It is seldom that I support Italy, mostly because I have always been critical of their historical and cynical catennaccio style. However, contrary to what many think, teams do change styles, and the Italy of coach Cesare Prandelli is not a team that plays that way.
On the other hand, I have also been critical of Spain, while admiring their technique and possession, I have always felt they do not shoot enough, and the fact that they are the team ever to win the world championship with least goals (which is amazing considering that there are more games today), shows that they are simply not direct enough.
So I was kind of divided today, just until the match started, and I found myself supporting an offensive and motivated Italian side against a Spanish side that started the tournament bordering the same arrogance with which they started the World Cup in 2010 (when the defeat against Switzerland I think in fact gave Spain such a warning, that this led them to win the tournament).
This is not the same Spain though: while they still miss striking power, more so after missing David Villa (Fernando Torres is worthless), they are seriously weakened by the absence of the best Spanish player of the decade, Carles Puyol.
Italy started well against Spain, and should have been ahead in the first half, with notably Mario Balotelli missing unforgivably. In the second half Spain pushed forward though, but only seemed truly to wake up after Antonio Di Natale (who had come in for Balotelli) brought Italy ahead on an excellent through ball.
What shows that this is not the same Italy as before is that their marking or defensive style did not make them pull back and effectively defend their lead. In the meantime Spain's equalizer, by Cesc Fabregas, was an example of how efficient Spain can actually be when their passing game works out.
Spain pushed forward for the winner with a couple of good chances for Italy on the counter-attack in what was, in the end, a great football match.
1-1 works out for both sides, who surely will take their next to games lightly, and will hopefully be punished for it. Still, I would rather see Italy in the next round than Spain.