Italy thankful to avoid a hammering from Spain’s deftly modern superstars | Jonathan Wilson

It quickly became apparent for the holders that this was about survival – but at least they kept the score down

Scorelines can be great deceivers. At half-time it was 0-0 but that made little sense. It didn’t make much sense it was only 1-0 at full time. There was one side playing deft, modern football and there was one clinging on. Because that side was Italy, and because of their history and reputation, the thought lingered that perhaps they could somehow see it through. They could not.

These meetings have become something of a Euros tradition. Spain beat Italy on penalties in the quarter-final in 2008, a game that, given their complex about the Italians, was seen as a pivotal psychological moment in Spain’s ascent to winning three tournaments in a row, and since then the nations have met at least once in every Euros. They drew in the group then Spain won 4-0 in the final in 2012, Italy won 2-0 on the day England lost to Iceland in Euro 2016, and then Italy put Spain out on penalties in the semi-final three years ago. Which perhaps justifies the Spanish paranoia about the Italian capacity to defy logic and find a way: Italy had won only one of their previous 11 meetings and yet had somehow eliminated them in each of the past two Euros.

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