Croatia are already in the UEFA Nations League final and on Thursday evening they will find out who they will face in the trophy match when Spain take on the reigning European champions Italy in a heavyweight contest.
These two nations are no strangers to winning big tournaments and one of them will get the chance to add this competition to their cabinet. These two met in the Euro 2020 semi-final when Italy prevailed.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the Viaplay Sports 1 channel in the UK with the build-up beginning at 7.30pm ahead of the kick off at 7.45pm.
Spain will be looking to use this week to bounce back from what has to be described as a poor World Cup campaign when you consider they exited in the round of 16 to Morocco. There was nothing necessarily wrong with losing on penalties but they were warm favourites heading into that tie. They didn’t really impress prior to that with a defeat to Japan either so there is definitely something for them to prove, particularly after their beginning to Euro 2024 qualification.
They were beaten by Scotland in their second match in their group for that, while was a result which might well have got the alarm bells ringing. They are a team very much in transition with the likes of Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos and Ferran Torres all things of the past. That makes this week a big one because if they can impress here and then whoever comes next it will give them confidence ahead of a big 12 months.
Since they won Euro 2020 on that night at Wembley Stadium just under two years ago things have not gone to plan for Italy. While Spain were bowing out in the opening knockout stage of the World Cup last year, Italy were watching that tournament from home and haven’t exactly begun Euro 2024 qualifying in positive shape having already lost at home to England so there is plenty for them to prove over the remainder of the week.
Much like the Spanish, this is an Italian side who are undergoing something of a transition but they will be looking to shake up from it quickly with their potential Euro title defence only a year away now. The positive for Roberto Mancini and his staff is that Italian clubs have had a good season in Europe despite losing all three European finals so there should be no shortage of big match experience for the former Manchester City boss to call upon.
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Spain will be without defenders David Garcia and Juan Bernat through injury while Nico Williams has also withdrawn from the squad for the same reasons. Perdi and Gerard Moreno also failed to overcome injuries and miss out.
The key for Roberto Mancini ahead of this semi-final is that he has his captain Lorenzo Bonucci back for this match. There is more of a presence up top as well with Ciro Immobile having recovered from injury earlier in the season to take his place in the squad.
We saw the opening semi-final go to extra time and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this one does likewise. Italy might be in transition going forward but with Bonucci back their defence looks back to how it should be and they have one of the best keepers between the sticks in Donnarumma to keep them in any game. Spain aren’t exactly clinical in attacking areas either so it wouldn’t take much for this one to turn into a bit of a stalemate.
It might be this one is a slow burner but the problem Italy have is how much of the ball they will see. They might have the most clinical forward of the two sides but that’s no use to anyone if he doesn’t see much of the ball. Both teams are in a bit of transition but with no disrespect to Croatia they might well see this as a huge chance to get their hands on more silverware which might also tighten up the natural path of the game. The draw at 11/5 feels like the play to me.
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