De La Fuente: ‘Italy like looking in a mirror for Spain’

De La Fuente: ‘Italy like looking in a mirror for Spain’

Spain coach Luis de la Fuente is impressed by Italy at EURO 2024, insisting tomorrow’s showdown will be ‘like looking in a mirror’ and they must ‘show the best version of ourselves.’

It kicks off in Gelsenkirchen on Thursday at 20.00 UK time (19.00 GMT).

As they both won their opening fixtures, then Albania and Croatia drew 2-2 today, this means whoever wins Thursday’s showdown will mathematically be guaranteed qualification to the knockouts and top spot in the group.

“Without a shadow of doubt, we are playing to win,” assured the coach in his press conference when asked if a draw might suit Spain.

“We always set foot onto the pitch seeking the maximum result, I would not know how to play any other way.”

Italy are the reigning Champions of Europe and started with a 2-1 win over Albania, but have also begun to change their playing style under Luciano Spalletti.

“The Azzurri are very similar to our own team, Italy has changed under Spalletti with many young players. We played against them in the youth tournaments too, they have a lot of quality individuals. It will feel a bit like looking in a mirror.

“Spain are improving as a team, so it is going to be a game of the highest level and very balanced.”

Rodri and Alvaro Morata picked up knocks in the 3-0 win over Croatia, but are passed fit to start, while Aymeric Laporte should be available on the bench after injury.

“I don’t need to tell you how important Rodri is for us. We could consider an alternative, but we didn’t talk about it, everyone is in good shape.”

Spain and Italy changed approach

While Italy have changed, so have Spain, no longer obsessed with possession and tiki-taka football, but now more vertical and direct in their approach play.

“A coach must recognise the qualities of his players and adapt. I wouldn’t call it a different style as such, we just want to make more rapid transitions and attack much quicker,” continued de la Fuente.

“Spalletti is a great coach. This tournament is not one game, it’s a marathon. France, Germany, Italy, England and Portugal all have great potential, it doesn’t matter how they played the first game. We must try to remain humble and continue improving.

“Italy are very strong in all international competitions, I faced them many times and tomorrow could easily be a European or World Cup Final. Italy have a great football culture, fine players and they were made to be competitive at this level.”

The coach remained tight-lipped on whether he would change the full-backs, central defenders or striker Morata, refusing to give any advantages to Spalletti.

“We have to match Italy for intensity and show the best version of ourselves.”