Stars of Spain Vs Italy 1-1 Euro 2012 Game 1. Iniesta, Di Natale, Cesc, Torres, Ballotelli

**NOTE: See also our analysis of the final Euro 2012 Spain vs Italy. Stars, before the game: (see it here).

This is a new post about media impact analysis of football Euro 2012, this time concerning the match in Group C Spain vs Italy. The match was played in 10 June 2012, and final result was 1-1.

Italy opened the score, with a goal by Antonio Di Natale in minute 61. Just three minutes later, Spain managed to come back with a goal by Cesc Fàbregas. Midfielder from Spanish team Andres Iniesta was declared the Man of the match.

We open the analysis of this post by showing a new feature. This time we present also before the game media attention analysis.

We have monitored which were the images picked by media from different linguistic areas to illustrate the news about the game that was about to be played (we monitored only news published the day of the game, before it was played). We have chosen five linguistic areas: in English, Spanish, Italian, French and German.

We expect of course a very different media coverage pattern in Spanish compared to Italian media, as both are directly concerned by the event. But in comparison to these two probably extreme cases, it is interesting to investigate how the media from ‘neutral’ countries depict the preliminars of the game.

We have selected in this case three categories. Photos showing only one team members, either Spain or Italy team, plus photos showing images of players or symbols from both teams.

We have results concerning news in Spanish in column two. This refers mainly to media in Spain, but it also includes interested media in Latin America. We have that 58% of all images refer to Spanish players, and some 32% to Italian players. As for Italian media (column 3), we find that the local focus is stronger, as 76% of all images report only Italian related stories, and a small 9.7% show Spanish only themes.

What about the other ‘neutral’ linguistic areas? We find that they all turn with majority towards Spanish players. Spanish solo pics range from 40% in English news to 56.8% in French media. German and English media provide more space to two side images, with almost 30% of all images. This leaves only 22% to 31% to only Italian players images.

This international media bias towards Spanish football players reflect the ex ante favoritism for Spain, and their media brand power due to the fact that Spain is the current title holder not only at European level, but also at World level.

We present now the results concerning media coverage given to both teams the day after the game. We have chosen as a reference for analysis the news coming from newspapers in English.

We show first results concerning the global media attention provided to all players from both teams. According to our data set, players from Italy have received a slighly bigger share of media attention, with 51% of all image news, and 49% for players from Spain. This equal media treatment corresponds with the final result, a draw. But consider, looking to our first figure, that media coverage before the game was in favour of Spanish players. Spain has lost momentun in media in English after first match.

Next figure shows top 10 stars of the game Spain vs Italy, a ranking made by number of appearences in photos of news about the game.

Top star: Antonio di Natale, 23.2% of all images in the news.

Star Di Natale 2012 Euro Vs Spain

2nd Star: Cesc Fàbregas, 19%

3rd star: Mario Balotelli, 19%

Italian scorer Antonio Di Natale is the leading star of the game. He receives 23.2% share of all images about the game. This game is a story of three protagonists, according to media impact after the game. Italian hero Di Natale, and then the Spanish scorer Cesc Fàbregas, not far away, with 19%. Fàbregas shares in fact second place with Italian forward Mario Balotelli. In this case, Balotelli does not receive substantial media attention because a good sport performance. This is rather the opposite as Mario Balotelli missed an incredible goal opportunity against Casillas because a lack of intensity. Few minutes after he was substituted by Di Natale.

It has been surprising for us to see that Andrés Iniesta is not one of the star of the match in terms of post game media coverage. He comes just in seventh position, with 8.2%, while he was named the best player of the match. We find a majority of Spanish football stars among top 10 players. All of them are World Champions.

Annex: Youtube Video about the match

You can check below a Youtube Video showing the goals. Comments in English. Duration: 2:12.

This video may be blocked by UEFA if the Youtube user that upload the video (not me) has not proper broadcasting rights. This means that the link to the video may be blocked in the future.

Annex 2: Match Tactics, by Zonal Marking

You can check the tactics analysis provided by zonalmarking.com, Spain Vs Italy analysis. Authers judge the match as a ‘A fascinating tactical battle between two systems rarely seen at international level’.

Quotes from the article:

Formation battle

You don’t get many formation battles like this. Spain played with three forwards, none of which played high up against the Italian defence, and instead tried to find gaps between the lines. Italy were actually happy to allow Andres Iniesta, Fabregas and Silva space in that zone – they were dealt with by the defence, while the three-man Italian midfield focused their attention on the three Spanish midfielders.

(…)

Substitutions 

Antonio Di Natale seemed like an obvious option. This is a striker who is used to playing upfront in a 3-5-2ish system (it’s more like 3-5-1-1) with Udinese, a striker who loves working the channels and making clever runs in behind the defence. He replaced Balotelli, and the switch worked almost immediately as Di Natale put Italy 1-0 up, after some brilliant midfield invention from Pirlo, maybe the only true creativity we saw from the six central midfielders.

Spain responded immediately with a goal that showed Spain did know how to play the false nine system, with Silva moving towards play, Fabregas running in behind, and that combination unlocking the Italian backline.

Then del Bosque finally introduced some width, with Jesus Navas out wide. But he chose to remove Silva – and so, frustratingly, this meant Fabregas became the (more permanent) false nine, moving towards the ball again. Navas is a player who stretches laterally rather than vertically, and Spain seemed to lose their forward thrust immediately.

Then del Bosque brought on a natural striker, Fernando Torres, for Fabregas. Torres’ natural game – whatever one thinks of his current form – is to run in behind, and he did so almost immediately, going one-on-one with Gigi Buffon and forcing the goalkeeper into a clever tackle. Next, he made a clever run towards the right of the pitch in behind the defence, but chose the wrong passing option. Then, a couple of minutes later, he played a one-two with Xavi, was through against Buffon, but chipped over the bar. His finishing was poor, but his natural centre-forward running gave another dimension to Spain’s attack. They’d waited nearly 75 minutes to test Italy’s offside trap – it turned out, it wasn’t very good – and Spain had some very fine chances to win the game.

(…)

Conclusion 

The game finished as a draw, but Prandelli’s tactics worked better than del Bosque’s. Italy coped well at the back, won the battles down the flanks, and both strikers looked dangerous in the channels. Spain lacked verticality and penetration, and their full-backs were unable to stretch the play. They still need variety in their attack, and del Bosque seems to be using six players to do the job of roughly four – although the goal demonstrated the value of playing with a false nine.

Italy performed extremely well across the pitch, and Prandelli will surely stick with this 3-5-2 for Italy’s next match, against Croatia in Poznan on Thursday.

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