Preview: Italy, Spain meet for the fifth time in a row in the European Championship

AP , Thursday 20 Jun 2024

Defending champion Italy plays Spain on Thursday in one of the most anticipated games at Euro 2024. Spain leads Group B ahead of Italy on goal difference after both teams won their opening games. Croatia and Albania are the other teams in the group. Kickoff is at 9 p.m. local (1900 GMT) in Gelsenkirchen. Here’s what to know about the match:

Italy s
Albania s Rey Manaj, left, gets away from Italy s Riccardo Calafiori during the Group B match between Italy and Albania at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Dortmund, Germany. AP

Match facts

— Italy survived a scare against Albania when Nedim Bajrami scored after 23 seconds - the fastest goal in Euros history. A 2-1 come from behind win avoided embarrassment for Luciano Spalletti’s team.

— There were no such concerns for Spain after a dominant 3-0 win against World Cup semifinalist Croatia.

— Italy beat Spain on penalties in the semifinals of the last Euros after a 1-1 draw through extra time at Wembley Stadium. The team, then coached by Roberto Mancini, also needed penalties to beat England in the final.

— Build up to the last game in Gelsenkirchen - Serbia vs. England - had been overshadowed by concerns about fan violence. Eight people were temporarily detained following a brawl between fans. There has been less focus on potential security issues ahead of this game.

— Build up to the last game in Gelsenkirchen - Serbia vs. England - had been overshadowed by concerns about fan violence. Eight people were temporarily detained following a brawl between fans. There has been less focus on potential security issues ahead of this game.

— At 16 years, 338 days, Spain’s Lamine Yamal became the youngest player to appear at a European Championship in his team’s 3-0 win over Croatia.

What they’re saying

“Right now Spain, are better than us in terms of individual players. We will have to bring the Italian spirit into play; we will need to struggle together.” - Italy midfielder Davide Frattesi.

“I remember a friendly against Portugal before the last Euro and there was a part of the fanbase who weren’t happy and whistled us.... Now we, the media and the fans all share a lot of pride and ambition in what we’re doing. We’re all rowing in the same direction.” - Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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