Curses, Vendettas Add Spice to Already Tasty Spain-Italy Clash | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 19.06.2008
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Curses, Vendettas Add Spice to Already Tasty Spain-Italy Clash

If the quarter-final match between Spain and Italy needed any extra pepping up, it certainly got a good dose of added spice Thursday when the Spanish press launched a campaign for revenge on the Italians for past wrongs.

Two fans for Spain look on after the 3-1 loss to France in the Spain vs France, Round of 16, World Cup 2006, soccer match at World Cup stadium in Hanover, Germany, on Tuesday, June 27, 2006.

Spanish fans have endured heartbreak at the quarter-final stage on a number of occasions

Spain, already shouldering the burden of a 22-year long quarter-final curse ahead of Sunday's mouth-watering clash in Vienna, woke up to find former star Luis Enrique calling for a vendetta against Italy from the pages of the national papers.

"Luis Enrique calls for a vendetta," headlined the sporting daily Marca, reporting once again upon the assault on the former Spanish stalwart by Italian defender Mauro Tassotti in the quarter-final of the 1994 World Cup in the United States, a match Spain lost 2-1.

Bloody incident still rankles 14 years on

Midfielder Enrique had his nose broken by an elbow jab from Tassotti, an incident which the referee said he never saw and which left the whole of Spain in shock when images of Enrique in tears with blood on his face circulated after the defeat. It was reported that he lost a pint of blood in the aftermath.

Tassotti was later to be suspended for eight games which cost him his place in the World Cup final line-up.

"Spain will not forget that episode and can make amends by eliminating the world champions" in the quarter-final match in Vienna, the ABC newspaper said.

Spain's David Villa celebrates scoring his side's 2nd goal during the group D match between Sweden and Spain in Innsbruck

Luis Enrique is counting on David Villa to take revenge

This time "we will have the advantage because Tassotti will not be playing," said Enrique, who hoped that Spain's star striker David Villa, who, like him, comes from the northwestern region of Asturias, will "take revenge for the elbow jab."

Villa is the tournament's top scorer so far, with four goals, including a hat-trick in the 4-1 defeat of Russia.

Tassotti, now an assistant coach at AC Milan, told Marca he was "tired" of talking about the incident, but said he had "never intended to hurt" Enrique.

Spain have never beaten Italy at a major tournament outside the Olympic Games.

Spain look to undo 22-year penalty hoodoo

Spain goalie Iker Casillas (1) punches the ball out ahead of teammates Mariano Pernia (3), Carlos Puyol (5) and Fernando Torres (9) as France's Lilian Thuram (15) and Patrick Vieira (4) battle for a rebound during the first half of the Spain vs France, Round of 16, World Cup 2006, soccer match at World Cup stadium in Hanover, Germany, on Tuesday, June 27, 2006.

Spain's World Cup ended at the last 16 stage in 2006

If gaining revenge wasn't enough, pressure will be building on the Spanish players to end the curse which has prevented them from advancing to the semi-finals of competitions for over two decades.

Not only have they failed to make it past the quarter-finals for 22 years but each time they have reached this stage, they have succumbed to spot-kick heartache. And, this is where it gets spooky, "La seleccion" have suffered three painful penalty shootout defeats in quarter-finals at major tournaments in matches played on June 22 – the date they take on Italy in Vienna.

Spain lost to Belgium on spot kicks in the last eight of the Mexico World Cup in 1986 after a late Juan Senor goal earned them a 1-1 draw in Puebla on June 22. A decade later they were beaten on penalties by England after a 0-0 draw at Wembley in Euro 96, Fernando Hierro and Miguel Angel Nadal missing from the spot.

They then lost to co-hosts South Korea on penalties after another goalless draw in the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals, which Spain claimed to have won through a Fernando Morientes 'golden goal' in extra time which was disallowed.

Not a favorite date for Italy either


Cassano and Italy kissed Euro 2004 goodbye on June 22

Spain will not be the only ones ruing the date of their quarter-final clash. June 22 has not been lucky for Italy either.

The Italians were eliminated on that date in the group stage of Euro 2004 in Portugal after a last minute equalizer in the Sweden-Denmark game allowed both Scandinavian sides to qualify at Italy's expense.

Italy also lost the Euro '88 semi-final to the Soviet Union in Stuttgart again on June 22.

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