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Aljazeera

Italy and Spain meet in a blockbuster first semi-final at Euro 2020 before an expected crowd of 60,000 at Wembley with Tuesday’s game the latest episode in a burgeoning rivalry between the nations meeting in a fourth consecutive European Championship.

Spain won on penalties in the quarter-finals in Vienna in 2008 on their way to winning the trophy and then thrashed Italy 4-0 in the final in Kyiv four years later.

He incurred the wrath of many fans and large sections of the Spanish media for leaving Sergio Ramos out of his squad and picking no players from Real Madrid. The coach turned more heads by only picking a 24-man squad instead of 26 and for encouraging French-born defender Aymeric Laporte to switch nationalities and lead the team’s defence instead of Ramos.

More incredulity followed when he kept Sergio Busquets in the squad after the midfielder tested positive for COVID-19, showing a sense of patience he did not afford Ramos, who had missed much of the last season through injury.

Radio Marca described Luis Enrique as

“pigheaded”, adding Spain were “not cut out to win this Euros and we all know it”.

Coaches’ corner

Luis Enrique (Spain)

“We are leaders in ball possession [in the tournament] but they can also make use of it and enjoy the ball, that’ll be the first battle we need to conquer. They can adapt to not having the ball, they’ve done that in the tournament in certain stages but they’re more comfortable with the ball and stronger with it.

“We’re not an experienced team but it doesn’t mean we don’t have experience of the game. Many of our players have played at a very high level and are used to these games. I just hope we’re up to the challenge.”

Roberto Mancini (Italy)

“We know it won’t be that easy. We know that we need to produce a big performance because Spain are a top side. We’re in the semi-finals of the European Championship. And so it’s it’s very unlikely to find easy opposition.

“If Italy and Spain have made it thus far, it means that we’ve done very well. If we’re into the semi-final, it means that we deserve to be at this stage of the competition. So I think it’s 50-50 with regards to who has the tag of favourites.”

What’s next for the winners?

The Euro 2020 final on July 11 at Wembley Stadium against either England or Denmark.

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