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The Numbers Game: Euro 2024 heavyweights Spain and Italy face off in group of death

Spain and reigning European champions Italy both won their opening matches at Euro 2024, and will now face off in Gelsenkirchen on Thursday.

But both sides endured differing performances in their respective encounters, with La Roja cruising to a 3-0 victory over Croatia to condemn their opponents to joint-heaviest ever defeat at a major international tournament.

However, Luciano Spalletti’s pre-match words would still have been ringing in his Italy players’ ears when Nedim Bajrami’s goal after 23 seconds gave Albania a shock lead – the fastest goal ever scored at the European Championships.

Yet two goals in five minutes from Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolo Barella ensured the Italians’ quest of becoming the second team to win back-to-back Euros tournaments after Thursday’s opponents did in 2008 and 2012.

This will be the 11th encounter between Spain and Italy at a major tournament, across the Euros (eight) and World Cup (three), a record between two European nations.

It’s the fifth consecutive European Championship tournament at which they’ve met going back to 2008, also a record.

Here, we delve into the Opta data to preview Thursday’s game.

Work hard, play hard.#VamosEspaña | #EURO2024 pic.twitter.com/TNcpOIuJCv

— Selección Española Masculina de Fútbol (@SEFutbol) June 18, 2024

What’s expected?

Despite Italy only losing one of their 10 matches against Spain in the Euros and World Cup (W4 D5) – that sole defeat came in the final at Euro 2012 – La Roja are given a 45.8 per cent chance of making it two wins from two at Euro 2024.

However, Spain has had the better of their previous meetings with Italy, winning their last two encounters, both in the Nations League, but have never won three consecutive matches against the Azzurri.

La Roja has also prevailed in all three of their previous European Championship meetings with the reigning champions of the competition, reaching the final in each edition.

The Spanish will take confidence from their opening display against Croatia, having outperformed their expected goals (xG) by 0.99 per cent, but will be hopeful of converting more of their big chances, having missed four in Berlin.

Italy was also able to outscore their xG, but by a smaller margin of 0.44, but managed just five shots on target against Albania from the 17 they attempted.

As in many major tournaments, being clinical could prove decisive, and this group in particular, could be the difference between staying in Germany or packing your bags for the next flight home.

The Opta supercomputer ranks Italy’s chances at 27.5 per cent.

Cal

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