Nocerino 74), Pirlo, Cassano (Balotelli 59), Rossi (Pazzini 59).
Spain: Casillas (Valdés 46), Arbeloa, Albiol, Piqué (Busquets 45), Iraola (Villa 46), Cazorla (Mata 80), Javi Martínez, Xabi Alonso, Iniesta (Thiago 46), Silva, Torres (Llorente 15).
• In the sides' 19th and most recent friendly, Riccardo Montolivo's only goal in 32 senior outings for Italy gave his side an early lead in Bari. The 27-year-old managed three goals as an Under-21 international, including one in Palencia on 10 October 2006 during a 2-1 play-off victory against a Spain side containing Raúl Albiol and David Silva. That win took Italy into the finals in the Netherlands at their hosts' expense.
22 June 2008: Spain 0-0 Italy (aet, Spain win 4-2 on penalties) – Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna, UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-finals
Spain: Casillas, Ramos, Puyol, Marchena, Capdevila, Iniesta (Cazorla 59), Senna, Xavi (Fábregas 60), Silva, Torres (Guïza 85), Villa.
Italy: Buffon, Zambrotta, Panucci, Chiellini, Grosso, Aquilani (Del Piero 108), De Rossi, Ambrosini, Cassano (Di Natale 75), Perrotta (Camoranesi 58), Toni.
• Roberto Donadoni's Italy were the only side Luis Aragonés's Spain failed to beat at UEFA EURO 2008, though Spain did come through their quarter-final meeting on penalties. Iker Casillas saved from Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Di Natale, with Gianluigi Buffon denying Daniel Guïza. Cesc Fàbregas converted the ninth penalty to send Spain through to the semi-finals.
9 July 1994: Italy 2-1 Spain (D Baggio 25, R Baggio 88; Caminero 58) – Foxboro Stadium, Boston, FIFA World Cup quarter-final
Italy: Pagliuca, Tassotti, Benarrivo, Albertini (Signori 46), Maldini, Costacurta, Conte (Berti 66), D Baggio, Massaro, R Baggio, Donadoni.
Spain: Zubizarreta, Ferrer, Otero, Abelardo, Goikoetxea, Bakero (Hierro 65), Sergi (Salinas 60), Caminero, Alkorta, Nadal, Luís Enrique.
• In Italy's most recent competitive victory against Spain, Javier Clemente's side were defeated by Arrigo Sacchi's men courtesy of Roberto Baggio's late winner.
• World and European champions Spain come into the finals on a run of 14 straight competitive victories since they surprisingly lost 1-0 to Switzerland in their opening game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals.
• Spain embarked on a run of ten straight UEFA European Championship victories after their last meeting with Italy, a 0-0 draw in the UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-finals, which – as mentioned above – La Roja won on penalties. They have gone 23 games without defeat in this competition since losing 2-0 in Sweden in a UEFA EURO 2008 qualifier on 7 October 2006.
• Spain's last defeat at a EURO was a 1-0 loss to hosts Portugal in the quarter-finals of the 2004 edition.
• Spain and Italy have not missed a major finals tournament since EURO '92, when both sides failed to make it to Sweden.
• Italy came through qualifying unbeaten (eight wins and two draws), last losing a competitive game when they went down 3-2 to Slovakia in their final 2010 World Cup finals game. They have gone 13 games without a UEFA European Championship defeat over 90 minutes since losing 3-0 to the Netherlands in their opening match at UEFA EURO 2008.
• Spain's David Silva and Italy's Mario Balotelli are team-mates at Manchester City FC.
• Italy's Antonio Cassano played at Real Madrid CF from January 2006 to summer 2007, with Spanish internationals Casillas and Sergio Ramos among his team-mates.
• Spain's Xabi Alonso scored Liverpool FC's equalising goal (converting the rebound after his penalty had been parried by Dida) in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final against AC Milan which finished 3-3, the Premier League club going on to win the penalty shoot-out. Italy's Andrea Pirlo was on the losing side in Istanbul.
• Pirlo and Alonso met again in the final two years later when Milan ran out 2-1 winners in Athens. Pepe Reina started in goal for Liverpool while Álvaro Arbeloa came on as a late substitute.
• Despite scoring a second-leg goal in FC Barcelona's 2002/03 UEFA Champions League quarter-final against a Juventus team featuring Gianluigi Buffon, Xavi Hernández was ultimately on the losing side as the Italians advanced 3-2 on aggregate.
• The midfielder was also on target against Italian opposition in this season's UEFA Champions League group stage, scoring the winner in a 3-2 win against Milan at San Siro.
• Andrés Iniesta and Antonio Nocerino scored for Barcelona and Milan respectively in the Catalan club's 3-1 victory in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals after the goalless first-leg draw at San Siro. Ignazio Abate played for Milan in the same game.
• Fabio Borini and Fernando Torres were team-mates at Chelsea FC from January 2011 until Borini joined Swansea City FC on loan that March.
• Gerard Piqué scored just two goals in official competition while at Manchester United FC between 2004 and 2008, the second of which came in a 1-1 UEFA Champions League group stage draw away to AS Roma on 12 December 2007. Daniele De Rossi made a substitute appearance for the hosts.
• AS Roma's De Rossi and Cassano both found the target against Casillas's Real Madrid on 28 September 2004 but it was not enough to prevent the Italian side losing 4-2 at the Santiago Bernabéu.
• Pirlo also beat Casillas when Milan enjoyed a 3-2 win in Madrid in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Fernando Torres's first senior goal for Spain came in a 1-1 friendly against Italy in Genoa on 28 April 2004.
• Italian international Thiago Motta was born in Brazil and started his European career with Barcelona. He moved to Genoa CFC in 2008 and joined FC Internazionale Milano a year later. Having been in the Barça squad when the UEFA Champions League was won in 2006, he picked up the title again in 2010 with Inter after helping to eliminate Barça in the semi-finals, although he was sent off in the second leg at the Camp Nou.