Italy vs Spain rivalry: Their greatest meetings
Wednesday, 25 January 2023
Two teams with impressive pedigree clash in the UEFA Nations League semi-finals; look back at their most memorable encounters.
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Italy and Spain will renew one of football's great rivalries in Enschede on 15 June.
The teams have met 12 times at major tournaments. Italy initially enjoyed the upper hand until Spain beat them on penalties on their way to winning EURO 2008 then dished out a footballing masterclass in the Kyiv final four years later. The tide has turned a little since then, though, with the Azzurri triumphing 2-0 in the round of 16 at EURO 2016 and then getting the better of Spain on penalties to earn a place in the final of EURO 2020.
The UEFA Nations League witnesses the latest chapter in their rivalry; will this meeting join this list of classics?
EURO '88 group stage: Italy 1-0 Spain
A tactical battle supreme in Frankfurt, where a 19-year-old Italy defender played a starring role: enter Paolo Maldini. The AC Milan youngster marked Spain's vaunted winger Míchel out of the game, paving the way for the only goal midway through the second half.
That came after Carlo Ancelotti threaded a pass towards Alessandro Altobelli, whose dummy allowed Gianluca Vialli to strike low beyond Andoni Zubizarreta.
1994 World Cup quarter-finals: Italy 2-1 Spain
A simmering rivalry well and truly reached boiling point in Boston. Dino Baggio's long-range strike gave Italy the lead, but the real action came after the break. An elbow from Mauro Tassotti caught Luis Enrique in the face – an incident bad enough to earn him an eight-match ban, but unseen on the day.
José Luis Caminero did make it 1-1, but two minutes from time, after a sensational end-to-end move, Roberto Baggio rounded Zubizarreta to fire in the winner.
UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-final: Spain 0-0 Italy (aet, Spain won 4-2 on pens)
Spain had never beaten Italy in a competitive game prior to this breakthrough night in Vienna. "I saw nerves in the players," said coach Luis Aragonés. "My message over and over was that we were the better side and we'd go through."
And go through they did, as Iker Casillas denied Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Di Natale from the spot, leaving Cesc Fàbregas to win it. The 74-year curse was broken.
UEFA EURO 2012 final: Spain 4-0 Italy
Spain had failed to truly sparkle in Poland and Ukraine, though it soon became clear in Kyiv that they had been saving the best for last. David Silva headed in the opener following a mesmeric passing exchange, then Jordi Alba scurried through to make it 2-0. Italy never recovered.
After the break, Fernando Torres found the net for a second EURO final running then teed up fellow substitute Juan Mata to cap a scintillating performance.
UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16: Italy 2-0 Spain
Having lost to Spain in the two previous EUROs, Italy were not short of motivation as the teams met again at the Stade de France, and this time it was the Azzurri who won the day, ending Spain's eight-year reign as European champions.
Giorgio Chiellini forced in the first goal from close range in the 33rd minute and, despite a superb performance from David de Gea in the Spain goal, Graziano Pellè made the game safe a minute into added time.
UEFA EURO 2020 semi-finals: Italy 1-1 Spain (aet, Italy won 4-2 on pens)
Federico Chiesa broke the deadlock on the hour in a smouldering encounter, picking up a loose ball on the edge of the box, cutting inside and curling a shot inside the far post. The Azzurri had chances to put the tie beyond Spain before Álvaro Morata, brought on after the Italy goal, levelled following a smart passing exchange with Dani Olmo.
Spain had the better chances in extra time but came unstuck in the shoot-out, despite Unai Simón saving the first kick from Manuel Locatelli. Olmo's miss brought the teams level, with Morata ultimately the fall guy as Gianluigi Donnarumma saved his effort.
2021 UEFA Nations League semi-final: Italy 1-2 Spain
European champions Italy started brightly enough but from the moment Ferran Torres guided Mikel Oyarzabal's delicious 17th-minute left-wing cross in off the far post, their world-record run of 37 matches without defeat was destined to come to its conclusion.
Leonardo Bonucci was dismissed for a second booking and it got worse for the Azzurri on the stroke of half-time as Oyarzabal picked out Ferran Torres again for the forward to place his header back past Donnarumma. La Roja then held firm with Federico Chiesa's 83rd-minute tap-in from Lorenzo Pellegrini's cross giving Roberto Mancini's men a glimpse at a comeback.