Spain and Italy played out a 1-1 draw in Gdansk with Italy scoring first through Antonio Di Natale before Cesc Fabregas equalized three minutes later. Before the match there was a surprise with the Spanish line up as neither Torres or Llorente started, it was effectively a 4-6-0 formation with David Silva and Fabregas at times drifting forward. The Italians had their own interesting formation with Daniel De Rossi starting in a back three. They lined up in a 3-5-2 with two wing backs, the Italian defense found themselves marking no one at times.
As expected the Spanish started the match with plenty of possession and moved the ball around the pitch without making any clear-cut chances. Often they tried to play through the Italian defense but found that hard to do at times. They also were guilty of trying walk the ball into the goal. When a chance arrived instead of striking the ball towards goal a pass would arrive instead.
The Italians were more direct with their attacks when they did have the ball. Claudio Marchisio lashed a volley from the edge of the box straight at Casillas after half an hour and Thiago Motta saw his close range header saved just before half time. They kept the ball well and attacked out wide as the Spanish lacked width with so many central midfielders starting the game.
After half-time the match resumed in the same pattern with the Spanish keeping the ball but not creating anything. After 50 mins Balotelli had a glorious chance to put Italy ahead after he disposed Sergio Ramos near the touch-line. The striker ran through on goal but took an age to make up his mind and was tackled by Ramos as he bared down on Buffon’s goal. Manager Prandelli responded to that miss and removed Balotelli for Di Natale. It didn’t take long for him to make his mark as he scored three minutes after coming on. He was assisted by a wonderfully weighted pass from Pirlo that caught the Spanish defense out.
Spain didn’t take long to respond themselves as Fabregas scored the equalizer after some lovely interplay on the edge of the Italian box. Fabregas ran onto a reverse pass from David Silva. After that goal Silva was removed and Navas came on to offer Spain some much-needed width. Already they looked better as they had a new out let for their attacks. Del Bosque brought on Torres for Fabregas to offer a focal point for Spains midfielders. Soon after coming on Torres was through on goal and attempted to round Buffon but the keeper was up to the task and took the ball from Torres’s feet.
He had two more great chances but failed to convert them he saw his chip over Buffon just sail over the goal. Italy also had good chances to win the game when Di Natale attempted to hit a cross first time but shoot wide of goal. Marchisico also had a great chance after a great surge through midfield where he beat a number of Spaniards, after a one-two in the box he shoot straight at Casillas.
In the end neither side could find a winner and a draw would seem to be a fair result. Italy played well and Prandelli should be praised for not succumbing to the traditional Italian mentality of shutting up shop near the end of the match. His side still tried to find a winner and played some good football. While Spain played pretty much as expected and it will be interesting to see if they stick with the plan of playing without a traditional striker. Silva would have been asked to play in the role that Messi does for Barcelona but he often drifted wide and the midfield found they had no one to pass to in front of them.
Italy will be happy with their performance and Spain will be looking to build on this performance. A fantastic game to open group C that showcased two very different ways to play the game.