For every player, a game of football is for 90 minutes, but for Di Natale, it is like the Dominos Pizza promise – “Delivered in 30 minutes!”. Always a substitute in the last 30 minutes and he delivers! The shocked Spaniards fought back and Fabregas scored the equaliser after just three minutes. Then it was all attack from either ends of the pitch with Spain in dominance. But thanks to the brilliant saves by Gigi Buffon, they couldn’t cross the goal line. Italy withdrew Cassano and deployed Giovinco thus bringing in fresh legs in the attack. In the final minute, coach Prandelli replaced Motta with Nocerino. De Rossi deserved special mention as he single-handedly prevented many attacks from the Spanish players. Chiellini was also strong on the left centre back position.
Group Stage: Match 1
Italy drew Spain 1-1
Goals: Antonio Di Natale (Italy), Cesc Fabregas (Spain)
Though Italy had beaten Spain when the two teams met last time, Spain were the clear favourites to win the opener in Group C. Italy went with a 3-5-2 formation as expected against the 4-3-3 of Spain. Italy had Buffon at the goal, Bonucci, De Rossi, and Chiellini as centre backs, Maggio on the right wing and debutant Giaccherini on the left wing, Motta, Pirlo,and Marchisio in the midfield, and Cassano and Balotelli as the strikers.
The first half was relatively slow and both teams had their chances, but none of them converted. Thiago Motta had a strong header from a Cassano pass but Iker Casillas blocked the shot. The second half opened to spirited attacks from Spain and Italy struck back with the same ploy. Though the ball was in the Italian half for the most part of it, the Italian players protected their goal like a flock of crows. Spain played the game with their tiki-taka short passes while each Italian player preferred to reach their fellow teammates through long passes. The first “sure-goal” opportunity for Italy was when Mario Balotelli had a one-to-one meeting with Casillas inside the penalty area, but his lack of speed in the last moment allowed the Spanish defence to intercept him. He was rightfully replaced with the experienced Antonio Di Natale shortly after that, and it brought the smiles for Italian fans. Pirlo gave a measured pass to Di Natale and he fired it to the Spanish goal.
This was a good result for Italy as everyone expected Spain to win this one. It leaves both sides with one point each from their opening game. Italy now plays Croatia on the 14th and Ireland on the 19th.