As the two heavyweights clash in a repeat of the 2012 final we look at three key duels that could decide the contest…
1. Andres Iniesta Vs Daniele De Rosssi
Andres Iniesta may well be aptly compared with wine. For, as the schemer ages the better he seems to get. With an assist, nine chances created and a pass accuracy of over 92% the Barcelona star has been probably the most influential midfielder at Euro 2016 so far. Equally adept at short through-balls and long diagonals, Iniesta is the conductor of the Spanish orchestra. Italy’s success in this game will depend greatly on subduing his presence and that responsibility will fall on the able shoulders of Daniele de Rossi. The Roma man is one of the linchpins of this new look Italy side and he certainly has the experience and knowhow to trail someone like Iniesta. De Rossi was one of Italy’s key protagonists in their impressive 0-2 win over Belgium on Matchday 1 and the midfield strongman will be looking to use his physical presence, powers of recovery and impeccable positioning to come out on top in this mini battle. But, he will have to be at his very best to tame the Spanish ace. In most big games the midfield holds the key to the outcome of the match as a whole and this one is no different. Whoever dominates this part of the field is likely to control the flow of the match and these two stalwarts will battle it out in an effort to give their side the edge in the grander scheme of things.
2. Alvaro Morata Vs Leonardo Bonucci
Although the Italian back three defend as a unit, as the central defender within the three, Leonardo Bonucci will likely have several one-on-one encounters with Alvaro Morata. The veteran centre-backs are well versed with the rigid 3-5-2 system and Spain are shone of the big names they previously had in attack. So, Morata is their best bet upfront. However, even for all of their creative brilliance the Spaniards will find this Azzurri backline difficult to penetrate and it is imperative that the Real Madrid striker makes the most of his chances and leads the line well. The Italian defence lacks pace and the frontman will be banking on his back four and midfield to assist with quick counter attacks to exploit this weakness. Meanwhile, Bonucci will have to bring his wealth of experience into play to ensure that the opposition’s main forward has a quiet evening in front of goal.
3. Matteo Darmian Vs Juanfran
Wing-Backs are a key part of the approach for Italy and with Antonio Candreva missing through injury, Matteo Darmian, the man on the opposite flank will have extra responsibility to provide much-needed width. The defender has been solid in the tournament so far. But, he will need to raise his performance to another level as he will be confronted by the tireless Juanfran who is sturdy at the back apart from delivering pinpoint crosses going forward. The winner of this fascinating duel will have the opportunity to make a telling impact on the game.
Article by Khel Now-Content Editor Mrunal Nakashe. A sports buff, he’s also a foreign policy enthusiast and keen North Korea watcher. Mrunal loves gaming, reading, traveling and is a self-confessed Football Manager addict. You can follow him on Twitter.