For a third successive European Championships, Italy and Spain will play one another, in a repeat of the Euro 2012 final.
La Roja convincingly won that encounter 4-0, to seal a second straight European Championship title, after completely outplaying the Azzuri, who will be keen to exact revenge when the two teams face one another in the second round of Euro 2016 at the Stade de France.
In addition to meeting in the final of Euro 2012, which was jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine, Italy and Spain played one another in their opening game of that tournament, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
Whilst that was a tightly contested affair, whereby Cesc Fabregas cancelled out a Antonio Di Natale goal to earn Spain a point, the final was not. Spain produced an utterly dominant performance in Kyiv with goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres earning them a thoroughly deserved victory.
Prior to their games in 2012, Italy and Spain met on three previous occasions at European Championships. The first of those was a 0-0 draw during the group stages of Euro 1980, which was hosted by Italy, who ended the tournament by losing a play-off for third place 9-8 on penalties to the Czech Republic.
Following their clash in 1980, the two sides next European Championship tie took place in 1988. Gianluca Vialli scored the game’s only goal in the 73rd minute as Italy ran out 1-0 victors, before progressing to the semi-finals where they lost 2-0 to the USSR.
Subsequently, 20 years and four European Championships later was when the fixture next arose in the tournament as after their Euro 2008 quarter-final in Vienna finished in a stalemate after extra time, Spain won 4-2 on penalties. Buoyed by that result, Luis Aragones’ side went on to win the tournament, beating Germany 1-0 in the final courtesy of a wonderful Fernando Torres finish.
Therefore with the exception of the Euro 2012 final, in which Spain produced a master class to demolish Cesare Prandelli’s weary Italian side, there has been very little between the two teams in each of their other four European Championship games against one another.
Whilst seven members of the current Spanish squad – Iker Casillas, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, David Silva and Pedro – played in the Euro 2012 final, also featuring in that game were six of Italy’s Euro 2016 players – Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli, Daniele De Rossi, Leonardo Bonucci and Thiago Motta.
As such there is a real sense of familiarity between the sides, with another chapter in their European Championship rivalry set to be written at the Stade de France on Monday evening. Whichever team emerges triumphant from that game will then play the winners of Germany v Slovakia in the quarter finals.