All good things must come to an end at some point. The Sopranos. The summer holidays. A steak at the Hawksmoor, even a one kilo porterhouse. Dawson's Creek. And now, this summer, after four years of unrelenting dominance, it could quite possibly be the turn of tiki-taka to come to a grisly end. On first glance, that's a quite nonsensical thing to write and you should really expect better from your super soaraway Guardian sport. Spain are the European and world champions and could become the first European side to win three major tournaments in a row, succeeding where first West Germany were Panenka'd in 1976 and then France were Dioufed in 2002. We know they will dominate possession to an embarrassing extent in every game and we also know that they have players who are the envy of every other side in the Euros, even Roy Hodgson.
That's all well and good and everything, only there's one tiny matter that could prove to be their undoing – who's going to score the goals for Spain? At the World Cup, they relied on a run of 1-0 victories in each of their knock-out matches. The first two were secured by David Villa goals, the third by a thumping header from Carles Puyol and the fourth by Andres Iniesta in extra time in the final against Holland. Problem being, Villa, Spain's top scorer at Euro 2008 and the World Cup, isn't in the squad due to fitness, meaning that the lone striker role will be filled by one of Fernando Llorente, Alvaro Negredo or Fernando Torres. A trio of talented players, but a trio of players with plenty to prove for Spain. Moreover while it seems counter-intuitive to suggest that a team containing Xavi, Iniesta and David Silva will struggle to create, there is a hint of a side verging on self-parody here, of one that hasn't quite struck the right balance between players who pass and players who will run at defences and shoot against teams that will generally be happy to sit back and frustrate Spain.
Italy fall into that category. Even though they flopped at the last World Cup, playing so badly that their manager Marcello Lippi was forced to relocate and live out at sea, Spain are right to be wary of the Italians. Fans of omens will point to the latest scandal to hit Italian football as proof that they're going to go and win the tournament; Italy famously won the 1982 and 2006 World Cups after match-fixing scandals. Perhaps more pertinent is the ingrained Spanish fear of all things Italian. Spain have never scored a goal against Italy in the European Championships and needed a penalty shoot-out in 2008 to finally get that monkey off their back, although Italy are hardly without problems of their own, given that they've just been beaten 3-0 by Russia at home and haven't scored since November. But while Cesare Prandelli has favoured a more expansive style, if they need to you wouldn't put it past a team that conceded just twice in qualifying to adopt the Chelsea blueprint. And then leave the rest to Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano up front.
Kick-off: 5pm BST.
Venue: PGE Arena, Gdansk.
Well false my nine. Vicente Del Bosque has found the solution to their striker dilemma: they haven't picked one. Craig Levein got there first lads! What a preposterous bunch of phony show-offs. There is a debate to be had about how fondly this side will be remembered, because tiki-taka without Lionel Messi hasn't really been that entertaining. Cesc Fabregas, perhaps due to his sharp-shooting display against Chelsea, is in the Andy Carroll role. Watching them is going to be like watching the dance class Jez went to with the one from Clueless. While Spain have no strikers, Italy have two nutcases up front. As expected, Daniele De Rossi is part of their intriguing back three.
Visionary Vince's Art Project: Casillas; Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Alonso, Busquets; Silva, Xavi, Iniesta; Fabregas. Subs: Valdes, Albiol, Javi Martinez, Juanfran, Pedro, Torres, Negredo, Mata, Llorente, Santi Cazorla, Jesus Navas, Reina.
Italy, complete with The Two Clowns: Buffon; Bonucci, De Rossi, Chiellini; Maggio, Motta, Giaccherini, Pirlo, Marchisio; Cassano, Balotelli. Subs: Sirigu, Ogbonna Obienza, Balzaretti, Abate, Di Natale, Barzagli, Borini, Montolivo, Giovinco, Diamanti, Nocerino, De Sanctis.
Referee: V Kassai (Hungary).
