Mark O’Haire’s Euro Tips – Italy v Spain
Arguably the standout tie of the Euro 2016 last-16 stage takes place on Monday evening as Italy face Spain in the Stade de France, a repeat of the 2012 final.
Italy v Spain, Monday 27th June 2016 (17.00), BBC1
Spain suffered a shock 2-1 loss to Croatia in their final group game despite leading 1-0 and missing a penalty. It was La Roja’s first defeat in the European Championship since 2004 and the defending champions are 23/20 to secure their passage to the last-eight with a win inside 90 minutes.
Italy have won just once in 11 games against Spain since 1994 – a friendly fixture in 2011 – and the Azzurri have been marked up as 16/5 outsiders to end that sorry record with a victory here.
Antonio Conte’s charges have reached the knockout stage of the European Championships for the sixth time in eight attempts since 1980 and trend followers will know, the last time the Azzurri topped their group in this competition (2000), they went on to reach the Euros final.
The Azzurri silenced their critics in the 2016 opener against Belgium, hitting their highly-rated opponents on the counter-attack and successfully defending their penalty area to clinch an impressive 2-0 success.
But Italy laboured to a 1-0 triumph over Sweden in their second match before a second string side fell to a 1-0 reverse against Ireland last time out.
Defensively, the Azzurri remain solid and stable. Conte’s troops have conceded just once in their past five fixtures but this isn’t a vintage Italian squad and going forward the team look a little toothless.
Italy are likely to be starved of possession against the Spanish, who’ve knocked the Azzurri out of the competition in their two previous encounters in the knockout stage.
La Roja Steady
La Roja fielded the same XI in all three group games but Vicente del Bosque’s boys weren’t massively troubled despite that defeat in their most recent outing.
Youri Djorkaeff is the last player to score against Spain in the knockout stages of the European Championship – 646 minutes ago – and that streak could well be extended here.
Not since the last-16 of the 2006 World Cup have La Roja conceded a goal in knockout football – that’s a run a 10 consecutive clean sheets with seven wins in 90 minutes, while five of the victories were either 1-0 or 2-0 correct scores.
The Croatia loss ended a 10-game Spanish winning streak in competitive encounters – all bagged alongside clean sheets – so keeping faith with La Roja is advised here.
The aforementioned stats that favour a Spain victory also lay strong claims for a low-scoring clash in the French capital.
And the first round of European Championship knockout matches have generally been cagey in recent times, with 14 of 20 quarter-finals since 1996 seeing fewer than three goals.
Since 2006 there’s been 59 World Cup and European Championship knockout games, with 23 going to extra-time (39%) and 14 being decided on penalties (24%). The average goals-per-game in these matches is just 1.97.
With the Over/Under 90-minute odds a little too skinny to get involved with, it might be worth venturing into a few of the sub-markets for a value bet to cheer on from the French capital.
Four of Spain’s seven knockout wins in 90 minutes since 2008 have been Draw/Win doubles and…
a repeat can be snapped up at 7/2 with a 0-0 first-half standing out at 21/20.
Spain’s defeat to Croatia should provide a wake-up call to del Bosque’s boys but La Roja have been one of Euro 2016’s most impressive sides to date and we should expect the defending champions to get back on track here.
Italy will defend stoutly but whether Conte’s men possess the nous and quality in attacking areas to compete looks unlikely and Spain should grind out another victory as they bid to three-peat in this competition.
Half-time correct score 0-0 (21/20)
*Prices correct at time of publication.