This Confederations Cup is getting a lot like Euro 2012, isn’t it? Chelsea’s Fernando Torres is top scorer (I’m not sure how either), ex-Manchester City maverick Mario Balotelli has had a tournament of ups and downs and Spain meet Italy in the latter stages of a competition that, like the European Championships last summer, has been pretty enjoyable.
And just like Euro 2012, Spain are going to beat Italy in a match that really counts by knocking their old foe out and booking a place in Sunday’s final.
The two nations drew 1-1 in their opening group game of Euro 2012 in one of the most entertaining encounters of the first weekend of the tournament and it was no surprise to see them compete in the final three weeks later.
But it was also no surprise to see Spain blow Italy away 4-0 in a sublime team display that encapsulated everything great about Vicente Del Bosque’s side and that gulf in class remains 12 months on.
That means the current world and European champions have to the bet in Thursday’s semi-final, although not at 9/25, which looks on the short side.
Having said that, the draw at 15/4 and the Italians at 7/1 don’t tempt me in – Cesare Prandelli’s side have forgotten how to defend.
It is very un-Italian (cue stereotype) but the Azzurri have let in eight goals in their three Confederations Cup group games and ten in their last four, which amounts to their worst defensive run for 37 years, so it is inconceivable that they can keep Spain out with that sort of form.
Even if Prandelli changes system to 3-5-2, as has been mooted, that won’t stop Spain and I think they way to get value here is the 5/4 that Del Bosque’s boys win to nil.
Balotelli, who has performed so impressively for club and country since moving to Milan in January, is ruled out with a thigh injury and given that he is by far and away the top scorer under Prandelli (with ten goals), Italy could lack cutting edge, especially if, as is looking likely, playmaker Andrea Pirlo also misses out.
And Spain just don’t concede goals. They haven’t shipped more than one in a match for 25 games and they have kept ten clean sheets in their last 13 competitive matches stretching back to Euro 2012.
They can make it 12 against Italy, so make sure you’re on the 5/4.