Formidable Spain favourites to beat Italy again

Reuters, Tuesday 25 Jun 2013

Spain, who crushed Italy 4-0 in last year's Euro final, meet the Azzurri again in the FIFA Confederations Cup semi-final on Thursday

Spain vs Italy
Spain thrashed Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final (Photo: Reuters)

Italy will hold no surprises for Spain when they meet in the Confederations Cup semi-finals on Thursday, defender Sergio Ramos said in assessing their first meeting since the Spaniards dished out a 4-0 hammering to win Euro 2012.

The odds look heavily in Spain's favour again. Unbeaten in their last 25 matches, Spain have only lost to Italy once in eight meetings since the 1994 World Cup finals, while Italy have also lost Mario Balotelli, their main attacking threat in this tournament.

He has returned home with a thigh injury, but Ramos said Spain still expected a tough test at the Estadio Castelnao on Thursday.

"We are playing for the final of a very important trophy with the dream of appearing in a great stadium like the Maracana," Ramos, a member of the team that crushed Italy a year ago in Kiev to retain the European title, told reporters at a briefing in a beachside hotel on Tuesday.

"We don't expect any surprises, We know them perfectly well and we know that they will make it very difficult for us. They have the experience, a very competitive spirit and they always show it even if their results against us recently have not been that good.

"I think it will be far more difficult than in the European final. We cannot relax for a moment, we want to win this Confederations Cup on Sunday, it is very important to us."

Fellow defender Jordi Alba, who has had a fine tournament and scored two excellent goals in Sunday's 3-0 win over Nigeria which gave Spain their third successive win here added: "Last year in Kiev we played the perfect match against them, in every aspect of our play.

"They gave us a lot of room and I am not sure they will make that mistake again, but if we stick to our game-plan, which has brought us a lot of success recently, I think we will beat them again."

Spain's preparations have been sullied by allegations made in the local media that a number of Spain players enjoyed a party with five girls after their opening 2-1 win over Uruguay on June 16.

The Spanish FA, in a strongly worded official statement, denied the allegations on Tuesday, while Ramos said if the story was written to destabilise the squad, it had not worked.

Ramos told reporters: "To put our reputation in doubt by inventing a story like this is very bad and I hope the law does what is merited.

"It is in the hands of the police. Our consciences are clean, we are not here to talk about parties, we are here to play our game which has made us world champions and champions of Europe."

Brazil face Uruguay in the other semi-final with the final at the Maracana Stadium in Rio on Sunday.

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