Spain vs. Italy: Azzurri Will Pull off Impressive Upset to Start Group C Play

Alex Hall@@AlexKHallCorrespondent IIIJune 10, 2012

PESCARA, ITALY - OCTOBER 11:  Pablo Daniel Osvaldo of Italy during the EURO 2012 Qualifier match between Italy and Northern Ireland at Adriatico Stadium on October 11, 2011 in Pescara, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Spain is the defending Euro and current world champions of international football, which will make Italy's upset victory over them all the more impressive.

The Spanish are the favorite to win the tournament for the aforementioned reasons, and their roster is a who's-who of All-Stars, but Italy has quietly retooled itself into a legitimate contender.

New Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has dismissed the aging players that led to the embarrassing effort in the 2010 FIFA World Cup while developing young talent such as Ignazio Abate and Sebastian Giovinco in the process.

A victory for the Azzurri to start off Group C against the powerhouse of the division would certainly be an upset, but it wouldn't be a first by any means.

The last time these two national squads met on the pitch it was a 2-1 victory for the Italians in a friendly on their home soil.

While doubters in the Italians will point to the Spaniards' impressive 14-match winning streak as of late, the team has only defeated their upcoming opponents just once in their last six encounters. Another interesting stat brought to light by Bettor's Mujzi Moriarty is that La Roja has never defeated the Azzurri in regulation time.

The matchup that will determine who wins this bout will be if the Spanish can break down the always formidable Italian defense.

Not many squads could match up well against Pedro Rodriguez, Fernando Torres and company. Italy's unit of Juventus teammates Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and AS Roma's Daniele De Rossi is certainly one of them.

Torres, Rodriguez and the rest are some of the top talent in the world on the attacking side of the pitch, but Italy is fielding the best defense in the tournament with two 2012 Serie A champion defenders and the always reliable De Rossi.

Besides the talent they'll be up against, the Azzurri's biggest challenge will be shaking off their recent international losses to Russia and the United States.

They'll need to forget about the recent past and focus on the task at hand. The defense needs to be impenetrable while their hot-headed attackers in Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli can drive home some goals against arguably the world's best goalkeeper, Iker Casillas.

The Italians will frustrate their opponent with their stingy defensive play and will capitalize on their counterattack opportunities in order to grab an impressive victory in the first Group C game of Euro 2012.