After being sucker punched by the Republic of Ireland in their last group stage match, Italy are ready to bring back their big guns in a bid to turn history’s tide against Spain at the European Championship finals.
On a pitch that the UEFA admitted had suffered “irreparable damage”, an Italy ‘B’ team struggled against the Irish long-ball tactics and Robbie Brady’s 85th minute winner was enough for Ireland to pull off a major upset.
That was a big shock for the supporters as Italy’s display worried their fans that Antonio Conte’s men may not bounce back in time to face defending two-time champions Spain on Monday.
Napoli winger Lorenzo Insigne, who hit the post after coming on as a second-half substitute, insisted that Italy need to have faith that they can beat Spain at the Stade de France in Paris.
Asked about the eight changes made to the team that beat Sweden 1-0, he said: “It doesn’t matter who plays. This is a fantastic squad, were all in the same boat and we’re all rowing in the same direction.”
Conte left goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, defender Giorgio Chiellini, midfielders Daniele De Rossi, Emanuele Giaccherini and Antonio Candreva and strikers Graziano Pelle and Eder on the bench for the final group clash.
Vicente del Bosque’s men notably routed Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final, four years after the ‘La Roja’ beat Italy in a quarter-final penalty shootout.Spain are gunning for a record third consecutive European crown.
They will also seek a lift less than a week after a morale-sapping 2-1 defeat to Croatia that robbed them of the top spot in Group D and a potentially easier path to the final. For ex-Fiorentina and Italy striker Giuseppe Rossi, who now plays with Levante in Spain’s second division, Conte’s men can be confident.
“I think they will be favorites over Spain,” Rossi told Sky Sport. “It’s a major finals and everyone wants to win and show just how good they are. Italy always fight to the end, and when they need to score they always find a goal.”