Holders Spain settle for 1-1 draw against Italy

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Holders Spain settle for 1-1 draw against Italy
Gdansk, Jun 11: Reigning champions Spain were denied a winning start against a tricky Italian side settling for a 1-1 draw in their Group C opening match at Arena Gdansk in Gdansk.

Barcelona forward Cesc Fabregas netted the equalising goal in the 64rd minute to cut-out Antonio Di Natale's opening goal scored just three minutes back. Italy looked dangerous on the counter attack as the Spanish failed to adapt to the usual 'tika-taka' football.

Vicente Del Bosque opted for an all-out attacking midfield combination of Fabregas, David Silva and Andres Iniesta. Chelsea striker Fernendo Torres came late on replacing the make-shift striker Fabregas. The striker who scored the winning goal four years ago wasted two clear-cut chances.

Cesare Prandelli chose three at the back, Daniele De Rossi, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci with a crowded midfield with five players ready to stop Spain settle down. Two forwards meant the Italians good counter on either flanks.

Spain began nervously against a well organised Italian midfield, giving away possession cheaply which allowed the Azzurri to power long diagonal balls towards forwards Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano.

Manchester city play-maker David Silva tied-up with Iniesta only to be denied by the crowded Italian defence. Fabregas came close collecting Silva's pass but was well wide. On the other hand, the 'Blues' began to have more possession in the middle and the long balls from Andrea Pirlo caused problems for the Spainsh back-line especially right-back Alvaro Alberloa.

Pirlo came dangerously close hammering a free kick towards the far corner but was denied by a brilliant save by the Reds skipper and keeper Iker Casillas. The Real Madrid keeper soon kept out blistering volleys from Cassano and Claudio Marchisio.

Pass maestro Xavi Hernendez partnered Xabi Alonso in the centre of the field but the two remained quiet for almost 30 minutes. After a long wait, Xavi found his Barca teammate Iniesta on the edge of the box, but the play-makers first touch was poor and lofted over the bar.

Despite all their experience, style and tactics, neither side could convert in the first half. But the second half saw the Spanish sticking to their rhythm and moved the ball with ease. With so many world class midfielders the Azzurri were left chasing the ball. Gianluigi Buffon had to make two good saves to deny Fabregas and a blast from Iniesta.

Though Spain continued passing, Italy did not look to play 'negative football'. Super Mario dispossessed Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, who mis-kicked a back pass meant for Casillas. Super Mario ran into the penalty box but waited for ages to have a go on goal which allowed Ramos to recover and slide the ball out for a corner.

Manchester City's controversial striker was substituted for Udinese Veteran Di Natale. The 34-year-old, persuaded to play in the finals, made an immediate mark as he avoided the offside trap to collect Pirlo's perfect pass and finished calmly over the advancing Casillas.

The Azzurri coach Cesar Prandelli's tactics worked wonders for Italy with the introduction of Di Natale but 'La Roja' got back immediately with sublime passing from their attacking trio. Silva flicked the ball inside the box to find Fabregas who lashed on a first time shot to beat Casillas.

The momentum shifted in Spain's favour, managing to keep possession despite the crowded Italian midfield. The veteran Italians were left chasing shadows.

Spain lacked an influential finisher upfront but Del Bosque opted Torres instead of the under-rated Fernendo Llorente. Torres was denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity by the clever Buffon. Few minutes later a clever one-two with Xavi set the striker open facing the goal but decided to chip it which ended over the bar.

Italy came close to hurt the European champions when Sebastian Giovinco found Di Natale inside the box but the veteran goal-scorer stretched completely to volley his shot just wide.

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