World Cup 2022 qualifiers dominate the thinking of football fans this midweek but there is a UEFA Nations League match that will attract a huge audience. Italy and Spain meet in the semi-final with both sides confident they have what it takes to win the trophy.
It may not feature as high on their list of priorities as next winter’s World Cup in Qatar, but it is an important match for both nations and will prove an exciting spectacle for fans tuning in to the action live on television.
The Italians enter as Euro 2020 winners, having beaten England in the final at Wembley in July. That result was something of an upset as the likes of Germany, England, France and Spain were favoured for Euro glory before the start of play.
If they add this trophy to the Euro medal, it will ensure the side is one of the early favourites to win the World Cup next year. Everyone connected to Team Italy will aim to achieve just that, but to do it, they must defeat a Spanish side determined to bounce back from this summer’s disappointment.
The stats are perfectly poised, with Italy winning five of the previous 20 meetings, Spain on five and the remaining ten ending in draws. The most recent clash produced a 1-1 at the Euros when Italy went on to win 4-2 on penalties.
That two-goal draw means three of the last five games have finished 1-1.
Competitive match ahead
This will be the first match from the UEFA Nations League of 2021, and with teams involved in World Cup qualifiers while club seasons are well underway, fans would be forgiven for asking, what is the point? Do we need another round of fixtures added to an already packed schedule?
Followers of the sport will draw their own conclusions, but when the match does begin, those watching will be treated to a competitive spectacle. Italy will want to reaffirm they are the best team in Europe and in the running to be the best team in the world.
They will achieve that only by winning the World Cup next December but taking the UEFA Nations League and beating a major rival in the process would help boost confidence. Italy were last seen in this competition beating Bosnia 2-0 back in November in Group A1.
It was a predictable win for the Italians, but the players deserved credit for dealing with a potentially dangerous opponent away from home. Belotti broke the deadlock on 22 minutes that day with a goal from Berardi helping to wrap up the match on 68 minutes.
In the World Cup qualifiers, the Italians have drawn two of their last three games. They finished 1-1 at home to Bulgaria last month and then stumbled to a goalless finish away to Switzerland. Italy were victorious in their most recent outing, and they did it in style, smashing Lithuania 5-0 at home in September. Moise Kean nabbed a double in that game, with the other goals scored by Raspardori and Di Lorenzo. That set them up nicely for this semi-final match, and Italy enter with the wind in their sails.
Spain begin the fightback
Spain may have been eliminated from the European Cup on penalties by the side that went on to lift the trophy, but there can be no disguising the fact it was a disappointing campaign for them. The former European and World Cup winners were expected to make the final, at least, and they were also picked by the pundits to beat Ital pre-match.
The re-building has already begun with followers of Spanish football eager to see who the next star will be. The nation is in somewhat of a transitional period as the emerging talent aim to push out the former stars and prove they can be trusted. Winning the UEFA Nations League would certainly help them achieve that.
They certainly looked the part in their previous Nations League outing when scoring the most impressive win of the competition and one of the standout results in their recent history. Spain were last seen dismantling Germany at home, running riot and claiming a jaw-dropping 6-0 victory. The goals that day were scored by Morata, Rodri, Oyarzabal and a hattrick from Torres.
That was the best we have seen from Spain in a long time and, probably, the worst we’ve seen from Germany. Were the victors that good, or were the losers that bad? It may have been a bit of both, but we’ll find out more about Spain in this game.
Spain lost 2-1 in Sweden last month but got back on track with a pair of wins over Georgia and Kosovo, both without conceding a goal. They hammered Georgia 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier, then had enough about them to beat Kosovo 2-0 on the road.
A bigger challenge awaits here, but that strong Spanish defence will be eager to pull off another clean sheet and drive the nation to a famous win over Italy.
Italy v Spain prediction
Both teams are good enough to win this match, and with both likely to go on the attack from the first whistle, we should expect an exciting match. Three of the last five meetings of these sides have ended in a draw, including at the Euros this summer.
Like that match, there will be a winner in midweek with extra time and penalties available if required. The winner of this game will progress to Sunday’s final, with the loser appearing in a third-place play-off the same day.
When looking through the stats, we note there’s a trend that could be worth following. Six of the last seven games have produced fewer than three goals, and with another tense match ahead, we may see a repeat of that here.
Both teams will want to win the match, but they will be aware of the dangers of their opponents and the risks that come with abandoning defence and concentrating on attack in such an important game.
Nations League odds
The pre-match betting odds available at 22bet has Italy priced at 2.31 for the win, with Spain trading at 3.32 and the draw 3.136.
Make sure to bet on Italy v Spain with 22Bet!