The game itself ended 1-1, probably the right result in the end but entertainment was at a premium in what was a highly tactical game. Here are some points of note from the game:
Mario Balotelli does frustrated like few others. It was a performance that will have been familiar to City fans as the Italian striker spurned the few chances that came his way and got a booking for good measure. His best opportunity was earned early in the second half after he robbed Sergio Ramos and closed in on goal. Gerard Pique cut off the option of a square ball to Antonio Cassano but Balotelli was caught in two minds as he waited too long for Casillas to commit himself before Ramos got back to win the ball off him. He was immediately subbed and his replacement, Antonio di Natale, was much more ruthless in latching onto a Andrea Pirlo through ball and lifting it past Casillas to put Italy into a shock lead.
Spain played a 4-6-0 in the Barcelona style, but without Lionel Messi, who scored a hat trick in a friendly between Argentina and Brazil at the weekend, Spain looked entirely toothless. Cesc Fabregas was the nominal striker but, although he levelled matters soon after Di Natale put Italy in front, Spain will need to have a better plan B. David Silva showed his quality of passes during the game and provided the assist for Fabregas’ goal despite being substituted immediately afterwards.
Fernando Torres still isn’t the player he used to be. Having replaced Fabregas in the second half, he was tentative when presented with two gilt edged chances to put Spain ahead again. Spain had already put more pace into the side with the introduction of Jesus Navas, but they will need a marksman up front and are badly missing the Torres of four years ago.
Italy, in the face of superior opposition, opted to pack their defence and revert to an old fashioned sweeper system with Man City target Daniele de Rossi at the back rather than in his usual role as a midfielder. Giorgio Chiellini, also a City target, was an old fashioned defensive enforcer at the back for the Italians and it was easy to see how Roberto Mancini would like to add both of them to next season’s City squad.
Finally, and as a prelude to the England clash with France tomorrow, we see that sometimes a defensive tactic works (Denmark’s shock win over Holland), but other times it doesn’t (Portugal only came alive after Germany made the breakthrough) although all out attack is sometimes the best policy (Russia’s thrashing of an ageing Czech side).
Let’s hope that Roy Hodgson has organised England well and that the players respond against a resurgent France side.