Italy coach Antonio Conte believes his players must have the same sense of urgency against Spain that they showed in their opening Euro 2016 victory over Belgium to have a chance of eliminating the twice defending champions in the last 16.
The Group E winners take on Spain in Paris on Monday in a rematch of the 2012 final, a clash that Italy lost, 4-0.
The Italians have not beaten Spain since their 2-1 friendly triumph in Bari in August 2011.
Italy ended the group stages of Euro 2016 with a 1-0 defeat by Ireland on Wednesday and Conte says his players must use a more confident approach to defeat Spain.
“If we were to play the match on paper, there would be no contest but luckily there’s the pitch,” Conte said on his Federation’s official website (www.figc.it).
“We need to have the same enthusiasm to face a team like Spain that we had when we approached Belgium, who also seemed stronger than us.”
Spain have had the better of Italy in their meetings since Euro 2008, when they won on penalties in the quarter-finals before going on to win the tournament.
Italy also lost to Spain at the 2013 Confederations Cup on penalties.
The Italians did hold Spain to a draw in the group stages of Euro 2012 before losing to them in the final.
“The primary aim was to get to the last 16, now we’re playing against one of the favourites,” Conte said.
“It’s certainly strange to win the group and find ourselves in the same half of the draw as Spain, Germany and France.
“We need to remember where we started from and let’s not panic.”
Italy arrived in France with a squad that many believed to be the country’s weakest for several years.
However, Conte brought out the best in his players in the first two games, wins over Belgium and Sweden, before making eight changes to his starting XI against Ireland.
“We have to recover for Spain,” Conte said. “The players are doing everything that they have to do. Hard work is in our DNA and we have to carry on doing what we’re doing and not let ourselves get nervous.” (Reuters)