At this point in the 2012 European Championships, every move that is made is going to be scrutinized ad nauseam. Spain was able to survive and advance in penalty kicks against Portugal on Thursday, but this match was a microcosm of everything the squad doesn't do well.
First, let's say that the Spanish squad has not lived up to its hype this tournament. When it started, we all pegged them as the head-and-shoulders favorite. As unsurprising as it is to see them take on Italy, there is something missing right now.
The biggest problem Spain has is playing a very relaxed, almost passive style that makes it easy for opponents to hang around, and will eventually lead to them losing a match that no one is expecting.
Part of the problem is with coach Vicente del Bosque, who keeps tinkering and experimenting with things. Using Fernando Torres as the striker to start the match was a move designed to fail, and sure enough it did. Del Bosque was able to rectify the error before it got out of hand, but it was a puzzling move for a squad that shouldn't be messing with things.
Spain was afraid to attack the ball or play aggressively on defense. This squad is so talented that it can get away with it, but for how much longer?
Italy is not exactly a surprise participant in the finals. It's not like this is some lightweight squad that has put together a miracle run; we know how good the Italians are when playing at the top of their game. For them to upset Germany with one of the best defensive efforts of the tournament speaks volumes about where they are at.
Though they may not be as talented top to bottom as Spain, Italy is playing better right now. In fact, the first time these two squads met this tournament, way back in their first match, it took some late heroics from Cesc Fabregas for Spain to get out with a draw.
Italy is not going to be intimidated in this match. Quite frankly, the Italians should be more than comfortable with their position right now. They have stared this juggernaut right in the face, and were able to hold their own.
Spain did what it needed to survive and advance. Against a strong, confident Italian squad that just upset one of the best squads in the world to get to this point, survival won't work for Spain anymore.
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