SPain and Italy have a history. Not only have the teams met five times in the last four European Championships, including the Euro 2012 final, which Spain won 4-0, but their semi-final at Wembley also pits Luis Enrique against Italy for the first time since suffered one of the great injustices in football history at the 1994 World Cup.
The quarterfinals between Italy and Spain in USA 94 produced one of the most infamous images of that World Cup: Enrique admonishes Hungarian referee Sandor Puhl as his mouth and nose were filled with blood after being hit by a brutal elbow off the ball by Italian right-back Mauro Tassotti.
Enrique was incredulous, almost hysterical, as Puhl was not only able to expel Tassotti and thus award a penalty to Spain, but to punish him at all. Enrique, then a 24-year-old Real Madrid player, fell to the pitch in disbelief, blood splattering his gleaming white jersey. “Lewis Enrique wanted to kill the referee and Tassotti, ”Senen explained later. Courteous, physio of Spain at that time.
Watching the incident backIt’s hard to see how Puhl missed it. The Hungarian is on the periphery of the area, on the same side as Enrique and Tassotti, when a cross from Andoni Goikoetxea arrives from the opposite flank. Enrique tries to meet the cross, but is stopped short by Tassotti’s elbow.
Enrique had his nose broken and Tassotti was retroactively suspended for eight games by the Italian soccer federation and FIFA. He never played for Italy again, the Spain match is his seventh and final international match. “There was nothing premeditated. I had nothing against him, ”Tassotti said late last year when, as assistant to Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine team, he faced Spain in the Nations League. “I have always maintained that it was an instinctive gesture, but I was wrong and fate made me pay for it. I lost the opportunity to play a World Cup final ”.
The incident occurred late in the game, at which point Italy led 2-1 thanks to goals from Baggio’s boys: Dino with a rocket in the first half and a laser-accurate shot from Roberto in the closing minutes. Italy endured the victory and advanced to face Bulgaria in the semi-finals.
Enrique never had the opportunity to play against Italy again, but the elbow has not been forgotten in Spain. It has even made its way into culture, with the Spanish indie group Deneuve calling his fourth album Tassotti’s Elbow (Tassotti’s elbow) in 2007.
A year later, Italy and Spain met in the quarterfinals of Euro 2008, their first competitive meeting since 1994. Spain had never beaten Italy in a major match and the Enrique-Tassotti incident increased their sense of injustice. Enrique had just assumed the position of coach of Barcelona B and was talking about “avenging the vendetta” against Italy. “I would love to [David] Villa to avenge me, ”he said. “Hopefully the world champions can be eliminated.”
Enrique got his wish, but not through a David Villa goal, as had so often been the case at Euro 2008. A tense and cautious affair ended on penalties, with Cesc Fàbregas scoring the winning penalty after Iker Casillas will save Antonio Di Natale. penalty fee. On the morning of the game, Enrique’s bloody face appeared on the cover of Marca like a battle cry.
That victory was the most important in Spanish history: their inferiority complex against Italy was shattered, the beast was finally slain, and they set out to dominate the international game for the next four years. Since Baggio’s triumph in 1994, the two sides have never met in another World Cup, always colliding with each other at the Euro. Italy have only beaten Spain once in competitive matches since 1994: their 2-0 victory in the knockout stages of Euro 2016.
Enrique’s story has continued in club football. When he took over for Rome in 2011, it wasn’t long before he faced Tassotti, who was serving as Massimiliano Allegri’s assistant in Milan. The Spaniard was quick to downplay the issue. “I will shake hands with Tassotti,” he said. “It is a shame that 17 years have passed, since this means that we have 17 more years. I have no problems with Tassotti. What happens in the field stays there. I know that Tassotti regretted what he did. We have to move on. “
When asked about it this week in the run-up to the semi-final, Enrique spoke fondly about Italy and even had some friendly words for his former foe. “It is part of my sports history,” he said. “I was lucky to meet Tassotti, a very good person, and I have no revenge. I love Italy. I like Rome, an incredible city where I had a wonderful experience, even if only for a year. It’s a pleasure for me to play against Italy ”.
It will also be a pleasure to see you. Having had contrasting philosophies for decades, these two sides are now closer in style than at any other time in the last 40 years thanks to Roberto Mancini. Italy have been the team of the tournament, breaking worn-out stereotypes by playing their own version of tiki-taka that Spain would be proud of. An element that historically pitted style versus substance is now a lot of style versus style. This time, the winner will be the public.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism