Spain vs. Italy: Key Storylines to Watch in 2013 Confederations Cup Semifinal

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2013

KIEV, UKRAINE - JULY 01:  Fernando Torres of Spain is tackled by Andrea Barzagli of Italy during the UEFA EURO 2012 final match between Spain and Italy at the Olympic Stadium on July 1, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
Martin Rose/Getty Images

European giants collide on Thursday when Italy and Spain meet in the semifinal of the 2013 Confederations Cup.

These two sides are very familiar with each other, given their history at international tournaments, and last met competitively at the 2012 European Championships.

Spain got here by finishing with nine points and first place in Group B. Italy lost their last match to Brazil, thus finishing second in Group A.

La Roja look as dominant as they have in years and will be the prohibitive favorite. Italy do have a chance to win if everything goes right.

Here are three storylines worth watching.


Will Italy Avenge Their Euro 2012 Loss?

The scoreline might have been 4-0, but the Euro 2012 final was a thrilling game. It followed what had been the most entertaining match of the group stage, the 1-1 draw between Italy and Spain. Seeing these countries meet is a joy for any football fan, but the matchup has gotten a bit one-sided.

The Italian Under-21 team even lost to the Spain U-21s at the 2013 Under-21 European Championship.

Cesare Prandelli played a more pragmatic style in the 1-1 draw last year. He was happy to sit back and let Spain run right at Italy, and it almost worked. In the second match, he tried to have Italy go toe-to-toe with Spain, and it backfired in a big way.

Exactly what he'll do in this semifinal is up in the air. Spain are only using Sergio Busquets to shield the back four, rather than Busquets and Xabi Alonso like they did at Euro 2012.

If the Azzurri go right after Spain, they might have better luck this time. Then again, there is the issue of Italy's striker.


Where Will the Goals Come from for Italy?

Mario Balotelli is going to be out for the remainder of the Confederations Cup, per The Guardian. That leaves a big hole in the Italian attack.

Under Prandelli, Super Mario is generally well-behaved and demonstrates exactly why he's such a promising young striker. He's had a strong Confederations Cup up to this point.

In his absence, it's likely Alberto Gilardino who will get the call. Stephan El Shaarawy could also be a goalscoring option by running in from the left wing.

Whatever Prandelli decides, it's going to be hard finding goals without his best striker. The Azzurri have a very good midfield. Without the proper players up top, though, even the best service can go to waste.


Who Will Start at Centre-Forward for Spain?

Vicente del Bosque has started Roberto Soldado at centre-forward against both Uruguay and Nigeria. Fernando Torres got the nod against Tahiti.

Soldado scored what would prove to be the winning goal against Uruguay, while Torres scored four against Tahiti and one against Nigeria.

Del Bosque has a tough decision ahead. There are positives and negatives for both Soldado and Torres. Torres is on form right now, but this could be a good chance to give Soldado an extended run in the national team.

Then again, del Bosque could opt for a midfielder like Cesc Fabregas to play as a false nine. Fabregas would be able to drop a little deeper and mark Andrea Pirlo better than could a natural striker.

Any national team coach would love to be in del Bosque's position.


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