Spanish stars Iker Casillas, Santi Cazorla and Fernando Llorente admit they hoped to avoid Italy in the Euro 2012 group phase.
The Azzurri have been paired with the reigning World and European champions as well as Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland and Croatia.
The opening game of the group will be Spain-Italy on June 10 in Gdansk. Click here for the full Euro 2012 fixture list.
“It is going to be the most difficult and important game of the group,” said Athletic Bilbao striker Llorente.
“We want to defend our title, but start off straight away with a very tough match.”
Italy beat Spain 2-1 in an August friendly and these sides needed penalties to separate them in the Euro 2008 quarter-finals.
“We are the trophy holders and start out as favourites, but having said that, there are plenty of obstacles that complicate our path,” added Malaga star Cazorla.
“Above all the opening game is extremely difficult, but to beat Italy straight away would give us great confidence.”
Real Madrid and Spain goalkeeper Casillas is already sure the Spaniards will impress in Ukraine and Poland.
“We have great respect for our opponents and it’s certainly not an easy group. I expect a fantastic competition with many teams at the top level.”
Opening Euro 2012 with this match might seem unlucky, but the Italian media point out June 10 brings good fortune.
On June 10, 1968 Italy beat Yugoslavia to win the European Championship for the first and only time. Gigi Riva and Pietro Anastasi scored in the 2-0 Final triumph in Rome.
Going even further back, the Azzurri also won the 1934 World Cup on June 10, squeezing past Czechoslovakia 2-1 in extra time.