BARCELONA – Spain and Italy always invite you to take a look at the past. On Tuesday they will face each other at Wembley looking for a place in the final of the Eurocup in which it will be their third consecutive toss-up match in the tournament, solved with two successes for the Red and one, the last, for the Azzurra but that has a long history behind him and that in terms of official, competitive matches, it used to be negative for the Spanish team.
Since Spain won the Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1920, and until the 3-0 victory in September 2017 on the way to the World Cup in Russia, both teams have met in 37 games with an absolutely equal balance: 11 victories per side and 15 draws, with 40 Hispanic and 43 Italian goals …
But in the retina, in the memory of both teams there are marked and unforgettable matches to understand the meaning of this eternal rivalry.
WORLD CUP 1934: GOAL BY MUSSOLINI
Italy organized, and conquered, the 1934 World Cup under the fascist government of a Benito Mussolini whose encouragement to the team led by Vittio Pozzo passed to posterity: ‘Win or die’. And in order not to find himself in the dilemma, the one who would be Hitler’s great ally already before World War II prepared everything thoroughly.
Considered one of the great favorites, Spain defeated Brazil (3-1) in the round of 16 and met the Italians in Florence on May 31 in the quarterfinals. Luis Regueiro advanced to Spain within half an hour, Giovanni Ferrari leveled on the brink of halftime and the second half became little less than an indiscriminate hunt against the Spanish.
The duel ended in a draw and a tiebreaker had to be played … which the organization set for the next day and in which Spain could not count on Ricardo Zamora (the best goalkeeper in the world at the time), Ciriaco, Fede, Lafuente, Iraragorri, Gorostiza and Lángara, all of them injured.
The tiebreaker was sentenced by a solitary goal by Giuseppe Meazza at the beginning and certified by a Machiavellian arbitration by the Swiss Rene Mercet, who annulled two goals against Spain without any logic.
EUROCOPA 1988: VIALLI’S STAB
Eight years after the two had drawn in the group stage of the Eurocup played in transalpine lands, they met again on the second day of the tournament organized by the old West Germany. The Spain of the Quinta del Buitre, sentenced by penalties in the 1986 World Cup by Belgium in the quarterfinals, started happily by beating Laudrup’s Denmark (3-2) and a tied against Italy, on the second day, ventured almost definitive to qualify for the semifinals …
And when the Red team led by Miguel Muñoz began to savor that tie that could even be a victory, attending to the repeated occasions of Michel, Bakero or Butragueño, a defensive imbalance left the ball at Vialli’s feet, who with a crossed shot marked the one that would be definitive 1-0 for Italy. That defeat brought the Spanish team down, eliminated definitively after losing the last day to the German hosts …
MUNDIAL 1994: THE BLOOD OF LUIS ENRIQUE
Quarterfinals of the World Cup in the United States. Clemente’s Spain, already deprived of command of a Quinta del Buitre which the coach removed from the plane to provoke a schism among the press that laughs at what happened with Luis Enrique, arrives at the meeting in Boston after crushing in the second round ( 3-0) to Switzerland.
Thrown and confident, she meets Arrigo Sacchi’s Italy who advances with a goal from Dino Baggio in the first half, equaled by Caminero at the beginning of a second in which the Spanish dominate widely … Until the end between unheard of and controversial in equal measure. In the 85th minute a deep pass from Fernando Hierro leaves Julio Salinas alone against Pagliuca, who miraculously rejects the Spanish forward’s shot before two new missed chances … And one against, in the 87th, resolved by Roberto Baggio after saving the desperate departure of Zubizarreta.
But there will still be time for more. For the controversy that no one who saw him could forget: in added time Luis Enrique goes to the auction of a cross from the right of Goikoetxea … And falls collapsed on the ground victim of a monumental elbow from Mauro Tassotti. The blood from his nose, his tears, his protests and indignation do not motivate the Hungarian referee Sándor Puhl to signal the clear penalty … And Spain falls.
Curiously, FIFA would sanction Tassotti with 8 punishment games, but no one compensated Spain for that mischief that went down in the cursed history of the national team.
EURO 2008: SAN CASILLAS
Two years after the fall in the second round of the World Cup in Germany and with the environment reignited since Luis Aragonés’s decision to remove Raúl from the national team, Spain and Italy (world champion) meet in the quarterfinals of the Eurocup, in Vienna.
The damn rooms, so many times an insurmountable wall, become a superb duel that ends without goals and leads to a penalty shootout that will be historic. David Villa opens with a tie and Grosso draws; Cazorla scores 2-1 and San Casillas appears to reject De Rossi’s launch. Senna and Camoranessi do not miss the third launch and in the fourth Buffon saves Güiza before Casillas saves Di Natale’s shot … And Cesc Fabregas transforms the final one to give the pass to Spain 4-2.
Broken the wall of the rooms and silenced the critics, Spain would end up conquering the title that gave way to its heyday …
EURO 2012: THE GLORY
Together in group C of the first phase, Spain and Italy make their debut in the tournament drawing in Poznan. Spain, current world champion under the command of Vicente del Bosque, beats in the quarterfinals of France (2-0) and in the semifinals to Portugal of Cristiano Ronaldo in the penalty shootout while Italy of Prandelli reaches the final by winning from the 11 meters also to England in the quarterfinals and to Germany 2-1.
The final in Kiev is served and there the Spanish outrage, as unexpected as it is sensational, is reflected in the 4-0 win of the match. David Silva and Jordi Alba score in the first half; Fernando Torres and Juan Mata sentenced in the final stretch of the second to give the title to Spain.
Busquets and Alba; Bonucci and Chiellini saw each other that afternoon, as they would four years later … And as they will this Tuesday in London.
EURO 2016: THE END OF AN ERA
Shattered without palliative in the World Cup in Brazil, the European Cup in France has the flavor of farewell in the Spanish team, with Del Bosque in front and Casillas displaced to the substitution. Comeback by Croatia on the last day of the group stage Spain passes as second and must meet in the eighth against Antonio Conte’s Italy in Paris. And there, at the Stade de France, the Hispanic era closes with sadness.
A goal from Chiellini at half an hour and another from Pellé in added time sentenced the 2-0 in favor of the Azzurri, who will be eliminated in the penalty shootout in the quarterfinals by Germany, and the fall of a Spain in which A new, and after all, turbulent stage with Lopetegui will begin before the arrival on the bench of Luis Enrique.