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HindustanTimes Wed,03 Sep 2014

Football

Italy hope to end Spain pain
AFP
Fortaleza, Brazil, June 27, 2013
First Published: 00:21 IST(27/6/2013)
Last Updated: 01:55 IST(27/6/2013)

Weakened by injury and chastened by the memory of a crushing loss to the same opponents 12 months ago, Italy have vowed to use their imagination when they meet Spain in Thursday's Confederations Cup semifinal.

The match at Fortaleza's Estadio Castelao is a repeat of last year's Euro 2012 final, when Spain cruised to a 4-0 win to claim an unprecedented third major international title in a row.

Having swept through the group phase at the Confederations Cup with three consecutive wins, the world and European champions were the favourites to advance to the final even before Italy's injury problems struck.

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Injury woes

Ignazio Abate and Mario Balotelli have both been ruled out of the tournament. Balotelli's early departure from the tournament with a thigh injury is a heavy blow, the Milan striker having emerged in the last 12 months as coach Cesare Prandelli’s most important attacking player.

Experienced Bolog-na striker Alberto Gilardino is in line to deputise. In the expectation that Spain will dominate possession as they habitually do, Prandelli has stated that Italy may have to do "something innovative" tactically.

Italian media reports suggest the former Fiorentina manager will deploy a compact 3-5-2 formation, with an all-Juventus back three of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonar-do Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli.

Spain have concerns over Cesc Fabregas and Roberto Soldado, both of whom had to go off due to muscle injuries. They trained apart from the rest of their colleagues on Tuesday.

Vicente del Bosq-ue must also choose among his three goalkeepers, having allowed Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes to play a game each.

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