EURO 2012 LIVE: Spain vs. Italy

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WARSAW, POLAND (AP) - World champion Spain begins the defense of its European Championship title with a match against Italy in Group C in Gdansk.

Here is a running account of Sunday’s action. All times are local to Poland.

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2002: (at)mattekaren: And that, Fernando, is why you’ll be on the bench in the next game too. (via Twitter)

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1956: Both teams had chances to win it in injury time. First, Marchisio shoots at Casillas, then Xabi Alonso drives an effort wide from the edge of the area. Spain, which had 18 attempts on goal, will be left wondering what could have been had record goalscorer David Villa been fit.

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1949: FULL TIME: Spain 1, Italy 1.

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1946: We’re into injury time. There’s three minutes of stoppage time.

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1942: Great chance for Torres! He plays a one-two with Xavi and is running in on goal. Buffon is quickly off his line and Torres takes a touch to steady himself before lifting the ball over Buffon … and over the bar. He would have scored that for fun a couple of years ago. In his last appearance at a European Championship, he scored the winning goal in a 1-0 win over Germany in Vienna. How things have changed for the 50 million pounds ($81 million) Chelsea striker.

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1939: It’s a tense atmosphere in Gdansk _ and this is only the first group match, remember! Italy vs. Croatia coming up in Group C soon. Torres is booked for elbowing De Rossi, who has done a fine job at center back with a blur of nimble players flitting around in front of him.

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1936: Chance for Italy to retake the lead but Di Natale volleys wide. Sebastian Giovinco, who had earlier replaced Cassano, lifts the ball over the center of the Spanish defense and Di Natale reaches it but can only scoop a volley wide on the stretch.

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1934: Spain 1, Italy 1 heading into the last 15 minutes.

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1930: Torres is on for Fabregas and instantly has a great chance. Played through on goal by Navas, his first touch of the game was slightly heavy, allowing Buffon to come out and execute a well-timed tackle. A center back would have been proud of that challenge but Torres should have done much better.

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1927: The Spanish certainly seem to be encouraged by that goal. After chants of ‘Ole’ from their fans as they are treated to a minute of intricate passing, Navas wins a corner. Torres is limbering up on the touchline.

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1924: That was an unbelievable pass from Silva, who let the ball roll across him and with one deft flick tears open an Italian defense that has held so strong for over an hour. That pass from Silva was his last contribution to the match _ Jesus Navas replaces him. Spain has won 11 of its last 12 competitive matches going into halftime 0-0. Its only loss was against Switzerland at the 2010 World Cup.

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1922: Italy didn’t have the lead for long. Fabregas is the goalscorer for Spain, the Barcelona player driving a low finish into the net after a pass from Silva. We’re all square with 27 minutes remaining.

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1920: GOAL! Spain 1, Italy 1.

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1918: What an entrance for Di Natale! With one of his first touches of the ball, he runs on to Pirlo’s majestic through-ball and slips a finish past Casillas.

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1916: GOAL! Spain 0, Italy 1.

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1911: Oh dear, Balotelli. What a waste. He does really well to catch Sergio Ramos in possession wide on the right and closes in on goal, before slowing down to walking pace, trying to trick Casillas into moving first. But he stands there for so long that Ramos chases back 30 yards and produces a potentially goal-saving tackle on Balotelli. That’s the Manchester City striker’s last action of the match _ he comes off for Antonio Di Natale.

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1907: Fernando Torres is out warming up for Spain, who had 57 percent of first-half possession. Fabregas brings a good save out of Buffon in the Italy goal with a curling shot. Iniesta then gets down the left, escapes a challenge from De Rossi and forces a fingertip save from Casillas. He is looking dangerous, Iniesta.

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1901: Second half begins in front of 38,869 spectators _ more than 1,000 short of capacity for a match between the winners of the last two World Cups. Here’s Spain assistant coach Toni Grande speaking on Spanish TV about why the team opted for Fabregas up front: “It wasn’t an easy decision to take. We were thinking about this plan for some time but then he (Fabregas) arrived at camp with an injury. But he looked good, strong, confident, and we decided to go with that option. This doesn’t mean anything for the other games, it’s only about today.”

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1852: Italy will go into the dressing rooms the happier side at half time. The team will have seen enough to feel it could sneak a goal and the longer the defending champions go without bringing on a striker, the better for Italy. Iniesta looks the most dangerous player for Spain but they can’t break down Italy’s obdurate defense. A spot of “One Step Beyond” by English 80s band Madness is keeping the crowd happy at the break.

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1846: HALFTIME: Spain 0, Italy 0. After Iniesta volleys over following a precise pass from Xavi, Thiago Motta has a diving header superbly clawed away by Casillas at the other end. All to play for in the second half.

