Spain v Italy Confederations Cup preview
It all points to Spain beating Italy in Fortaleza tomorrow night as the World and European Champions march inexorably to a Confederations Cup Final on Sunday and a chance to complete a clean sweep of International trophies.
Spain’s dominance at club level may have been halted by Germany’s best this year, but that is perhaps just a blip and there seems to be no stopping the national squad sweeping all before them.
Coral make La Roja 2/5 to win in 90 minutes tomorrow (15/2 Italy, 10/3 the draw) and it will take a brave man to bet against a side who are now on a record-breaking run of 28 competitive matches without defeat.
Italy will be out for revenge, of course, still smarting from the 4-0 thrashing inflicted upon them by a rampant Spain in the Euro Final in Kiev exactly a year ago next Monday. But wanting revenge and actually having it are two very different matters and the Azzuri will gain no comfort at all from looking at Vicente del Bosque’s teamsheet and noting that, the absent Xavi Alonsoi aside, it is the same side that proved so superior to them last year.
What is more, Italy are not the team they were then, being without the injured Mario Balotelli and Ignazio Abate and perhaps even their inspirational midfielder, Andrea Pirlo, who has been nursing a calf strain.
Their defence, traditionally their strength, is now a worry, too. We are not used to seeing Italy concede seven goals in two games, but they let in four against Brazil last Saturday and lived a charmed life when conceding only three in their previous group match against Japan.
It’s worth recalling the make-up of Spain’s starting X1 in the Euro Final. Cesc Fabregas played as the furthest man forward in what looked on paper to be a 4-6-0 line-up, although of course there were goal threats from all over the place, including from left full-back Jordi Alba, who scored the second.
Fernando Torres came on as a second half substitute and quickly notched a third, but if Spain have a weakness – and this is nitpicking – it is that their forwards aren’t as brilliant as their midfielders. Neither Torres nor David Villa are quite the dynamic strikers they were, while Roberto Soldado has hardly set this tournament alight so far.
So the likes of Fabregas (5/1 with Coral to score first or last), David Silva (6/1) and the sublime Andres Iniesta (8/1) are perhaps just as likely to get on the scoresheet as whoever starts up front.
Italy are by no means a poor side and have made a habit of sticking it up to their critics when they look down and out, but even so it is hard to see beyond another Spain victory, maybe by two goals – Coral go 6/1 2-0 and 11/1 3-1.
Written by Jon Freeman