"I'm glad of this backlash against Spain and tiki-taka," says Matt Dony. "I've been following Spanish football quietly for years, then suddenly every tom, ricardo and harry wouldn't stop gushing about them. Now, as everyone I know takes it in turns to jump back off the bandwagon, I can enjoy myself again with the self-righteousness of one who knows, KNOWS, that they're right, and everyone else is wrong. Oh, and Game Of Thrones season 2? All you've missed is people killing each other and girls finding new excuses to whip 'em out."
"I hope Craig Levein is given 'props' - as the kids would say - for being the visionary behind Spain's 4-6-0 formation," says John Reid. "Scotland are lucky to have this visionary!"
"I was afraid Del Bosque would do this no forward foolishness," says Mario Antoni Benitez. "Cesc shouldn't even be playing much less as a false 9."
"In your "All good things must come to an end at some point" you glaring omitted the Game of Thrones Season 2!" says Lassana Tunkara. I've never watched it.
"Spain will pay the price for not playing an old-fashioned number nine," says John. "There's more to football than passing and keeping possession you know!"
"David Moyes played a 4-6-0 formation for Everton a few seasons ago with Tim Cahill, Leon Osman and Marouane Fellaini rotating from midfield into attack," says Gary Naylor. "I felt that it worked really well - guaranteeing possession and demanding short passes, rather than the punt to the big fella. It required clever runs from deep and the killer ball to work - but that's not a bad way to try to score in open play in top flight football." Maybe, but in Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini, Everton had players who provided the option for a Plan B.
One possible theory is that this Spain line-up is Vicente Del Bosque's entry into Pseud's Corner. "Personally, I have a feeling Balotelli will be most entertaining this tournament, if he can avoid being sent off that is," says Alex Aston. "Should be a cracking 4-4 draw... Game of the tourney!"
"Barcelona, as every MBMer no doubt knows, gave up on a recognisable forward when Ibrahimovic provoked too unreliable (and non-conformist into the bargain)," says Charles Antaki. "Didn't seem to hamper them very much (until this year admittedly, when they finished runners-up in La Liga; but if Spain get to be the last of two at this tournament, that will be pretty good)." Barcelona have a little bloke up front who scored 73 goals last season. Spain have Phil Brown's nemesis.
"Utterly insane formations from either side," says Ben Dunn. "Prandelli has gone for a 3-5-2 with De Rossi, a ropey defender at best, playing the Kaiser role, in a team that has never played this way before. Spain, on the other hand, are under the impression that a 100 lovely midfield triangles equals a goal. Italy are going to be playing 8 at the back within the first 10 minutes, letting Spain triangle everyone to a boredom induced death. Spain should have a big-man (Llorente) on De Rossi from the start. Fabregas in the Messi role. Ha."
On ITV, Gordon Strachan suggests that you can only play this formation with Messi. Not Fabregas. David Silva played in the middle against England in November. It did not work. "I think Spain have given up on results, focusing instead on becoming the first team in history to finish a game with 100% possession," says Brad McMillan. "They are aiming for the logical conclusion of tiki-taka, where scoring doesn't matter any more. Boring, yet somehow entrancing."
Even stranger than the Spain formation is that Adrian Chiles, Patrick Vieira, Gordon Strachan and Roberto Martinez are sitting in a market square having tea and biscuits. Good old ITV.
The teams are in the tunnel. What beautiful eyes Gianluigi Buffon has. Spain are in their new kit: cravats, neckerchiefs and red skinny jeans. Straight outta Shoreditch.
The anthems. Italy's an operatic number. As for Spain: no strikers in their team and no words in their anthem. "I really hope this is the end of Tiki-Taka or whatever you call it," says Tom Shaw. "Spain and Barcelona are the two most boring sides ever to dominate football. Watching either side play makes you long for Stoke City v the 1980s Wimbledon side, at least you get a bit of blood and thunder and even some shots on goal." Barcelona have Messi. They're not boring.
