Skip to content

Confederations Cup semifinal preview: Spain face Italy team looking for Euro revenge

Jun 26, 2013, 8:55 PM EDT

Italy's Buffon and head coach Cesare Prandelli attend a news conference ahead of their Confederations Cup semi-final soccer match against Spain at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza Reuters

The questions start with last summer’s Euro 2012 final and boil down to the same purpose – trying to determine how Italy can beat Spain. There’s always the Switzerland and United States model – sit deep, disrupt in midfield as the attack approaches the final third, hope fortune shines on your counterattack – but aside from that kind of low percentage play, is there any way the Azzurri can compete with the reigning World Champions?

In fairness to Cesare Prandelli’s side, it’s unclear anybody in the world can go toe-to-toe with Vicente del Bosque’s armada. Since shaking the monkey off their back in 2008, Spain’s swagger’s matched their talent, with only two teams able to meaningfully compete with the Spanairds without resorting to the sit-and-wait model. In 2010, Bert van Maarwijk’s Dutch side chose a deplorably cynical approach in taking Spain to extra time in South Africa, while Portugal may have legitimately outplayed the Furia Roja in the semifinals of last summer’s European Championships.

Along the way, Spain have claimed two major titles while coming to the verge of one of their last unclaimed trophy. So if Italy shouldn’t play like the Dutch, can’t play like the Portuguese, and probably won’t play like the Swiss or Americans, what’s left?

Courage, is what Prandelli might say. That was the value he espoused in the lead up to the Brazil match, and although Italy lost that group stage battle 4-2, they showed better than they did in last year’s European final. If the Italians can play with the same vigor on Thursday, they ‘ll live with whatever outcome befalls them.

The truth of this tournament is that outcomes don’t matter a lot. Yes, you always want to play your best, but nobody’s going to cry over having failed to claim the Confederations Cup. So if Italy can play with heart, stay strong defensively while executing going forward, they’ll live with the result. Building from 2010’s disappointment, theirs is still a process, once which culminates with next year’s World Cup.

Particularly with Mario Balotelli out, Italy may have to look for signs of progress rather than watershed results. That means getting a better performance in goal from Gianluigi Buffon. That means making sure the defense can plug the holes. Can the midfield compete with Spain’s dynamos? And is there an attacker that can show Italy need not be so dependent on Mario Balotelli?

source: Getty ImagesFor Spain, however, the results do matter, just as they always do whenever their first team players play. Any slip sends chinks into the armor of invincibility that’s be built despite their periodic upsets. If a team like Italy does go toe-to-toe, does compete with the armada, then there’s no reason Argentina, Germany, and perhaps Brazil can’t do the same.

Four-nil is the benchmark carried over from last year, but Spain doesn’t need to replicate that to maintain their perch. Nor do they need Jordi Alba, the left back who scored twice against Nigeria, to keep up his goal-scoring ways in order to build on what they’ve done. While it would help of Roberto Soldado firmed up his place in the team or Cesc Fabregas justified del Bosque’s selection, what Spain really needs is for Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and Sergio Busquets to play as they did against Spain. They need Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué to continue to be the ultimate insurance policies. And they need Iker Casillas to be the man he was two years ago.

If all that happens, Thursday’s game in Fortaleza should be similar to most Spanish national team games: Entralling but predictable – reaffirming the hegemonic state of the current soccer world.

Latest Posts
  1. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho supports Pellegrini in face of City’s struggles

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:10 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-CHELSEA FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-CHELSEA

    Jose Mourinho provided his backing for fellow PL manager Manuel Pellegrini, who could be terminated as Manchester City’s manager at the year’s conclusion.

  2. Bayern Munich president Franz Beckenbauer thinks FCB is failing in Champions League run

    Apr 17, 2015, 8:01 PM EDT

    'Erdinger-Talk 2013' Getty Images

    Beckenbauer on Bayern’s year-end winning aspirations: “They are far away, far, far, far away to win the Champions League.”

  3. Joe Hart: Manchester City players have “let down” Manuel Pellegrini

    Apr 17, 2015, 6:59 PM EDT

    Arlo believes Hat's mistakes have been too much of late but expects him to bounce back. Getty Images

    Hart: “[Pellegrini] has got principles that we work to, that we train to and, like I say, we’ve let him down…”

  4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s four-match suspension reduced

    Apr 17, 2015, 5:38 PM EDT

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint-Germain FC Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint-Germain FC

    PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic had his four-game ban reduced today.

  5. Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Burnley

    Apr 17, 2015, 4:50 PM EDT

    Everton Getty Images

    Preview of Everton-Burnley tomorrow morning: Can the Toffees extend their solid form?

  6. As exit to MLS looms, Steven Gerrard returns for Liverpool’s FA Cup effort

    Apr 17, 2015, 3:40 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

    Steven Gerrard will hope to exit Anfield with one last crown, an FA Cup trophy, and Aston Villa stands in the way.

  7. Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Manchester United

    Apr 17, 2015, 3:14 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League

    Chelsea and United do battle at the Bridge on Saturday. Watch it live on NBC and online at 12:30 p.m .ET.

  8. Brek Shea’s USMNT return includes a personal, artistic touch

    Apr 17, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    Shea Getty Images

    The US left-back appears to have returned to the national team picture after a prolonged hiatus, and he’s brought with him a special flair.

  9. Wayne Rooney may play in midfield: How will Chelsea, Manchester United line up?

    Apr 17, 2015, 2:10 PM EDT

    How will the Blues and Red Devils line up on Saturday? Here’s a quick gander…

  10. VIDEO: Top 5 memorable matches – Chelsea vs. Manchester United

    Apr 17, 2015, 12:20 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-MAN UTD Getty Images

    As two giants of English soccer collide on Saturday, here’s a trip down memory lane at some scintillating past encounters.

  11. WATCH: NBC Sports’ Premier League TV schedule – Week 33

    Apr 17, 2015, 11:35 AM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch every single PL game live during Week 33.

  12. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Red-hot teams will keep rolling

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    Fellaini AP

    Here’s how PST’s Lead Writer and Editor sees things panning out in Week 33.

  13. Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers warns Sterling, Ibe about shisha pipe, nitrous oxide incidents

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-NEWCASTLE FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-NEWCASTLE

    After alleged smoking of shisha pipe, inhaling nitrus oxide, Liverpool’s youngsters called into Rodgers’ office.

  14. MLS Week 7 preview: RSL vs. Whitecaps, Galaxy vs. Sporting KC in the wild West

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake

    The Western Conference is the place to be this weekend, as it so often will be this season. The East ain’t awful either.

  15. Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany could miss rest of the season

    Apr 17, 2015, 8:29 AM EDT

    Crystal Palace v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    City’s skipper could miss the rest of the campaign with groin injury.

  16. Injury crisis for Manchester United as four key players to miss clash vs. Chelsea

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:35 AM EDT

    VanGaal Getty Images

    Red Devils will be without four regulars for their trip to Stamford Bridge this weekend.

  17. Which Premier League players, clubs get the most abuse on social media?

    Apr 16, 2015, 11:16 PM EDT

    Twitter Twitter

    There are a lot of not-good people in the world, and unfortunately soccer tends to bring that not-goodness out of them.

  18. Jordan Morris, 20, wasn’t eligible for beer-sponsored USMNT Man of the Match award

    Apr 16, 2015, 10:06 PM EDT

    Jordan Morris, USMNT Getty Images

    Poor Jordan Morris. He scores the game-winning goal against Mexico, and a corporate sponsorship makes him ineligible for the MOTM award.

Featured video

PST Extra: Previewing Chelsea-Man United