Day 16 preview
Having seen three unexpected results in a row (none more so than Russia’s victory over the Netherlands), one might be tempted to expect the unexpected again tonight. Spain have been one of the better footballing teams so far in the tournament. But as we saw with the Netherlands, scoring 9 goals and getting maximum points from your group games count for nothing when we’re down to the nitty gritty.
There is an interesting dynamic here. It’s the current world champions, struggling to get their act together until their final group game (albeit against a dismal France squad) versus the nearly-men in Spain. With just one tournament win in their history (and that being 1964 knockout tournament held in Spain), they have been often tipped for glory but failed catastrophically.
This year they are widely thought to be the best team in the competition and with the Netherlands and Portugal out of the way, many are saying the way is clear for them to achieve the greatest victory in their history.
Add to that the fact that Italy are without their midfield schemer Andrea Pirlo (and to lesser effect Gennaro Gattuso) and will have a weakened defence with 35 year old Christian Panucci set to pair with Girogio Chiellini in the center of defence against David Villa and Fernando Torres, and the scene seems set.
Italy will be up against it but they have improved as the tournament has gone on. They are also notable for being better when little is expected of them. I’m going for Luca Toni to break his goal-scoring duck, a penalty shoot-out and heartbreak for Spain.
Prediction: Spain 2 Italy 2 (Italy to win on penalties)