Two-time defending champions Spain meet Italy in a heavyweight last 16 clash at Euro 2016 on Monday, while Wayne Rooney’s England take on outsiders Iceland for a place in the quarter-finals.
Vicente del Bosque’s Spain face a monumental challenge as they target a record third consecutive European Championship title, starting with a repeat of the Euro 2012 final in Paris. After finishing second in Group D, Spain find themselves on the same side of the draw as world champions Germany and hosts France -- both of whom advanced to the last eight on Sunday.
Spain thrashed Italy 4-0 in the final four years ago and the Azzurri arrived in France without high expectations, but Del Bosque insists they still pose a formidable threat.
“We have a lot of respect for a very strong team like Italy. They are just as much favourites as we are,” he said.
“It will be a very open, hard, demanding game for the team, but hopefully we can continue in the Euros with aspirations to get to the final.”Spain striker Alvaro Morata is the competition’s joint-top scorer on three goals and La Roja have won all seven of their knockout ties under Del Bosque at the Euros and World Cup.
However, Italy coach Antonio Conte urged his players to defy the odds. “Nothing is impossible, otherwise everything would be too easy. It would be a shame to give up every time the odds are against you.”
Italy will be without Antonio Candreva because of a groin injury, with Alessandro Florenzi likely to replace him on the right side of midfield.