26 matches played, 8 wins each. Draw number 10 came a few weeks ago in Gdansk as Cesc Fabregas equalised Antonio Di Natale’s opener for Italy. Di Natale had only been on the pitch for 5 minutes before he scored, and Fabregas equalised just 3 minutes after Spain went behind.
Spain are currently on a run of 13 wins in their last 14 European Championship matches stretching back to September 2007. This game in Gdansk is their only non-victory in that period. Di Natale’s goal is still the only one they’ve conceded in this tournament.
Their previous meeting came at the start of the season when they met in a friendly in Bari last August. Riccardo Montolivo gave Italy the lead after 11 minutes, but then Xabi Alonso converted a penalty to level things up with 8 minutes of the first half remaining. With just 6 minutes to go, Alberto Aquilani scored the winner for Italy.
That win was Italy’s first since they met in USA ’94. They were drawn against each other in the Quarter-Final stage and goals from the Baggio’s, Dino and Roberto, gave Italy a 2-1 win
This Sunday’s meeting will be their 5th in the European Championship Finals. They were also up against each other in Vienna in 2008 again in a Quarter-Final stage. The game ended 0-0 after extra time, which brought penalties. This shootout was the story of two keepers as Buffon and Casillas saved 3 of the 9 kicks taken, but Spain went through winning 4-2.
They also met in the 1980 and 1988 tournaments. In 1980, the first expanded tournament, they were drawn together in England’s group. England and Belgium had opened up the group in Turin in the afternoon, with a 1-1 draw. Spain and Italy played out an utterly forgettable match which ended 0-0. Italy finished 2nd in the group behind Belgium, and through the lack of a Semi-Final stage, went to contest 3rd place with Czechoslovakia. Spain finished bottom as they lost to both Belgium and England.
In 1988, Spain had hopes of going one better than they had done 4 years before. Italy were just glad to qualify, having missed the 1984 tournament. They met in Frankfurt and Gianluca Vialli scored the only goal of the game in the 73rd minute. Italy finished 2nd in the group and went through to the Semi-Finals where they were beaten by USSR. Spain finished 3rd in the group. They’d begun with a win over Denmark, but defeats to Italy and then West Germany put paid to their hopes.
Their World Cup meeting in 1994 wasn’t the first time they had met in that competition. They played each other twice back in 1934. This was the 2nd World Cup and consisted of knock-out stages throughout, rather than a group stage. Italy had thrashed USA, 7-1. Spain beat Brazil, 3-1. They met at the Quarter-Final stage (again), and drew 1-1 in Florence. They played a replay the next day, which Italy won 1-0. Italy went onto win the trophy, beating Czechoslovakia in the Final.
Italy’s best win came in a friendly in 1942 when they won 4-0. Spain has never won by more than 2 goals and the only twice scored 3 goals in a game against Italy. In 1960 when they won, 3-1 and then way back in 1930 when they came from 1-2 down to win 3-2.
Having met 6 times in major competition, Spain’s win on penalties in 2008 is their only victory. They have still to beat Italy during normal play in a major tournament.