Patience key for Spain against Italy
SAINT-MARTIN-DE-RE, France (AP):
Spain are pledging to stick to their acclaimed passing game to try to break through Italy's equally famous defence in the round of 16 of the European Championship today.
Facing one of the best defences at Euro 2016, Spain are vowing to stay patient and keep the ball to create scoring chances against their old rivals in today's match at the Stade de France.
"It's difficult to score and it's difficult to create opportunities against them," Spain midfielder Thiago Alcantara said. "It's a team that is well set up. They score few goals but also concede few goals. It will be a tough game. It's always complicated to play against Italy."
The two-time defending champions are hoping not to fall into the trap of changing their style and forcing long balls into the Italian defence if it becomes difficult to get near Gianluigi Buffon's goal.
"It's important that Spain continues to be Spain," coach Vicente Del Bosque said. "Italy have a solid team in every aspect. We've had problems against teams with similar systems, but, hopefully, tomorrow we will be able to do things well."
With Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta in command, Spain finished the group stage as the most accurate passing team at Euro 2016, completing 93 per cent of their passes.
Spain also finished with one of the highest ball-possession rates in the first phase with 61 per cent, against 48 per cent for Italy.