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Spain and Italy go head-to-head to deepen record rivalry over the euro

When Italy and Spain meet in Gelsenkirchen on Thursday, they will write a new chapter in what has developed into the most intense head-to-head rivalry in the history of the European Championship.

No two countries have met more times at Euro tournaments than the Azzurri and La Furia Roja – the Red Fury – who will face each other for the eighth time since 1960.

It will also be the fifth edition in a row that the two heavyweights will face each other at a European Championship.

For much of the country’s sporting history, Spanish fans looked enviously across the Mediterranean as Italy won four World Cup titles and the Azzurri battled the mighty Germans for European supremacy.

But of the three Euro crowns won by the two countries in the past four tournaments, two have gone to Spain, underscoring their rise as a football superpower, which also saw them crowned world champions in 2010.

In the most recent European Championship showdown, Italy defeated Spain in a nail-biting Euro 2020 semi-final that went to penalties at Wembley.

In a last-16 match in 2016, Italy won again when defender Giorgio Chiellini scored from close range and Graziano Pelle struck the ball in the dying moments for a 2–0 win.

But in their most important meeting in all competitions, Spain triumphed in the Euro 2012 final as Vicente del Bosque’s all-conquering team defeated Italy 4-0 in Kiev in what remains the biggest win in a European Championship final.

The stakes will not be that high in Group B on Thursday at the Arena AufSchalke. Spain and Italy both won their opening matches against Croatia and Albania respectively and look well placed to progress to the knockout rounds.

But if they finish first and second in the group, they could be on course for another meeting, this time in the final in Berlin on July 14.

Highlights

*Italy have lost just one match in their last 10 meetings against Spain in the European Championship and World Cup (W4 D5). The only defeat came in the 2012 European Championship final.

*For the first time in 136 games since the 2008 final against Germany, Spain had less possession than their opponents as they beat Croatia 3-0 in the opening match.

*This will be the eleventh meeting in major events between Spain and Italy – European Championship (8) and World Cup (3) – a record between two European teams.

*Alvaro Morata became Spain’s second highest goalscorer at major international tournaments (European Championship/World Cup combined) with ten goals, behind only David Villa (13). The 31-year-old also scored his seventh goal at the European Championship and only Cristiano Ronaldo (14) and Michel Platini (9) have scored more in the competition.

*Morata also scored against Italy in the semi-final of the previous edition.

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