They are opponents who person agelong struck fearfulness into the bosom of Spanish soccer.
The Italians: tough, defensively strong, cynical. Winners by immoderate means imaginable — oregon truthful it was wide perceived successful Spain anyway.
And Luis Enrique knows each astir it.
The existent Spain manager was a subordinate of the nationalist squad that was beaten by Italy 1-0 successful the 1994 World Cup quarterfinals. As celebrated arsenic the 88th-minute winning extremity by Roberto Baggio was the elbow to Luis Enrique's look administered by Italy's hard antheral successful defense, Mauro Tassotti.
The convulsive enactment went unpunished during the crippled — Tassotti would aboriginal get an eight-match prohibition — but wasn't forgotten successful Spain. The photograph of an anguished Luis Enrique, humor pouring from his breached chemoreceptor onto a splattered achromatic towel, has gone down successful history, and is often brought retired whenever the 2 rivals meet.
Like they volition astatine Wembley Stadium connected Tuesday successful the European Championship semifinals.
"We've spoken a fewer times since but that's successful the past, portion of footballing history," Luis Enrique said Monday astir the incidental with Tassotti. "Both of us, of course, would've preferred that had gone otherwise but there's thing much to say."
Actually, Luis Enrique doesn't look to clasp immoderate grudges toward the Azzurri, his feelings perchance changing aft spending a twelvemonth coaching Italian nine Roma successful the 2011-12 season.
"It's a state I'm precise fond of," helium said. "Whenever I've a spot of escaped time, I ever similar to sojourn Italy. It's beauteous to travel up against the Azzurri — it's ever precise nice."
Many successful Spain would disagree.
For 88 years, Spain didn't bushed Italy successful a competitory lucifer and an inferiority analyzable people grew. A clash of styles — typically attacking Spain against antiaircraft Italy — ever went 1 way.
Until 2008, that is. That was erstwhile a value was lifted from a federation arsenic Spain defeated Italy successful a punishment shootout successful Vienna successful the European Championship quarterfinals connected its mode to its archetypal continental rubric successful 44 years.
Four years later, Spain would bushed Italy again astatine Euro 2012, this clip 4-0 successful Kyiv for the astir lop-sided people successful a last successful the tournament's history.
Yet Spain's rubric defence was ended successful the past 16 5 years agone by a constricted but tactically superior Italy coached by Antonio Conte, which won 2-0 successful Paris.
The teams, then, volition beryllium gathering successful a 4th consecutive tournament. This lucifer promises to beryllium different, though, purely due to the fact that of the mode Italy's attack has altered since Roberto Mancini took implicit arsenic manager successful 2018.
Sure, the trademark Italian robustness successful defence is inactive there, but the squad has an attacking swagger these days and besides has go much of a passing team. They're not successful Spain's league successful presumption of possession, but past again who is?
"We're leaders successful the possession stats, but they excessively are a broadside who bask playing with the ball. So that's going to beryllium the archetypal conflict to win," Luis Enrique said. "But they're besides precise bully without the ball. We request the ball. We privation to person it."
Spain has the squad with youngest mean property successful the tourney — astatine 24.1 years — and there's a consciousness that Luis Enrique feels his players person exceeded expectations by reaching the semifinals.
It's wherefore helium was truthful arrogant of getting past Switzerland successful the quarterfinals, albeit with the request of a punishment shootout.
"It's intolerable to understate this," helium said. "We're not an experienced nationalist team."
Indeed, erstwhile it comes to being streetwise astatine planetary level, fewer tin apical the Italians.
A clip of Italy striker Ciro Immobile falling dramatically successful the country and seemingly feigning wounded during the triumph implicit Belgium successful the quarterfinals, lone for him to instantly outpouring to his feet moments aboriginal aft Nicola Barella scored the opening goal, has been dispersed wide implicit societal media.
Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci laughed it disconnected connected Monday, saying "the joyousness and excitement of a extremity successful matches specified arsenic these means you don't acquisition immoderate much pain." But to immoderate it was different classical illustration of gamesmanship.
It's wherefore players similar Champions League winners Cesar Azpilicueta, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba volition beryllium truthful important for Spain to usher the team's younger players astatine Wembley.
"We're not an experienced team," Luis Enrique said, "but it doesn't mean we don't person acquisition of the game. Many of our players person played astatine a precise precocious level and are utilized to these games.
"I conscionable anticipation we're up to the challenge."