Time for an ad break. Which means this is the perfect time to publish this offering from David Wall. "This is the first time I've seen ITV's little bookend for the advert breaks," he says. "Was someone's kid's class doing paper mache last week and they thought it'd kill two birds with one stone, giving the kids a project as well as helping the channel afford Vieira's fee?"
Off we go.
Rainbow Rhythms Spain get us going, kicking from left to right. Happily, unlike last night, the man on the Tannoy doesn't mess up the countdown before kick-off. Well done everyone! Good show! Xabi Alonso clips a hopeful pass over the top, looking for Fabregas, but Bonucci is across to sweep up.
2 min: The exciting Jordi Alba is found on the overlap on the left. We get the first glimpse of De Rossi's defending here, as he steams across and slides in, conceding a corner, which is a hot waste of time. Spain have started well though. Italy don't plan on seeing much of the ball.
3 min: "I was living in Italy during World Cup 2006. Considering myself something of an authority on the team, I loudly told all and sundry that they had no chance of progressing past the quarter-finals, and booked a holiday to Croatia to coincide with the final," says John Foster of breaking news website Back Of The Net. "I subsequently watched them beat France in a near-deserted bar in Rovinj, while I missed the party of my life back 'home' across the Adriatic. Six years later, another betting scandal, another mediocre squad, and I'm back living in Italy again. Conscious of not making the same mistake again, on the day of the final I'm going to be in .... Slovenia. Come on Spain."
4 min: It's all Spain in these early stages and they've got the most interesting formation. What's not to like?
5 min: For the first time, Italy pour forward through the wonderful Maggio on the right. He pushes the ball past Alba, outpacing the Spain full-back, who brings him down from behind. A free-kick to Italy by the right touchline but Pirlo's cross is headed away by Fabregas, instantly justifying his inclusion. "If Spain really want to prove a point they should play 0-10-0," says Peter Harmer. "Until they do that I will have no respect for them. None."
7 min: Giaccherini, making his international debut in this of all games, wins a corner for Italy on the left. Pirlo produces one from the training ground, surprising Spain with a low pass to the near post, but the eventually deal with it.
8 min: The first real danger for Italy. Arbeloa clips a pass into the area from the right. It comes to Xavi, who touches it back to Silva, around 15 yards out. Instead of shooting, Silva tries to twist and turn past Chielleni, but finds his path blocked. The ball nearly squirms through to Fabregas, but before he can get it under control De Rossi denies him with a last-ditch tackle.
9 min: You won't believe this. Spain have had a shot. I know! It was Silva who had a go but his left-footer from 20 yards out flew high and wide.
10 min: Now it's Balotelli's turn to go for goal. He shoots from 30 yards out; it's deflected wide. Pirlo's corner is headed away by the first man.
11 min: Italy nearly shoot themselves in the foot, as a wayward header from Balotelli sets up a counterattack for Spain. Fabregas leads the charge but is halted by a dreadful late challenge from De Rossi. The referee plays a good advantage though, allowing Xavi to find Silva on the right. He cuts inside on to his left foot but wastefully shoots straight at Buffon.
13 min: Busquets fannies about with the ball on the edge of his own area, putting his side into trouble as he loses possession to Cassano. The mischievous striker impishly dances around one challenge, before being buffetted to the turf illegally by Ramos. A free-kick to Italy, just outside the area. Pirlo takes it, whipping it around the wall and towards the bottom-left corner, but Casillas is behind it all the way, pushing it clear.
15 min: 13 min: "Bias against Spain revealed in the constant overuse of the "tiki-taka" sobriquet," says Aaron Wenger. "It seems to somehow imply that a quick passing game is less manly, lighter, more frivolous than the "dump and chase" wingers + target man approach. Call it "possession football" or "ball domination" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and it has a more positive tone. And, oh yeah, this Italian side is rubbish apart from Pirlo and Buffon." You do know tiki-taka was coined by the Spanish?
