A place in the Euro 2020 final is up for grabs when Italy and Spain meet at Wembley in the penultimate round on Tuesday at 8pm (UK time).
The immaculately-dressed Roberto Mancini has translated his wardrobe panache to his team’s playing style, with Gli Azzurri sauntering to the last-four after firing through Group A in flawless fashion, before taking down Austria and Belgium with an identical 2-1 scoreline, the latter of which cemented their status as serious contenders.
Italy vs Spain odds with William Hill
- Italy to win in 90 minutes: 29/20
- Draw in 90 minutes: 21/10
- Spain to win in 90 minutes: 21/10
Spain stand between Italy and a place in the continental showpiece event. Under Luis Enrique, La Roja limped over the finishing line in Group E, before going the distance against Croatia in an eight-goal thriller and edging Switzerland on penalties.
Can Italy maintain their unbeaten run (now at 32 under Mancini) and return to Wembley? Or will Spain bring back the halcyon days of 2008 and 2012?
Italy vs Spain team news & possible XIs
In a devastating blow for Italy (and neutrals) Leonardo Spinazzola, who has arguably been the full-back of the tournament so far, ruptured his Achilles tendon in the quarter-final clash with Belgium and will miss this match. The 28-year-old will go under the knife in Finland and could be out of action for as long as six months, dealing Jose Mourinho an early blow as the new Roma manager.
Pablo Sarabia came off at half-time in Spain’s match against Switzerland, though there has been no confirmation as to whether that was an injury-enforced substitution or a tactical tweak from Luis Enrique. The PSG man’s replacement, Dani Olmo, may therefore be in line to start here.
Why Jorginho finds himself fielding Ballon d’Or questions
In 2018, Luka Modric dethroned Cristiano Ronaldo to seal the Ballon d’Or, thwarting the Portuguese’s duopoly alongside Lionel Messi on football’s most-coveted individual award, with the pair having dominated the ceremony in France for exactly a decade. Normality was restored the following year as Messi collected his sixth award, but the Ballon d’Or’s year-long sabbatical from either player’s mantlepiece was a refreshing reminder that football is more than just goals.
Modric was recognised for his achievements in helping Real Madrid win the Champions League and captaining Croatia to the World Cup final. Reigning UCL champions Chelsea have a player on each of Euro 2020’s final four sides, so at least one of them will go a step further than Modric (albeit not quite at football’s flagship international competition).
Among those Chelsea players is Jorginho, not someone many would typically expect to be fielding such questions on football’s most prestigious individual accolade. But here we are, thanks to teammate Lorenzo Insigne, who said: “I’m not the one deciding if Jorginho deserves the Ballon d’Or, but I hope he’ll be shortlisted. He deserves so, he is a great player.
“I call him the professor and we are all happy to play with him.”
Jorginho misplayed just ONE pass during Italy's 2-1 win vs. #BEL
◉ 71 passes attempted
◉ 70 passes completed
Mancini's Midfield Maestro. pic.twitter.com/FcsjYqiC9C
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 2, 2021
Jorginho said, “I don’t think about it,” when asked to respond to Insigne’s comments but although it’s outlandish to suggest he could win the award like Modric, a place on the shortlist is not as fantastical.
Chelsea’s press-resistant metronome has arguably been Mancini’s most invaluable cog this summer, setting the tempo but also impressing with his ball-procuring exploits, emphasised by the fact he has coupled the most completed passes among midfielders at Euro 2020 (364) with the second-most interceptions of any player (13), sitting one below, surprise surprise, club teammate N’Golo Kante (14).
With “the best centre-backs in the world” Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci (according to Germany immortal Bastian Schweinsteiger) behind him and a team that is “more tactically prepared than any other” (according to Italy immortal Alessandro Del Piero), Italy could very well go from World Cup 2018 truants to European champions in the space of just three years, thanks to Jorginho’s midfield influence and Mancini’s tactical invention.
He may not be in the same ballpark as Gerd Muller impersonator Robert Lewandowski, but Italy’s “professor” has been giving some of the finest lectures in the art of ball retention this summer.
Italy vs Spain scoreline prediction
Italy 2-1 Spain: Italy have looked well-oiled and well-drilled under Mancini, progressing to this stage in convincing fashion. Spain’s route, meanwhile, has been a bit Jekyll and Hyde. As such, we expect an Italy side sure of themselves, confident with the system in place and at one with the manager’s blueprint to come out on top against a rather hit-or-miss Spain team.