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Spain set to test Azzuri defence

Latest update : 2008-06-22

Spain, who competed well in the first round, has everything to lose against a pumped-up Italy in the last quarter-final game of the Euro 2008.

 

Click here to see all results and comments from our Observers.

 

 

VIENNA - Sporting flashy sunglasses and the vivid blue of Italy or red and yellow of Spain, thousands of Mediterranean soccer fans arrived in scorching Vienna on Sunday and immediately rushed for the shade.

 

Spain will play world champions Italy in the last of Euro 2008's quarter-finals hoping to join Germany, Turkey and Russia in the semi-finals and settle some old scores.

 

"Arrivederci, arrivederci," a large group of Spanish fans, including some dressed as matadors, sung cheerily to their Italian rivals on a perfect summer's day with temperatures touching around 30 Celsius.

 

By Vienna's historic Spanish Riding School, where the Austrian Empire once trained its war stallions for battle, Spanish fans steeled themselves for their own soccer clash with chanting and flag-waving.

 

"Spain against Italy is a true soccer match," said Miguel Churiaque, 33, from Zaragoza.

 

"So often it hasn't gone our way in matches with Italy or in tournaments but this time I feel we can win," he added.

 

Austrian police are expecting up to 30,000 Italian supporters and 12,000 Spanish fans -- a more modest number than some of the huge crowds seen at the tournament so far.

 

They are also expecting a less "hot-blooded" mood than at Friday's game between Croatia and Turkey, when the Turks' dramatic win sent emotions soaring, although police kept control.

 

"The Spanish and the Italians are like brothers. We like partying not fighting," said Churiaque.

 

Only half the number of police working on the day of the Croatia versus Turkey match will be on duty on Sunday.

 

 

 

STAGE FRIGHT

 

Apart from their victory at the 1964 European Championship and the 1992 Olympic Games, both of which came on home soil, Spain's record in major tournaments makes for miserable reading, as stage fright seems to seize the "seleccion".

 

"Italians have had a lot of luck but that is about to change," said Ignacio Solano, 28, from Burgos, praising the capabilities of Spain's current team.

 

Italians were slow to arrive in central Vienna but are expected to outnumber the Spanish at the stadium.

 

"There are a few too many Spanish at the moment but we all get on well," said Emmanuele Boscherini, 23, from Cesena, walking through a street filled with Spanish fans.

 

"Italy started this tournament badly," he said, referring to Italy's 3-0 defeat to Netherlands and lacklustre 1-1 draw with Romania at the group stage.

 

"But we will come good in the end."

Date created : 2008-06-22

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