Sunday, 22 June 2008

[Euro 2008] Italy look to reach Last 4

Italy coach Roberto Donadoni knows that his side will be need to be watchful of the pace within Spain's attack when they meet in the last Euro 2008 quarter-final in Vienna on Sunday but he has urged his players to "enjoy themselves" on the ultimate stage.

Having conceded four goals in the tournament so far the Azzurri must next try to thwart the feared strikeforce of David Villa and Fernando Torres, who shared five goals between them as Spain won Group D with a perfect record.

Although Donadoni recognises the strengths of a side that beat them 1-0 in a friendly in March, he is confident Italy can build on Tuesday's Group C win against France by prolonging an undefeated run in competitive matches against Spain that goes back 88 years.

"We played Spain recently and they are a great side," he said. "They haven't always done well in big tournaments but this will spur them on so we must be just as motivated as them."

"They are not very physical but they have great pace. We've learned a lot from each other but you can't compare a friendly with the quarter-finals of a Euro. And we have our strengths too. The boys must remember to enjoy themselves, because to enjoy yourself you have to play well. If they do that they can achieve anything."

Although Donadoni insists the Azzurri will not alter the way they play, one conundrum looms large for the 44-year-old, and that is how to replace Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso.

Both AC Milan midfielders, who played so well in the defeat of France, are suspended for the match. Massimo Ambrosini should return while Pirlo's place could go to Roma midfielder Alberto Aquilani – a decision Donadoni will only make on the morning of the match.

Italy's only injury concern since their last outing is the knee problem that has ended defender Andrea Barzagli's tournament.

Spain coach Luis Aragones also admitted that he is in a quandary over team selection but for very different reasons.

While Italy lost their first group match and drew their second, the Spaniards have a 100 per cent record in the competition so far.

The same XI won their first two matches against Russia (4-1) and Sweden (2-1) before Aragones made nine changes for the 2-1 defeat of holders Greece.

On the eve of Sunday's contest, the 69-year-old insisted he had "no team in mind". He was, however, sure of victory.

"I am convinced we will win," he said, as Spain aim to put six European Championship quarter-final defeats behind them.

"I have no doubt that these players are ready to give 110 per cent. We have to think positively, and this side is doing just that. My glass is half-full and inside I am sure we are going to go through."

Aragones, who cited Fabio Grosso and Luca Toni as potential danger men, will be buoyed by defender Carles Puyol's return from a foot injury and now believes Spain can win the Henri Delaunay trophy for the first time since 1964.

"I believe that this squad can put an end to our problems once and for all," he concluded.

Source: UEFA

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