Now we have another game from what I consider to be the horrible side of the last 16 draw. This side of the draw has Italy, Spain, England, France and Germany in it which will make teams like Wales and Poland on the other side of the draw very excited. This game pits the winners of Group E (Italy) against the runners up of Group D (Spain). Not many people will have expected this game to come about as Spain were clear favourites to win Group D but a late collapse against Croatia condemned them to 2nd place and a much harder game in the last 16. Italy on the other hand did manage to win their group, pipping Belgium to top spot.
Italy actually had a pretty good Group Stage, the only blemish being a 1-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland in the last game but to be honest, they had already qualified and made 9 changes from the team that had produced 2 victories from the first 2 games so it is difficult to judge them based on that last game. Italy are my outside bet to win the tournament but obviously Spain are the current European Champions and a lot of people will be expecting them to see off Italy so it will be a very difficult game for them to get through.
Spain will be disappointed with their performance in the last game against Croatia. They managed to get ahead quite early and most people thought that they would see the game out as they usually do however, they kind of just fell apart. David De Gea had an awful game which you can't often say about him, just everything went wrong and Croatia managed to complete an unlikely turnaround to end Group D as winners. Spain will need to step their game up against Italy who are a better team than Croatia or they'll be sent home packing.
I don't think this game will be settled in 90 minutes, I think both teams are excellent defensively and will struggle to break each other down. Don't be surprised if this ends 0-0 after 90 minutes. I think Italy will choose the right moment to attack and nick a goal that will ultimately end up being the winner very late on. It will be a very interesting game that's for sure, especially from a tactical point of view.
This is an outside punt as both of these teams are brilliant defensively but this is tournament football and anything can happen. We have seen some shocking results so far in this competition so you can't rule anything out here, over 2.5 goals should have higher odds than usual due to the defensive records of both teams so it's worth chucking a couple of quid on.
Like I said earlier, I think Italy will win this game after 90 minutes have been played but in terms of a correct score if the game is won within the usual time frame? I'm still going to Italy, Antonio Conte has them playing as a unit and is an excellent tactician. Everybody knows how Spain will play and sometimes that can be a disadvantage, Conte will be tasked with masterminding how to stop Spain from doing what they like to do and I have faith that he can do just that.
The first half of this game is highly likely to be Spain trying to keep the ball and look for an opening, and Italy not leaving any openings. It could be a very long first half for the neutral and I think only in the second half late on when Italy have to attack to get a goal that could take them through will you see gaps in both defences. I think Italy can get the winner but if they go a bit too gung ho Spain could punish them.
Conte has a lot of faith in Eder and played him for the first 2 games in the groups that resulted in 2 victories. Eder also scored the winner and only goal in the game against Sweden, it was a very well taken goal too. He should start the game against Spain and he is one of Italy's only positive players so the pressure will be on him to supply the goals. He's done it already and I think he can do it here too.
There's been an awful lot of penalties given in this tournament already and I think this game could have one too. The Italians and Spanish know how to win a penalty and the referees in this tournament seem all too keen to give them. Not sure Sergio Ramos will be on penalty duty again if Spain do get one though.