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1840: The first yellow card of the game is given _ and surprise, surprise, it’s that man Mario Balotelli. He fouled Pique moments earlier when Casillas spilled Cassano’s effort and was warned by the referee to be careful. Moments later, he’s in the book after a cynical trip on Jordi Alba. He’s putting himself about a bit here, Balotelli. He’d better be careful.

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1838: Cassano trips Casillas, who spends a little too long on the ball when he takes a back pass, and the referee gives a free kick to Spain. That seems to have shaken Casillas a little bit. He appeared OK, though, in saving a low shot from Cassano soon after.

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1835: Spain 0, Italy 0 after 35 minutes.

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1831: While Italy’s makeshift defense is playing well, you can’t help but wonder if Spain would benefit from having an out-and-out striker in its starting XI. Silva, Iniesta and Fabregas aren’t playing badly but Spain don’t look as lethal in attack as it usually does.

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1826: Andres Iniesta, the man who scored Spain’s winner in the 2010 World Cup final, escapes the attention of the Italy midfield and skips into the area, moving the ball onto his right foot before De Rossi blocks his attempt on goal. Italy looking typically stubborn in defense so far here in Gdansk _ the Azzurri had the best defensive record in qualifying, by the way.

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1822: Twenty-two minutes played and it is 0-0 here between Spain and Italy, although Cassano almost changed that with a low, angled shot that slid just wide. This isn’t all one-way traffic.

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1820: Italy’s turn to go close now. They win a free kick in a dangerous area, a little more than 20 yards (meters) from goal. Balotelli shapes to shoot but runs over the ball before Andrea Pirlo whips a stinging low effort toward the Spain goal. Casillas gets down well to punch the ball to safety.

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1815: Spain break on the counter and Xavi plays in David Silva, who should really test Buffon in the Italy goal a lot better than he does. He finds space on the right of the penalty area, cuts in on his favored left but shoots weakly straight at the keeper. Nice, open game here and atmosphere is still lively.

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1810: David Silva shoots just over for Spain. Pattern of the game is already set, although Balotelli’s had some neat touches up front and has a shot deflected just wide.

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1805: It is just ‘BALOTELLI‘ on the back of the forward’s shirt. Interesting. Spain is quickly into its short and snappy passing rhythm but no chances yet.

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1800: Mario Balotelli is sporting a very thin mohican. He looks in the mood. With him and Cassano up front, anything can happen today. Referee Victor Kassai, who was in control of the 2011 Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United, blows his whistle to gets us under way.

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1756: The teams are out. Both sides are captained by their goalkeepers, Iker Casillas for Spain and Gianluigi Buffon for Italy. Anthems being blared out and we’re nearly up and running.

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1749: The PGE Arena is where Group C gets under way in a little over 10 minutes. It’s nearly full already and it does seem as if Spain fans are out in greater number than their Italian counterparts. They’re all enjoying another mini-opening ceremony on the pitch. The players will be on there soon so they’d better hurry up.

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1742: This may be Spain vs. Italy but there are plenty of Poland fans here wearing their national side’s shirt or waving their scarves and flags. Nice to see so many of the locals swept up in football fever.

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1738: sdouglas80: RT (at)themichaelowen: Unbelievable line up for Spain. No striker playing. This could end up looking like a training ground game of possession. (via Twitter)

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1734: Cassano’s partner in attack is mercurial Mario Balotelli. Here at AP HQ, we receieved an official document from UEFA which says that Balotelli will have “Barwuah Balotelli” on the back of his shirt. Barwuah is his African name.

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1728: Good to see Antonio Cassano start today for Italy, too. The striker had to have heart surgery in November and there were doubts about him ever returning to football again, let alone being involved in an international match. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is being put through his paces as the Italy team warms up. Midfielder Daniele De Rossi starts in the center of a three-man defense for Italy, so a makeshift defender will be up against a makeshift forward.

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1724: So, Cesc Fabregas _ a midfielder _ leads the attack for Spain as it begins the defense of the trophy against 2006 World Cup winner Italy. What does that say about coach Vicente del Bosque’s thoughts about strikers Fernando Torres, Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo? And what must those three think, being overlooked for the Barcelona man?

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1719: Here are the lineups for Spain vs. Italy:

Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba, Xabi Alonso, Busquets, Silva, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas.

Italy: Buffon, Chiellini, De Rossi, Bonucci, Giaccherini, Marchisio, Pirlo, Thiago Motta, Maggio, Balotelli, Cassano.

Subs:

Spain: Valdes, Reina, Raul Albiol, Javi Martin, Juanfran, Pedro, Torres, Negredo, Mata, Llorente, Santi Cazorla, Jesus Navas.

Italy: Sirigu, De Sanctis, Ogbonna, Balzaretti, Abate, Di Natale, Barzagli, Borini, Montolivo, Giovinco, Diamanti, Nocerino.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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