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Italy stand in way of Spanish U21 double

Spain are one step away from completing back-to-back UEFA European Under-21 Championship victories but first they must overcome an Italy side eyeing a record sixth title.

Spain will be looking to retain their title against Italy
Spain will be looking to retain their title against Italy ©Sportsfile

The nation with the greatest history in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship comes up against the nation which cannot stop making history right now when Italy and Spain go head to head in the 2013 final at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium.

• Spain go into the showpiece with a 100% winning record in Israel and a determination to complete back-to-back triumphs after winning this trophy in 2011 in Denmark. Yet in Devis Mangia's Italy they will be up against opponents unbeaten in the competition and, moreover, eyeing a record sixth U21 title.

Past meetings
• This is the third final between the countries at this level, and both have one win each.

• Spain won their first final encounter in 1986 – prevailing 3-0 on penalties after a 3-3 draw on aggregate. Azeglio Vicini's Italy came from behind to win the first leg in Rome on 15 October as Gianluca Vialli (50) and Giuseppe Giannini (76) overturned Ramón Calderé's 36th-minute opening goal for a Spain side coached by Luis Suárez.

• Spain levelled the aggregate scores with a 2-1 success in Valladolid a fortnight later, when Eloy (36) and Roberto (75) struck either side of a Giovanni Francini (38) goal for the visitors. Italy missed all three penalties in the ensuing shoot-out, with Ramón Vázquez converting the winning kick to inflict the Azzurrini's only U21 final defeat.

• The lineups for the second leg on 29 October 1986 were:
Spain: Ablanedo, Sánchez Flores, Andrinúa, Sanchís, Solana, Eusebio, Gallego, Roberto, Gabino, Eloy, Llorente.
Italy: Zenga, Ferri, Cravero, Francini (Carobbi 104), Baroni, Donadoni (Desideri 90), Di Napoli, Matteoli, Giannini, Mancini, Vialli.

• Italy turned the tables under Cesare Maldini in the 1996 final by beating Javier Clemente's Spain 4-2 on penalties in front of 35,500 at Barcelona's Estadio Olímpico de Montjuïc. The match had finished 1-1, with Francesco Totti opening the scoring after 11 minutes and Raúl González equalising in the 41st minute, five minutes after Italy's Nicola Amoruso was sent off. Italy had a second player, Raffaele Ametrano, dismissed in extra time but hung on with nine men to take the game to a shoot-out.

• Although Christian Panucci failed with his first kick, Iván de la Peña and Raúl were both off target for Spain, leaving Domenico Morfeo to finish the job for Italy.

• The lineups for that match on 31 May 1996 were:
Italy: Pagotto, Panucci, Cannavaro, Nesta, Galante (Pistone 120), Fresi, Ametrano, Tommasi (Tacchinardi 75), Brambilla, Totti (Morfeo 75), Amoruso.
Spain: Mora, Mendieta, Santi Denia, Sergio Corino, Aranzabal, José Ignacio, De la Peña, Roberto Fresnedoso, Idiakez (Oscar García), Lardín (Morientes 75), Raúl.

• In between those two final meetings, Italy also won a 1990 quarter-final between the nations. They beat a nine-man Spain 3-1 in the first leg in Ancona on 21 February, with Giovanni Stroppa (3, 78) scoring twice and Pierluigi Casiraghi (54) also registering before Fernando Hierro (88) pulled a goal back. Ricardo Mendiguren fired the only goal of the return in Logrono after 78 minutes but Italy advanced 3-2 on aggregate.

• The only other competitive encounter was a play-off for the 2007 tournament, played in October 2006 and won 2-1 on aggregate by Italy. After a goalless first leg in Modena, Italy prevailed in the return in Palencia, Giorgio Chiellini (25) and Riccardo Montolivo (35) scoring before Roberto Soldado’s reply for Spain on the hour.

Match background
• Spain go into the final seeking to emulate their senior counterparts, who claimed back-to-back UEFA European Championship triumphs in 2008 and 2012, winning the latter final 4-0 against Italy.

• Unbeaten in 25 competitive matches, a run which includes 23 wins, Spain are looking for a fourth U21 tournament victory overall after previous successes in 1986, 1998 and 2011.

• The only team to have won the trophy more times are Italy – victors in 1992, 1994, 1996, 2000 and 2004.

• Italy's overall record in U21 finals is W5 L1. Spain's record is W3 L2.

• Since the competition adopted a final tournament group stage format in 2000, no winning team have gone through all five games without conceding a goal. Spain have the chance to do this and should they prevail in the final, they will also become the first victors in that time to have lifted the trophy after winning every single game.

• Spain kept three successive clean sheets from the quarter-finals through to the final of the 1998 tournament.

• If Spain win, they will become the fourth nation with back-to back U21 triumphs after England (1982-84), Italy (1992-96, 2000-04) and the Netherlands (2006-07).

Team ties
• Julen Lopetegui was on the bench for Spain when they lost 2-1 to Italy in the 1994 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals.

• As coach of Spain's Under-19s he oversaw a 2-1 victory over Italy in the 2012 UEFA European U19 Championship elite round on 25 May last year. His Spain team went on to win the U19 title, meaning he stands one game away now from completing a double of his own.

• Fabio Borini was an unused substitute in Italy's UEFA EURO 2012 final defeat by Spain.

• Borini was also a substitute for Liverpool FC in their 2-1 Premier League defeat at David De Gea's Manchester United FC in January. De Gea was on the bench when Borini started in Liverpool's home loss to United last September.

• Marco Verratti played in Paris Saint-Germain FC's 2012/13 UEFA Champions League quarter-final loss to FC Barcelona, appearing in both legs and playing against Blaugrana substitutes Cristian Tello and Marc Bartra. Two other Barcelona players, Thiago Alcántara and Martín Montoya, were unused substitutes.

• Isco and Ignacio Camacho helped Málaga CF take four points off AC Milan in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League group stage.

• Son of versatile former US Lecce and ACF Fiorentina player Mazinho – a 1994 FIFA World Cup winner with Brazil – Thiago was born in southern Italy.

Italy news
• Lorenzo Insigne has recovered fully from the ankle injury that forced him off against Israel on matchday two. The SSC Napoli midfielder played 85 minutes of the semi-final win against the Netherlands.

• The Azzurrini woke up late on Sunday before the players involved on Saturday underwent a gentle warm-down session. The rest of the squad trained in the afternoon at the team's base camp.

• Italy put up goalkeeper Francesco Bardi, defender Giulio Donati and Mangia to speak to the media at Sunday's press conference.

• Bardi is determined to make the most of Italy's opportunity. "The European Championship is a great showcase for us and we have to play our best," he said. "It is a chance that happens just once in a lifetime. It will certainly not be an easy game; Spain are the favourites but we will give 100%."

Spain news
• Should he play in the final, De Gea will make his 27th appearance and equal current assistant coach Santi Denia as Spain's most-capped player at U21 level. On the team's day off, the technical staff joked about organising a friendly featuring Denia and not De Gea to ensure the former central defender's record remained intact.

• Bartra and Rodrigo both sported new haircuts for the semi-final against Norway – shaved back and sides with plenty of hair on top.

• Lopetegui is eyeing his second tournament triumph in less than a year having led Spain to U19 glory in Estonia last July.

• With four goals to his name already, Álvaro Morata is two clear in the race for the adidas Golden Boot award. He also finished as top scorer at the U19 finals in 2011.

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