At first glance, Spain vs. Italy isn’t a classic soccer rivalry. It lacks the obvious geographic tension you get from a Spain vs. Portugal clash; it doesn’t conjure memories of previous meetings like Italy vs. Germany; and there isn’t always continental pride up for stake, as in a meeting of Argentina and Brazil.
Instead, there’s a more subtle conflict -- a simmering, slightly sneering distrust between the two nations.
Italy is stereotypically based around organization, a strong defense and the ability to play a variety of systems effectively. It wins games in a strategic manner rather than with the best individual talents. This is a somewhat outdated cliché, but there’s still a focused, driven and ruthless approach to soccer within the peninsula.
In Spain, things are very different. The relentless success of the...