Italy and Spain

Some were calling Spain a dynasty, while Italy was facing its regular match-fixing scandal. The scene was set for an epic battle between the last two winners of the World Cup, and Italy rose to the occasion with a 1-1 draw with mighty Spain.

It was an interesting match to watch, as Italy seems to be playing a more aggressive style under Cesare Prandelli. Fans love to hate the Italian side, but many acknowledged that Italy played well against Spain.

Italy has a long history of destructive soccer, a tradition of delaying tactics and primitive kick-and-rush counterattacks. One need only think of Marco Materazzi’s (nicknames “the animal”) goading of Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup Final.

The fact that this Italian side drew against the World and European champions–famous for the “tiki-taka” passing game that most Spanish players and coaches embrace–may be considered a defeat for soccer purists.

However, there are many subplots to this story.

In a departure from tradition, this Italian squad was far from their caricature of a defense-obsessed bunch of tricksters and instead worried about its own game; it played Spain fairly and squarely.

Despite relatively inferior players, Italy never allowed Spain’s midfielders to just pass the ball to each other and dominate possession as they tend to.

Spanish fans, never fond of the Italian brand of soccer, were impressed.

“A tie was the fair result,” Antonio Díaz, a Madrid policeman told us.

Is this the dawn of a new, viewer-friendly Italy?

We’ll see what happens against Croatia and Ireland, but the aggressive style will likely remain in place. The question is whether the Italians will go into lock-down mode after taking a lead. It was pretty shocking to see a goal scored so quickly by Spain after Italy scored, though we are dealing with the excellent Spanish team here.