17 min: Cassano flicks a cute pass over the top for Motta, who's burst in behind the Spain defence, but he's caught on the thigh by a high boot from Arbeloa, who's a little fortunate not to concede a free-kick. He's down for treatment, but will be fine to continue.
18 min: Striker please, Spain!
19 min: "Spain does have an unusual lineup but Aragones used Cesc upfront back in 2008," says Tai Kaku. "I'd say things went relatively for them in that tournament...they did finally get past the quarterfinals." No he didn't, Villa and Torres played up front. Fabregas only came in for the final.
20 min: Italy are the better side at the moment. They're currently more balanced and cohesive, and carry more of a threat with Balotelli in attack. This strikerless experiment does not convince. It's thoroughly indulgent.
21 min: Spain are now performing an interpretive dance routine.
22 min: Italy's threat is growing. Marchisio slips a gorgeous pass through the inside-right channel for Cassano to chase. He scampers on to the pass, holds off Pique, spins his marker and then drags a cross-cum-shot across goal and just past the far post. Casillas was worried there and Balotelli wasn't too far away from reaching the ball for what would have been a tap-in.
24 min: Strikers? They're so passé, darlings. "Tiki taka was indeed coined by the Spainiards, but initially as a derogatory phrase to criticise pointless possession - just before Barca began to dominate," says George Solomon. "When they did, they took the phrase on to have a go back at the bloke that started it. It's all quite confusing really."
25 min: Suddenly Spain slice their way through the Italy rearguard with some smooth tiki-taka stylings. Iniesta breaks into the area from the left, but his tame shot is blocked by a covering defender. Italy counter and go so close to catching out Spain's high defensive line, only for Cassano to mistime his run from Motta's pass. There really was no excuse for not staying onside there. "The kick on Thiago Motta, was on his shoulder," sys Giulio Ongaro. "The ESPN commentators talked about him faking it… There is a very strong anti-Italian bias on ESPN…"
28 min: Chiellini is harshly penalised for snapping away tigerishly at Xavi's heels, 40 yards from goal. A chance for Spain to send a free-kick towards their big striker then. Oh.
29 min: A Mexican Wave. It's come to this. Well done Spain. Actually, well done Andres Iniesta, the only Spain player who's taking the game to Italy. He dances past a host of Italy defenders on the left and then chips a cross into the six-yard box – meat and drink for AN EFFIN' STRIKER - and Chiellini heads behind for a corner.
30 min: From which Iniesta brings a plunging save from Buffon down at his near post with a drive from the left side of the area. "Tiki-taka was indeed coined by the Spanish and roughly translates as 'grr-arg!' (just ask Sid Lowe) and illustrates the fact that passing the ball back-and-forth four yards very quickly falls somewhere between bear and lumberjack on the machismo scale," parps Peter Harmer.
32 min: Cassano injects some hilarity into proceedings, clipping Casillas's heels from behind as the Spain goalkeeper went to clear a backpass. Honk! You can't help but laugh. Anyone else and that might have ben mildly irritating.
34 min: And still, it's Italy who look the more likely scorers. Pirlo sweeps a wonderful first-time pass in behind Arbeloa for Cassano to chase. He darts inside, past the Spain defender and into the area, before cracking a low effort towards goal that Casillas parries away with some difficulty. He's fortunate that he managed to get it away from Balotelli, who then produces his first strop of the tournament when a free-kick is awarded against him for a foul on Pique.
36 min: This would have been brilliant and Casillas is still the busier goalkeeper. Cassano stands up an inviting high pass to Marchisio on the edge of the D, and he demonstrates excellent technique to hook a first-time volley on target. But it's straight at Casillas.
37 min: You won't be surprised to learn that the first booking of the evening has gone to Mario Balotelli, who's tried the patience of the referee one too many times. He's going to get sent off, isn't he.
38 min: Spain appear to have absolutely no idea how to break down the Italian wall. "Balotelli actually got his foot in front of Pique, who then kicked Balotelli," says Matthew Charlesworth. "Could have been a penalty."
