Nthe race to succeed Portugal, winner of the first edition, in 2019, the ‘poster’ could hardly have more highly rated protagonists, with three teams already world and European champions and an ‘outsider’, who is the leader of the world ranking of the FIFA.
Playing at home, Italy presents itself as European champions in title, in a conquest achieved in 2021, France as the world title holder and Spain as a team with more titles (four) in the 21st century.
In contrast to these ‘giants’, Belgium has no title for ‘sample’, but ended up in the ‘top 8’ as the last four major competitions, falling only to the champion at the 2018 Worlds and Euro2020.
After their victory at the last European, Italy will start as favorites for the first semi-final, scheduled for Wednesday at the San Siro in Milan, facing a Spain in renewal and decimated by a long list of injuries.
Pedri, Jordi Alba, Dani Olmo, Álvaro Morata, Gerard Moreno and Marcos Llorente are the main casualties for Luis Enrique, who has called up two Sporting players, right-back Pedro Porro and forward Pablo Sarabia.
The ‘azzurra squad’ is also not at full strength, however, as Roberto Mancini is without the injured Ciro Immobile, Andrea Belotti, Rafael Toloi, Gaetano Castrovilli and Leonardo Spinazzola, who tore his Achilles tendon at Euro2020.
But the transalpines have on their side the public and an impressive ballast, and a record, of 37 consecutive games without losing: after the 0-1 against Portugal, on September 10, 2018, they had 28 wins and nine draws.
Mancini’s men, curiously, surpassed a record that belonged to the Spaniards – 35 without losing, between 2007 and 2009 -, although, before the last game, the 5-0 against Lithuania, on September 8, having added four consecutive equalities .
The first two were ‘turned’ into penalty shootout wins at Wembley, towards the European title: 4-2 to Spain, after 1-1 in 120 minutes in the semi-finals, and 3-2 to hosts England , also after 1-1, in the final.
In the wake of their second European scepter – 53 years after their triumph in the 1968 edition – Italy failed to win at home to Bulgaria (1-1) and Switzerland (0-0), in European Group C qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, which he leads.
For its part, and in the post Euro2020, Spain won the last two games (4-0 against Georgia and 2-0 in Kosovo), but lost the first (1-2 in Sweden), leading Group B with four more points than the Scandinavians, but two more games.
The second semi-final is scheduled for Thursday, in Turin, at Juventus’ home, and, due to the status of world champion in title, France goes ‘on top’ against Belgium, in a re-edition of the semi-finals precisely from the last world Championship.
In St. Petersburg, Russia, on July 10, 2018, a goal by the ‘unlikely’ Samuel Umtiti, now ‘lost’ on the FC Barcelona bench, gave the victory to France (1-0), which, five days ago then, in Moscow, they would win the final in Croatia by 4-2.
In the most recent Euro2020, France was, however, a big disappointment, as they only won the first game (1-0 against Germany), later adding draws with Hungary (1-1), Portugal (2-2) and Switzerland ( 3-3), the last in the ’round of 16′, with a loss on penalties (4-5).
On the other hand, Belgium, which will again be ‘captained’ by Benfica player Jan Vertonghen, fell in the quarter-finals against Italy (1-2), after having passed the then titleholder Portugal in the ’round of 16′ (1- 0).
Mbappé, who can form an attack with Griezmann and Benzema, is, despite successive ‘blackouts’, the main ‘star’ of Didier Deschamps’ team, whose big loss is that of midfielder N’Golo Kanté, a decisive element in midfield of the ‘blues’.
In the Belgian team, the Spaniard Roberto Martínez, who can’t count on the experienced Vermaelen, has Romelu Lukaku as his great weapon, supported by the virtuosos Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, who looks like ‘a fish out of water’ at Real Madrid.
After Euro2020, Belgium won in Estonia (5-2), at home to the Czech Republic (3-0) and Belarus (1-0), while France drew at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina (1-1) and in Ukraine (1-1) and call and beat Finland (2-0).
The two semi-final matches take place at 20:45 local (7:45 in Lisbon), as well as the final, on Sunday, which starts at 15:00 (14:00) with the establishment game of the third place.