On Thursday night, Spain and Italy will go head-to-head in Enschede in the UEFA Nations League semi-finals, with the winners facing either hosts Netherlands or Croatia in Sunday’s final.
This’ll be the 40th time these two Iberian rivals have gone head-to-head to senior international level, with this article looking back at their ten most memorable encounters.
Italy 7-1 Spain: Olympic Games quarter-final replay 1928
Before the World Cup or Euros came to be, the Olympic Games was the most prestigious international football tournament around.
Football first became a serious event at the Olympics in 1920, with Spain picking up Silver Medals, beating Italy en route.
After also meeting in the first round four years later, Italy prevailing 1-0, the two clashed at the quarter-final stage of the 1928 tournament.
The match finished 1-1 in Amsterdam, meaning a replay was required three days later, with Italy running out 7-1 winners, featuring goals from six different players.
This remains la Roja’s joint-heaviest defeat of all-time, alongside another 7-1 hammering at the hands of England three years later.
Gli Azzurri were then narrowly beaten in the semis by Uruguay, before emphatically claiming bronze, demolishing Egypt 11-3; Angelo Schiavio, Elvio Banchero and Mario Magnozzi all scoring hat-tricks.
Italy 1-0 Spain: World Cup quarter-final replay 1934
Spain and Italy both made their World Cup debuts in 1934, with the latter doing so on home soil.
Dictator Benito Mussolini had pulled out all the stops to ensure Italy would host this tournament, so Vittorio Pozzo’s team were under serious pressure to win the whole thing.
In the first round, Spain caused an upset, ousting Brazil, while Italy smashed USA 7-1, setting up a quarter-final clash in Florence.
Luis Regueiro broke the deadlock for la Roja, only for Giovanni Ferrari to equalise and, with the score still level at the end of extra time, a replay was required the following day; imagine if those were still the current rules!
Just 24 hours later, Giuseppe Meazza was the match-winner as Gli Azzurri prevailed 1-0, going on to win the first of their four World Cups, overcoming Austria and Czechoslovakia to achieve this.
Italy 2-1 Spain: World Cup quarter-final 1994
It would take 60 years for Spain and Italy to meet again at a World Cup, once more clashing in the quarter-finals, this time at USA ‘94.
That afternoon in Foxborough, it was a tale of two Baggios, with Dino and talisman Roberto both scoring in a 2-1 Italian victory.
Roberto Baggio’s winner came just two minutes from time, rounding goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta before firing past a flailing Abelardo on the goalline.
Arrigo Sacchi’s side got all the way to the final in America, Baggio scoring all five of their knockout phase goals, but he was still ultimately the villain, skying the decisive penalty over the bar in the shootout defeat to Brazil.
Spain 0-0 Italy: European Championship quarter-final 2008
These two great Iberian rivals have actually met at each of the last four European Championships, with this sequence staring in Vienna in 2008.
As has been alluded to, Spain were winless against Italy at major international tournaments, so went into this quarter-final against the world champions as the underdogs and with an inferiority complex to overcome.
The tie finished goalless in the Austrian capital, meaning a nerve-shredding penalty shootout was required.
Both Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Di Natale were denied from 12 yards by Iker Casillas meaning, when Cesc Fàbregas sent Gianluigi Buffon the wrong way, la Roja had done it.
Luis Aragonés’ side then smashed Russia four days later before beating Germany 1-0 in the final, ending Spain’s 40 year wait for major silverware, kick-starting years of Spanish domination.
Spain 4-0 Italy: European Championship Final 2012
Four years later, Spain and Italy actually met twice at the Euros, first playing out a 1-1 draw in their group stage opener in Gdańsk.
Exactly three days later, having both come through shootouts en route, they would meet again, this time in the final itself in Kyiv.
At this point, Spain were simply unstoppable, running out 4-0 winners, the first, and so far only, team to ever score 4+ in a European Championships Final.
David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata all scoring as they retain their trophy at the Olimpiyskiy, winning back-to-back Euros as well as the World Cup in-between.
Spain 0-0 Italy: Confederations Cup semi-final 2013
Remember the FIFA Confederations Cup? No? Google it... it used to be fun.
