Spain's Del Bosque expects the "real Italy" to turn up
By Toby Davis
PARIS (Reuters) - Spain boss Vicente del Bosque is not expecting a repeat of their crushing 4-0 victory over Italy in the final four years ago when the two sides meet in the last 16 of Euro 2016 on Monday.
Spain destroyed the Italians in one of the most one-sided finals in the competition's history at Euro 2012 to clinch their second consecutive European title and reaffirm their status as the world's then dominant side.
Del Bosque, however, believes that encounter will offer few clues as to how Monday's match in Paris will pan out.
"I think that game was conditioned by a lot things, above all Italy were very tired," the Spain coach told reporters on Sunday.
"They were not the real Italy, the Italy they are now. I think they a lot better. They were really tired when they got to the final and we took advantage."
Spain's victory in 2012 was a brutal demonstration of their destructive passing game at its finest.
But a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then -- not least Spain's dismal performance at the 2014 World Cup where their group stage exit shredded their reputation as the sport's untouchable force.
Italy came into this year's Euros with few tipping them for success.
Yet with a squad full of ageing stalwarts and few stand-out talents, they have stuck to what they do best -- building a team around a rigidly well-regimented defence.
"They have a special way of playing and it's very effective," added Del Bosque. "We have to be careful about this, we have to be careful about their organisational style...
"There are not great differences between the two teams, we will see on the pitch who is better."
Monday's match will be the fourth time the teams have met in the last three European Championships and the sixth time in total, making it the tournament's most played fixture.
Spain hold the clear upper hand in their recent meetings, with Italy having not beaten them in a competitive match since the 1994 World Cup, when they won 2-1 in the quarter-finals, with Italy's coach Antonio Conte starting the match.
(Reporting by Toby Davis. Editing by Adrian Warner.)