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. MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 0-0 Seattle Sounders

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:41 PM EDT

    Zach Loyd, FC Dallas Zach Loyd, FC Dallas

    A disappointing result for FCD, given Seattle’s lack of Dempsey and Martins, but a great one considering their early red card.

  2. MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Portland Timbers

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:06 PM EDT

    Vancouver Whitecaps Vancouver Whitecaps

    Three more points for Vancouver, who win it late on Robert Earnshaw’s Whitecaps debut. He scores for everyone.

  3. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 1-0 LA Galaxy

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    D.C. United D.C. United

    It was the late, late, late show at RFK Stadium, and despite being thoroughly outplayed, D.C. United go home with three points.

  4. MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 0-1 Sporting Kansas City

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:04 PM EDT

    Ike Opara, Sporting Kansas City Ike Opara, Sporting Kansas City

    Sporting KC get their first victory of the season, while NYCFC suffer their first defeat of the year — and history.

  5. EURO 2016 qualifying roundup: Netherlands, Italy rescue draws; Bale, Wales go top

    Mar 28, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    Gareth Bale, Wales Gareth Bale, Wales

    It wasn’t a great day to be a traditional European giant, but it was a great day to be Gareth Bale and Wales.

  6. MLS Snapshot: New England Revolution 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes

    Mar 28, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Kelyn Rowe, New England Revolution Kelyn Rowe, New England Revolution

    A dominant performance — and the three points to match — from the Revs…finally.

  7. Orlando City SC field a four-man bench due to injuries, MLS playing through int’l window

    Mar 28, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Kaka, Orlando City SC Kaka, Orlando City SC

    Think that MLS playing through int’l windows isn’t a big deal? Let’s ask Orlando City what they think about it.

  8. If you only read one story on Sol Campbell today, let it be this one.

    Mar 28, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT

    Preview Screening of 'Invincibles' Getty Images

    Campbell was capped 73 times, and is England’s second-youngest captain. Clearly he knows that, too.

  9. WATCH: Gareth Bale just scored a nice free kick for Wales… if you’re into that sort of thing

    Mar 28, 2015, 2:21 PM EDT

    Israel Wales Euro Soccer AP

    A win would give Wales a two-point lead in Group B with a game-in-hand on both Israel and Cyprus.

  10. Freddy Adu has joined a new club, this one in Finland

    Mar 28, 2015, 1:39 PM EDT

    CBMeXdCVIAAteBM-300x225

    The Canaries finished in 7th place last season in the Veikkausliiga, Finland’s top-flight.

  11. Klinsmann’s USMNT struggles, experimentation in friendlies: Does it really matter?

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:54 PM EDT

    Denmark Soccer Usa AP

    Should the States’ losses in friendlies represent anything other than a concern at the lack of US youth readiness for the big stage?

  12. Liverpool’s Glen Johnson linked with summer move to, January start date with Barcelona

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:08 PM EDT

    Liverpool Training Session Getty Images

    This likely comes as a surprise to Liverpool fans, as Johnson is widely treated rightly or wrongly as a scapegoat by Reds supporters.

  13. Klinsmann explains philosophy behind mad scientist lineups, formations for USMNT

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:37 AM EDT

    Denmark US Soccer AP

    Does the embattled USMNT coach have a point? I’m again bracing for the comment section when I say… I think so.

  14. Russia wants full points from match abandoned after Akinfeev struck in head by flare (video)

    Mar 28, 2015, 8:50 AM EDT

    Russia's Igor Akinfeev hit by flare at Montenegro, match later abandoned Getty Images

    Given UEFA president Michel Platini’s concerned words and warning about fan violence just this week, could he do something even more harsh?

  15. Marsch critical of Klinsmann’s experimentation, lack of USMNT “identity”

    Mar 28, 2015, 7:55 AM EDT

    Jesse Marsch AP

    The States are 1-4 in their last five matches, all four coming on the road (Colombia, Ireland, Chile and Denmark).

  16. Injury update: England likely facing Italy without Welbeck, Sterling

    Mar 27, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    England v Slovenia - EURO 2016 Qualifier Getty Images

    Both Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling will most likely be out of England’s friendly vs. Italy on Tuesday.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment