NEITHER ITALY NOR Spain believe the absence of hot-shot David Villa will make a significant difference when the European giants open their European Championship Group C campaign tomorrow.
Spain may be missing their all-time record goal scorer but it is a small blow in comparison to the Italians, who have had the worst possible lead-in on and off the pitch with another domestic matchfixing scandal and a 3-0 hammering by Russia in last Friday’s friendly.
Villa — Spain’s all-time record goalscorer — was their main hero two years ago when they lifted the World Cup but misses this tournament as he is still recovering from a broken leg. But even without their star forward, winger Pedro believes they will not want for goals.
“David Villa is a very important player due to the goals he scores, he’s a very dangerous forward.
“But in the squad there are players just behind who are good finishers like (David) Silva, (Andres) Iniesta, (Juan) Mata or (Jesus) Navas. We’ll have to make up for all the goals David scores amongst the rest of us to go as far as possible in the Euros.”
Spain are not just missing Villa as centre-back Carles Puyol is also out of the tournament with injury. But Italy midfielder Thiago Motta says those who will come in to replace them are just as good.
“They won’t be weaker, they’re in a very good moment and over the last four years they’ve won everything,” said the Brazlian-born Paris St Germain player. ”They’re missing players like Villa and Puyol but others can come in and play at the same level.
“We need to concentrate on ourselves because they haven’t changed much in those four years. The important thing is that we do ourselves justice on the pitch and play with the desire we’ve shown from the beginning to win this game.”
Four years ago Spain were still the nearly men, the great under-achievers who despite generation after generation of great players, never managed to win anything. That all changed when they finally landed the Euro title in Vienna four years ago.
Italy centre-back Giorgio Chiellini suggested it was Spain’s penalty shoot-out victory over the Azzurri in the quarter-finals that gave them the self-belief to become a great team. Four years on and world champions Spain are undoubtedly the best team on the planet and the clear favourites to prevail again.
But Barcelona’s Pedro claims they’re unconcerned by the pressure and aware of the strengths of their rivals.
“We’ve always had this pressure to be the best in the world these last few years,” he said. ”We’re the favourites for those titles and how we won them. But there are great teams, starting with our first rvials Italy who have great players.”
Tale of the tape
Last August Italy actually beat Spain 2-1 in a friendly in Bari, although the world champions largely dominated the match. In doing so, they dominated possession, as they do against everyone.
However Italy may line up with a couple a reknowned ball-retainers themselves in Andrea Pirlo and Motta. But the PSG star says they will have to play a dual role of holding possession and winning it back if they are to compete.
“In the current era football has changed a lot from 10 years ago when it was thought that you needed two good passers (in midfield) and two other ball-winners.
“Now to be a good team you need these players to be good with their feet and on the ball but also to run hard to get it back when they lose it.
“In our team we have many players who have good feet, are good with the ball and know what to do with it. But the important thig is that when we lose it all 11 try to win it back as soon as possible.
“That’s modern football, it’s how Spain, Italy and Germany have changed their way of playing.”
Spain will face Ireland on Thursday night before Trap’s men face his home country of Italy.