Home > EURO 2012, Travel > Spain v Italy – Four years on

Spain v Italy – Four years on

On Sunday, Ireland will play their first game at a European Championship in 24 years when they take on Croatia in Poznan. Meanwhile up in Gdansk in the same Group, Spain play Italy, a team they knocked out in the last Euros en route to the final. In that UEFA EURO 2008 final Spain defeated Germany 1-0.
Spain were worthy champions in the last championship playing a brand of stylish football based on crisp passing and counter attacking. In their six games they scored 12 goals whilst conceding only three. The only game they failed to score in was the quarter final when they progressed passed Italy on penalties following a 0-0 draw in a game I watched from the stands.

The tournament in Austria and Switzerland provided numerous memorable matches with impressive attacking displays from teams like Spain, Holland and Croatia. From the Irish perspective, we were only interested spectators but not participants in that finals. Four years on it is a different story. We were never in the running for qualification for EURO 2008 after some disastrous results under Steve Staunton’s managerial reign. However, let us not forget that it could have been Scotland and Ireland hosting the championships rather than Austria and Switzerland.

Back in 2002, the FAI had teamed up with Scotland in an attempt to host the tournament. Ireland were to provide two all seater stadiums with Scotland providing four. Who can forget the farcical scenes of UEFA officials being shown a stadium that they didn’t have permission to use (Croke Park), an empty field out in Abbotstown (the proposed Bertie Bowl) and a rundown stadium long past its sell by date (Lansdowne Road). Scotland, Wales and Ireland have recently put a bid in for the 2020 tournament. Let’s hope we do better with that application.

I watched Russia beat Holland in extra time from the impressive Vienna Fan Zone that occupied a 1.2 km long stretch of the city in front of the National Parliament, City Hall and Hofburg Palace. The venue had 10 giant screens, 80 food & drink stalls (selling Viennese “Krautfleisch”, picknickstangerl and official beer) and room for 70,000 visitors. It was an ideal location for fans to watch the match and enjoy the fine Austrian weather (in excess of 30 degrees on the weekend of the quarter finals).
The venue for the quarter final, the Ernst Happel Stadium on the River Danube, hosted three group games, two quarter finals, one semi as well as the final. The stadium, originally built in 1931, was renovated for the tournament with the capacity increased to 51,718 with the accommodation of temporary seating.

To be honest, it was a very poor game with little in the way of goalmouth action. It was a tight and sometimes tortuous quarter final with both teams seemingly unwilling to go on the offensive for fear of leaving space for the other team to exploit. The closest either team came to score from open play was when Gianluigi Buffon fumbled a Marcus Senna shot allowing it to hit the post.

In the shoot out, Buffon would save Daniel Guiza’s spot kick but Iker Casillas saved both Daniele de Rossi’s and Antonio Di Natali’s efforts. This set up Cesc Fabregas to score the winning spot kick as Spain progressed 4-2 on penalties.

UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland will be remembered for the exciting matches, good football on offer and late goals being crucial (nearly half of all the goals scored during the 90 minute play were scored in the last half an hour of the games). Whether we will see something similar in this year’s tournament, we will wait and see and we don’t have to wait too much longer now. Kick off is now only a matter of hours away.

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