Spain’s journey at the European Championships began with plenty of chaos and confusion. Headlines were made when manager Luis Enrique did not include a single Real Madrid player in the Spanish squad for the first time in the history of La Roja.
This also meant that captain Sergio Ramos, widely regarded among the greatest defenders of this generation, had also been left out.
As a result, the Spanish media was scathing in its treatment of coach Luis Enrique when Spain drew their first two games of the tournament. They were also rocked by a case of Coronavirus as Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets, Spain’s captain in the tournament, had to sit out the first few matches after testing positive.
Despite that, La Roja managed to turn the situation around and qualified for the semi-finals of Euro 2020. Ahead of their blockbuster clash with Italy, Spain’s Mikel Oyarzabal stressed that the squad always believed in themselves.
They were capable of going all the way and now they have proved their potential to all the nay-sayers.“From the first day we were confident that we were a solid group, a united group and that we were good enough and we’ve proved that,” Oyarzabal told reporters.
“People are free to say what they like, that’s part of football but we never had any doubts at any moment, we always believed in ourselves and we trust in ourselves for what is to come.”
The winds of change started blowing for Luis Enrique and his men following a 5-0 rout of Slovakia in the final group stage fixture. Spain then defeated Croatia 5-3 in an absolute thriller that required extra time to separate the two sides.
They then beat Switzerland on penalties in the quarter-final to set up an electrifying clash with an in-form Italian side.
Spain had also met Italy in the previous three European Championships. They defeated Italy on penalties at Euro 2008, thumped them 4-0 in the final of Euro 2012, and then lost their Euro 2016 fixture 2-0 which sealed their exit from that competition.
“They’re a top-level team with players who keep performing at the highest level with their clubs but we’re not any less than them,” he said.
“We have to keep having full confidence in ourselves, the way we play and the ideas we have and focus on producing a big performance regardless of who we’re playing.”