If Germany vs Portugal was supposed to be THE match everyone wanted to see, Spain vs Italy is the third most anticipated match after France vs England. Everyone is intrigued to see if Spain can overcome the loss of Villa and Puyol and use their experience at winning the last two major international tournaments to overcome their complacency at having done so. The other part of the intrigue – which Italy will show up? Will the match fixing scandal in Italy distract or incentivize this squad? We just want the real Slim Shady to please stand up.
Why Italy will win
- Buffon and catenaccio wil shut down Spain’s one touch, quick passing, possession based game.
- Pirlo is still the master at controlling the game from his deep midfield position and De Rossi’s versatility will provide steel either in central defense or further up the midfield.
- Mario Balotelli and Sebastian Giovinco complement the more mature striking skills of Di Natale and Cassano. They are all competent and skilled enough to take advantage of the uncertainty in the center of the Spanish defense to get a goal and leave it up to the defense to hold Spain at bay.
- Spain hasn’t quite figured out whether they can trust Torres or Llorente to get the key goals that Villa used to get. Additionally, Xavi and Iniesta are a bit off form relative to their past club seasons.
Why Spain will win
- Italy has had a terrible pre-tournament spell with the scandal and a thumping 3-0 loss to Russia the lowlights. The manner in which they gave up the goals to Russia highlights the fact that this is an unsettled Italian defense that cannot be counted on.
- Other than Puyol, Villa and Capdevila, the rest of the 2010 World Cup winning squad is here.
- The midfield which powers their tiki taka style goes eight deep, is the best in the world and has regained Cazorla who missed the 2010 World Cup due to injury.
- Spain knows they can’t start slow – they have learned their lesson from losing to Switzerland in the last World Cup.
- Fernando Llorente had a great season and Torres’ confidence level is rising following a horrendous season at Chelsea. The two of them along with Negredo, Pedro and Navas can replace Villa’s goals.
Pre-match prediction: Spain 1 Italy 0
Spain will score a goal in the second half and hold Italy off. Look for one of the midfielders to score – my money is on Xavi or Iniesta.