39 min: From the right, Xavi dinks a cross to the far post, but Fabregas is all over Chiellini, prompting a blow of the whistle from the Hungarian referee. Once again, someone like Llorente would have feasted on a cross like that.
41 min: Bit weird, this. Xavi Hernandez is now performing a solo jazz set in the centre circle.
43 min: Silva slides a reverse-pass into the area for Fabregas. He just about wriggles clear and shoots from 10 yards out, but Chiellini's covering challenge takes the sting out of the shot, although Buffon can't stop it going out for a corner. Which Italy defend with minimum hassle.
44 min: The best chance of the match so far. Xavi, utterly anonymous apart from that jazz set a few minutes ago, finally locates some space in the middle of the park. He coaxes a pass through to Iniesta on the edge of the area. His first touch sits up invitingly for the volley, but he loops it over Buffon and over the bar.
45 min: Make that the second-best chance so far. Up the other end, Maggio's cross finds Motta six yards out, completely unmarked, but Casillas denies his firm header with a wonderful save. If we want to be harsh, which we do, it could be said that Motta should have given the goalkeeper no chance at all. Italy will feel they should lead.
Half time: Rainbow Rhythms 0-0 Italy. Well that wasn't completely predictable. Cesc Fabregas will be holding a method acting class during the interval.
Half time emails.
"Spain have disappeared up their own passing game with this decision," says Ian Copestake. "Not to play with a striker denies a crowd of a whole set of skills to admire and I for one feel personally deprived having looked forward to this match-up. Football is not about perfection, which is what Spain will have to be to pass this ball into the net."
"Best game of the tournament so far, no?" says Robert Johnson. "Two sides with great technique, every chance well earned. By the way, who Photoshopped John Terry out of that Spain photograph at the top of the page?"
"I honestly don't understand how people call Barcelona/Spain 'boring'," says Rohit Kapur. "The fact that Barca have made scoring four or five goals in every game routine does not make them boring. As for not having shots on goal, I doubt Messi could've ended this season with 82 goals everywhere if he didn't take his chances. Also, I saw Argentina - Brazil in the stadium here in New York yesterday. Messi scored a hattrick. Might not be that relevant here, but I just want to brag."
"Why is there a presumption that Llorente wouldn't be able to fit in with Spain's quick passing style, didn't anyone watch Channel 5 this season and in particular one of his assists in the second leg of Bilbao's semi-final against Schalke?" says David Wall. "Merely saying that he has good feet for a big man is ridiculous, he's a bit better than being the Spanish Peter Crouch."
"Let it be known: Italy are not afraid anymore," warns Arun Pradeep.
"The first match of this tournament I haven't watched live and my reason is similar to Spain's formation," says Andrew Dean. "Instead of being at home on my cozy couch I'm at a lady friend's house with whom I'm in a...ahem..."strikerless relationship." She also has neither cable nor internet. (She was too drunk to drive last night; I was being a friend.) This is the single man's version of tiki-taka. All possession. No point."
"I agree with Matthew Charlesworth- that was a nailed on penno for Italy," says Simon Frank. "Scourge of modern football part 45: defenders who foul the attacker then get in front of them and fall over."
"This is becoming incredibly painful and tedious to watch... the only thing keeping me awake is to see when Mario will be sent off," says Horus Loris. "Tiki Taka is so 2011..."
Look at all you plebs with your obsession with 'chances' and 'goals'.
46 min: Question: is Spain's approach a form of what certain people might label anti-football? Anyway Italy get us going again. "Wow," says Jon Dean. "I'm stunned. ITV's covergae at half-time was excellent. Chiles was just the right side of matey, Strachan and Martinez were informed and interesting, and spoke in actual sentences. Only the chairs were vile. Such a good comparison to Redknapp's uselessness yesterday. And Tyldesley isn't commentating - joy. Howver, I expect if there's a goal it'll be missed due to a Toffee Crisp advert or similar." ITV have really upped their game recently. They have some really good pundits and I'm not just saying that because I met them all a couple of weeks ago. Roy Keane has a very firm handshake.