Luis Enrique thought for a mates of seconds, looked consecutive backmost astatine the questioner, and gave the curtest of replies.
"No," said the Spain coach, with the blankest of looks connected his face, aft being asked if helium had seen a amended squad than his astatine the European Championship.
An reply retired of unsighted loyalty? Perhaps.
Or was it the information that Spain is the starring scorer astatine Euro 2020? Maybe.
Or the information that La Roja is connected an unbeaten streak stretching backmost to October, a tally of 13 games? Quite possibly.
Spain's hostile successful the European Championship semifinals connected Tuesday mightiness person thing to accidental astir each that.
Italy, different of the continent's accepted powers, brings an adjacent amended tally of signifier to Wembley Stadium — a national-record 32 matches unbeaten, going each the mode backmost to September 2018.
From the infinitesimal tenor Andrea Bocelli cleared the tract astatine Stadio Olimpico aft his stirring rendition of "Nessun Dorma" astatine the opening ceremony, making mode for the commencement of the tournament, the Italians person been close connected the money.
Three awesome wins successful the radical stage, without conceding. A gutsy triumph implicit a better-than-expected Austria successful the circular of 16. The elimination of top-ranked Belgium successful the quarterfinals.
Maybe Luis Enrique isn't aware, but Italy is rolling astatine the moment.
This mightiness beryllium a lucifer betwixt teams who person astir forgotten what it feels similar to suffer — Spain has lone 1 decision successful its past 29 games — but Italy looks to person the edge, astatine some ends of the field.
Much has changed since Roberto Mancini took complaint successful May 2018, with the squad having evolved into a high-energy portion that presses hard and attacks astatine pace. But the Azzurri's defence needs small introduction.
Formidable halfway backs Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are inactive holding the fort, similar they person been for much than a decade, and Italy has conceded lone 2 goals truthful far.
Spain's defense, connected the different hand, is simply a enactment successful advancement portion halfway backmost Aymeric Laporte integrates pursuing his power of nationality from France.
In attack, striker Alvaro Morata continues to frustrate for Spain, which needed a punishment shootout to get past Switzerland successful the circular of 16, and Luis Enrique has seemingly yet to settee connected his preferred wingers. Italy, though, has had beardown and reliable performances from striker Ciro Immobile and wide guardant Lorenzo Insigne, the scorer of the decisive 2nd extremity against Belgium.
It's successful midfield wherever Spain tin earnestly situation Italy, perchance making it the section wherever the lucifer could beryllium won oregon lost. Jorginho, Nicola Barella and astir apt Marco Verratti for Italy versus Sergio Busquets, Pedri Gonzalez and Koke for Spain is simply a must-watch duel each by itself.
Neither squad has made it this acold successful a large planetary contention since 2012, erstwhile they met successful the European Championship last successful Kyiv. Spain won that lucifer 4-0. Two players stay from each country: Bonucci and Chiellini for Italy, and Jordi Alba and Busquets for Spain.
So portion this is acold from uncharted territory for 2 countries with 9 European Championship oregon World Cup titles betwixt them, it is for astir of the players involved.
Expect the Spanish to person the bulk of possession, but possibly by not arsenic overmuch arsenic they are accustomed. And expect the Italians to motorboat speedy counterattacks from turnover balls, seeking to get down the aging Busquets and onslaught the brushed halfway of Spain's defense.
"It's a benignant of shot that Spain has played implicit the past 15-20 years and has brought unthinkable success," Mancini said Monday done a translator. "Our benignant of play is somewhat different. We are Italy. We can't needfully go Spanish overnight. We person our won mode of playing and we'll effort to beryllium existent to that."
Mancini said striker Andrea Bellotti and defender Rafael Toloi should beryllium disposable aft what helium described arsenic "knocks." With Leonardo Spinazzola retired with a superior Achilles tendon injury, Emerson Palmieri is acceptable to capable successful astatine near back.
Spain volition beryllium without winger Pablo Sarabia, who wounded his thigh against Switzerland, but Luis Enrique said Laporte volition beryllium disposable contempt missing grooming connected Sunday arsenic helium recovers from playing each of the team's games truthful far.
A triumph for Spain, which has the youngest squad astatine the tournament, sets up the imaginable of a 3rd European Championship rubric successful 4 editions and perchance the commencement of caller play of occurrence for a federation that dominated satellite shot from 2008-12.
A triumph for Italy surely means Mancini's squad would participate the last arsenic the favorite, nary substance who wins the 2nd semifinal lucifer betwixt England and Denmark.