NEWS
Sunday June 26 2016
Pirlo: 'Spain worried about Italy'

Andrea Pirlo believes “Spain are more worried” about facing Italy at Euro 2016 and sees “good omens” reminiscent of 2006.

The Euro 2016 knockout tie kicks off on Monday at 17.00 UK time (16.00 GMT) in Paris.

“This comes too early in the competition. Spain were supposed to win their group and then this would’ve been a great Final,” New York City FC midfielder Pirlo told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“It’d be the perfect way to take revenge in another Final, but you can do that in the Round of 16 too.”

The Azzurri were crushed 4-0 in the Euro 2012 Final, having drawn 1-1 in the group phase, but haven’t beaten Spain in a competitive match since the 1994 World Cup semi-final.

“That 4-0 result was terrible. We felt so fatigued and frustrated that we couldn’t even give it our best shot.

“We’re in the tough end of the bracket, but we’re used to it. Four years ago we had England, Germany and Spain in a row, but still reached the Final. Maybe that’s a good omen.

“I think Spain were more worried about this draw than we are, as playing against Italy is never easy, especially this current team.

“Spain are still the favourites, because they play the best football, but you can hurt them now. At Euro 2012 that was almost impossible.

“No side like Spain knows how to control a match. Of course, then it depends on what you call ‘the best football’ – is it better to be solid and efficient or a side that entertains? The best team is the one that wins and they are winning a great deal, especially at club level.”

Xavi said this week that Antonio Conte’s Italy are like a mix between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

“I agree, as they can defend as well as Atletico, but like Barcelona can attack in a super-organised manner with tried and tested movements,” continued Pirlo.

“Spain really do struggle when they don’t have the ball and, not having the same defensive organisation as us, they become more vulnerable.

“The 3-5-2 system helps us cover the pitch better and places a lot of pressure on those with the ball. History teaches us Spain struggle against three at the back, as shown by our group game in Euro 2012, Holland and Chile.”

Pirlo worked with Conte at Juventus, so was not surprised to see the unity in the Azzurri squad.

“It’s what I expected. By working with the team every day, Conte is able to impose a very precise identity on to the team. Organisation is key for him, so players come and go with no difference, as everyone knows what they are meant to do down to the smallest detail.

“The feeling you get when you play is that you can hurt the opposition at any moment, because what you worked on to the point of exhaustion really does pay off in a match situation.”

Is there something of the spirit of the 2006 World Cup winners in this Italy side?

“From what I can see, yes. I also spoke on the phone to Gigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi, plus others. From many little signals I got the sensation of great unity and that something important is being born.

“In Gigi’s eyes you can always see his desire to seek another chance and to dream, even something you could barely hope for. The face of Spain is Andres Iniesta, a calm man who is confident of everything he does.”

If Italy-Spain does go to extra time and penalties, who would Pirlo advise goes up first?

“De Rossi or Leo Bonucci, people accustomed to having responsibility on their shoulders.”