47 min: "Roberto Martinez - easily the best pundit I have seen so far during the tournament," says Conor Purcell. "Puts Viera/Shearer/Dixon etc to shame." I was talking to Tom Lutz during half time instead. Lutz > Martinez.
48 min: Did I get my > the right way round? Or should it be <? I'm no good at maths.
49 min: This is better from Spain. Xavi pokes a pass forward to Fabregas, who turns and sees his belting drive from 20 yards out beaten away by Buffon for a corner. Spain take it short, but the eventual cross is cleared. "Prediction for second half: An actual game of football with both sides able to pass competently just like the first?" smugs Daniel McGrath, pretending he's the first person in the world to discover La Liga on Sky. "What a pity. Premiership comentators like yourself don't know anything but crude kick n rush and the sight of clods tackling badly."
51 min: Spain, having taken the controversial decision to attack in this half, are suddenly tearing Italy apart. Fabregas races through the middle with options either side of him. He opts to find Iniesta on the left. He beats the lunge of De Rossi and then crunches a fierce shot towards the far corner. It looks a certain goal, but Buffon gets the merest of fingertips on the shot to divert it wide. A quite magnificent save. More please, Spain!
53 min: Italy should be ahead. They would be but for astonishing ineptitutde from Balotelli in front of goal. He did brilliantly at first to force a mistake out of Ramos on the left flank, robbing the Spain defender, who was the last man, and haring off towards goal. He could have shot or either rolled it across goal to Cassano, but instead he did neither, taking too much time and allowing Ramos to get back and make a recovery challenge. Dear me, what a waste.
54 min: Spain counter and Silva nearly gets on the end of a deflected cross from the right. Chiellini is on hand to mop up. Up the other end, Cassano blazes over from the edge of the area. It's opening up nicely now.
56 min: Balotelli's carelessness in front of goal is the cue for Cesare Prandelli to replace him with Antonio Di Natale. A surprising decision in a way, because Balotelli has given Spain problems. "Spain are like one of them noisy sausage balloons you get at a children's party," says Andy Johnston. "You let them go to fly confidently around the room until they run out of direction, drop with a fart and ultimately, get nowhere."
59 min: Xavi attempts to curve a pass through to Fabregas, but De Rossi reads it and times his slide to perfection. He's having a very good game in an unfamiliar position. "Relax Jacob, you got your > spot on. Jacob > grammar," says George Solomon. "Anyway, whilst we're discussing ITV pundits, can we talk about Keane. Now the shock of seeing him doing punditry has worn off, can we all agree that he's actually a bit... Dull? *runs and hides in Peru*"
GOAL! Spain 0-1 Italy (Di Natale, 60 min): Italy are doing it again and the world champions are behind! Pirlo bursts past Busquets as if he wasn't there and then slices Spain's creaky defence open with a glorious pass through to Di Natale. Like Balotelli, he had Cassano clear to his right. Like Balotelli, he ignored him. Unlike Balotelli, he scored, opening up his body and clipping a wonderfully composed finish past Casillas and into the right corner. That must be his first touch since coming on. What a substitution!
62 min: What have Spain got in response? They've surely got to bring on 1) a striker and 2) a winger, either Pedro or Jesus Navas.
63 min: Iniesta has a pop from 30 yards out. Straight at Buffon, who hasn't made a habit of making a mess of those.
GOAL! Spain 1-1 Italy (Fabregas, 64 min): Italy's lead lasted all of four minutes. But this is another splendid goal. Spain were asked the question and they've answered it in some style. David Silva turned on the edge of the area and then slipped another excellent pass through to Fabregas, who had made a Ljungberg-style run in from the right. He slammed it past Buffon to level it up. That's the first goal Spain have scored against Italy at the Euros. Not a bad time for them to get it.