Back in 2013, at the penultimate staging of the competition before it was abolished, Spain were seeking to win yet more silverware.
Vicente del Bosque’s team notably demolished Tahiti 10-0 in Rio de Janeiro, before facing Cesare Prandelli’s Italy for a place in the final in Fortaleza.
The last two World Champions played out a goalless draw at Arena Castelão, so to penalties it went.
This shootout was a showcase in how to take a spot-kick, with the first 12 penalties all converted,
However, Leonardo Bonucci then skied his effort high over the crossbar, presenting Jesús Navas with the opportunity to win it, which he duly did.
Three days later though, la Roja were unable to win the Confederations Cup for the very first time, smashed 3-0 by Brazil at the Maracanã, leading many to assume the hosts would win the World Cup the following summer.
Safe to say, this didn’t quite go to plan.
Italy 2-0 Spain: European Championship second round 2016
It’s the 27th June 2016; Italy and Spain are set to go head-to-head in the Euro’s round of 16.
La Roja are the reigning back-to-back Euro champions, having not lost a match at this competition for 4,390 days.
Antonio Conte’s team had topped their group, but faced this tough second round tie because Spain had not, with Vicente del Bosque’s team beaten in the last minute of their third group game by Croatia.
They would pay the price for this because, in the last 16 at Stade de France, la Roja were on the wrong-end of a Conte-masterclass, ousted 2-0.
Giorgio Chiellini bundled home the opener, after Éder’s free-kick had proved too hot for David de Gea to handle, before Graziano Pellè fired home the clincher in stoppage time.
Spain were finally dethroned, while Italy would then fall at the hands of Germany in the quarter-finals, with Simone Zaza missing that penalty in the shootout in Bordeaux.
Spain 3-0 Italy: World Cup qualifier 2017
Just four months after their clash at the Euros, these two would meet again, playing out a 1-1 draw in World Cup qualifying in Turin.
With only the group winners guaranteed qualification, the return fixture in Madrid 11 months later would be decisive.
That night, at the iconic Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Isco put on a majestic midfield masterclass, scoring twice and shinning throughout, before Álvaro Morata wrapped up an emphatic 3-0 victory.
This saw Julen Lopetegui’s team book their place in Russia, while Italy were condemned to a place in the play-offs, which would not go well.
Gli Azzurri were ousted 1-0 by Sweden over two legs, thereby missing out on the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, a fate they would remarkably then endure again four years later.
Italy 1-1 Spain: European Championship semi-final 2021
As mentioned earlier, these two have clashed at each of the last four European Championships, with this streak continuing at the semi-final stage in 2021.
Luis Enrique’s team had overcome Croatia 5-3 after extra time and then Switzerland on penalties, while Roberto Mancini’s men had seen off holders Portugal and then Belgium.
At a packed Wembley, Federico Chiesa and Álvaro Morata were both on target meaning, as was the case in 2008 and 2013, a shootout was needed.
Manuel Locatelli missed Gli Azzurri’s first, denied by Unai Simón, but Dani Olmo skied his effort over the bar straight after.
The next five spot-kicks were all converted, only for Morata to see his tame effort swatted away by Gianluigi Donnarumma, with Jorginho then booking Italy’s place in the final.
Mancini’s men would go on to defeat England in the final, ending the country’s 53 year wait for Euro glory.
Italy 1-2 Spain: UEFA Nations League semi-final 2021
As will be the case this forthcoming Thursday, Italy and Spain went head-to-head in the UEFA Nations League semi-finals less than two years ago.
Gli Azzurri went into that tie as overwhelming favourites, given that they had home advantage, had just been crowned European Champions and were unbeaten in 37 internationals, surpassing Spain’s world record set in 2009.
However, everything went wrong for the hosts at San Siro that night, with Ferran Torres bagging a first half brace, while captain Leonardo Bonucci was also sent off on the cusp of the interval.
17 year old Gavi bossed midfield that night in Milan, doing so on his international debut, becoming the youngest man to represent Spain.
This saw La Roja progress to the final, where they were narrowly beaten by France.
This week, Spain and Italy will go head-to-head once again in the UEFA Nations League semi-finals, so who will prevail at De Grolsch Veste?