European heavyweights Italy and Spain clash in the first semi-final at Euro 2020 on Tuesday night at Wembley.
Italy, the standout team so far in the competition, reached the last four by beating Belgium, while steadily-improving Spain needed penalties to overcome a spirited Switzerland side.
The winners will play either England or Denmark in the final at Wembley on Sunday.
Italy not favourites – Enrique
Spain coach Luis Enrique does not believe there is a favourite for the game as he maintains his side are still getting better as they progress.
Their performances have been inconsistent and unconvincing so far and while that may have attracted criticism, the former Barcelona and Roma boss is unmoved.
“We arrived very confident and with room for improvement. Saying who is the favourite seems very daring to me,” said Enrique.
“Asking for a grade while you’re still taking the exam…it’s better to wait. The grade is the least of it. We are in the last part of the exam; we don’t want to know the grade until the end.”
Bonucci wary of the threat posed by Morata
The Spain striker has been the target for much criticism in his homeland due to his relatively poor form with two goals in five matches at the finals, a disappointing return for the number of chances he gets.
Italy captain Leonardo Bonucci has sung the praises of his Juventus team-mate, saying: “I’ve had to go through what he went through and I know what it’s like to read and feel certain things as well. He’s a great guy and a terrific footballer, a complete striker. He is one of the best centre-forwards in world football and we need to make sure we are switched on (on Tuesday night).”
Can Italy’s ageless defensive duo cope against a mobile Spanish side?
— Bastian Schweinsteiger (@BSchweinsteiger) July 2, 2021
Italy have the second-best defensive record behind England at the tournament having conceded just two in five matches and kept three clean sheets, thanks largely to the veteran duo of Giorgio Chiellini (36) and Bonucci (34).
While the pair may struggle for pace, they are able to rely on their vast experience – both have won more than 100 caps apiece – and the organisation they instil in their team-mates.
Spain have a mobile, multi-functional approach to attack which is not necessarily beholden to a central striker and Enrique will hope they can change the angles and open up space between Italy’s two great pillars in defence.
Harry Kane insists he was unaffected by his goalless start to Euro 2020
The England captain drew a blank in the first four games and was questioned in some quarters before returning to form. He struck the second goal in the last-16 win over Germany before scoring a brace in the 4-0 quarter-final victory against Ukraine on Saturday night.
A goal for Kane against Denmark would see him draw level on 10 with Gary Lineker as England’s leading goalscorer in major tournaments.
“It’s not so much about proving other people wrong,” said Kane.
"It’s about proving to myself again that I am as good as I can be, I can score at any level, I’ve done it at any stage. When you go three or four games without scoring, you want to score and put that to bed and at a major tournament it gets heightened even more but the fact that I have so much self-belief in myself and my team, I don’t really let that stuff affect me."
Denmark won the last meeting between the two teams
England are favourites to progress to Sunday’s final but the Danes claimed a 1-0 win against the Three Lions at Wembley last October in the Nations League in a contest where Maguire and Reece James were both sent off.
“We can use that meeting to make us believe that it is possible (to win),” said Denmark defender Andreas Christensen. “They have a lot of support but also a lot of pressure on them. I feel like we have the qualities to play against everyone. As a team, I would not say they are that much better.”
Stat of the day
Italy coach Roberto Mancini became only the second coach in European Championship history to win each of his first five matches in the finals after Michel Hidalgo, who won all five of his matches in charge of France in 1984.