65 min: Both sides respond to the Spain equaliser by making changes. For Spain, David Silva is replaced by Jesus Navas, while on comes Sebastian Giovinco for Antonio Cassano.
66 min: Bonucci is booked for a scything challenge on Iniesta, which prompted a minor set of handbags between both sides. Nothing to see here though.
68 min: Saying that, it turns out Jordi Alba was booked for his part in that fracas.
70 min: The first glimpse of Jesus Navas. He runs at Giacherrini and sees his deflected cross loop on to the top of the net. From the resulting corner, the referee blows for a foul for Ramos's dangerous overhead kick.
72 min: "Two goals, a fair few chances and Andreas Iniesta," says Niall Mullen. "This is a pretty good game." It is a good game. I just find Spain's approach tedious and too risk-free.
73 min: The benefit of players willing to take defenders on is demonstrated here, as Navas skips past one challenge and then finds the unmarked Alba at the far post, only for the left-back to pull a presentable volleying opportunity well wide.
74 min: At last, Spain bring on a striker: Fernando Torres replaces Cesc Fabregas.
75 min: And Torres wastes a glorious opportunity to give Spain the lead immediately! With Italy's laughable offside trap all over the place, he's played through by Navas, but he's typically hesitant. He tries to skip round Buffon, but doesn't get close to fooling the Italy goalkeeper, who stands up and tackles him like a defender.
77 min: A huge escape for Spain here. Giovinco gets on the ball for the first time and chips a great cross over Ramos, but on the stretch, Di Natale volleys wide of the left post.
79 min: A strong run from Torres ends with Chiellini chopping Iniesta down 25 yards out, earning a booking in the process.
80 min: Xavi's free-kick is blocked by the wall. "Both teams starting to open up which is surprising given a draw is good result for both," says Gene Salorio.
83 min: Maybe this is why Spain started without a striker. A mistake from Chiellini sees him race off down the right, with only one Italy defender to beat. But once again, he's thoroughly lacking in confidence and instead of shooting, he tries a pass... and gives it away in feeble fashion.
84 min: This hasn't been the best cameo from Torres. Now he's been booked for catching De Rossi in the throat with an elbow.
85 min: Oh Nando. Played clean through the middle by Xavi, instead of hurtling through on goal, he checks his run and then tries to beat Buffon with a chip from 20 yards out, getting it horribly wrong, the ball scooped well over the bar. That's the second time he's fluffed his lines since coming on. Who's been the worst striker so far? Torres? Van Persie? Kerzhakov?
88 min: Navas scuffs a low cross into the area. Buffon claims it and from there, Italy nearly go and win it. Marchisio embarks on a sauntering adventure from deep inside his own half, diddling his way past numerous Spanish challenges on his way forward. He gets to the area and then plays a one-two with Motta, but just gets the ball stuck under his feet as he shoots and can only dig a shot straight at Casillas.
89 min: It must be said that this has been a wonderfully open second half. Much better than the first. With Iniesta running ominously at the Italy defence, he's cynically brought down by Maggio, who's booked. Before the free-kick can be taken, Antonio Nocerino comes on for Motta. Once that's done, Xavi wafts the free-kick over the bar.
90 min: There will be three more minutes of this.
90 min+1: Xavi tees up Alonso, 20 yards out, but he cuts across the shot, skewing it a few yards wide of the right post.
Full time: Spain 1-1 Italy. In the end, a draw is probably the right result and both teams will perhaps be as disappointed as they are satisfied with a point. Italy had the better chances and played in an engaging fashion for much of the game, while Spain's strikerless formation left much to be desired. But Spain's response once behind was excellent and a fine goal from Cesc Fabregas got them out of jail; from there, they could and would have won it if Fernando Torres hadn't been Fernando Torres. Overall another entertaining match in what is becoming a very entertaining tournament, but Spain can produce so much more than they managed in the first half, as indeed they showed in the second half. In the end, I just about forgive them for that ridiculous starting line-up. Thanks for reading. Bye.