Spain wary of Italy
The prospect of facing Italy in Euro 2008 is causing unease in the Spanish camp, which would have preferred almost any other team if it wants to overcome its "curse of the quarterfinals."
"It is not the team that I would have most liked for the quarterfinal, it's a very complicated team," said Spanish coach Luis Aragones after Italy's 2-0 win over France that sent the World Cup champions into the next round.
The Spanish press Wednesday also voiced alarm at the prospect of facing the "squadra azzura", who beat them in quarterfinals of the World Cup in 1994 and have not lost to Spain in a major competition in 88 years.
"Oh Mamma Mia!" headlined the newspaper El Mundo.
"They are an invincible enemy," said Publico, while ABC pointed to the problems in overcoming a team that is in the ascendancy after a difficult start to Euro 2008.
But commentators also note that Spain is in form -- it beat the World Cup winners 1-0 in a friendly this year -- and that Italy will be below their best without the suspended Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso.
However, the nervousness is also being felt among Spanish supporters, 60 per cent of whom believe Italy will win, according to an Internet poll published by the newspaper El Pais.
Adding to the anxiety is the fact that the match will be played on June 22, viewed as particularly "cursed" in Spain following three exits by the national team in quarterfinals of international competitions on that date.
Spain was eliminated on June 22 in a penalty shootout against Belgium in the World Cup in 1986, against England in Euro 1996 and against South Korea at the 2002 World Cup.