Can Spain break the curse?

By the time that you have read this, we will know the result of the Spain v Italy game. Was Zapetero right with his prediction? Did you watch the game? Did the winners deserve their victory?

Zapatero predicts end to football curse with 3-2 victory for Spain v Italy

The Spanish Prime Minister has called on the national football team to “break the curse” that has seen them consistently underperform in international championships, predicting that they would beat Italy 3-2 on Sunday.

“We have to break the curse that seems to hang over the Spanish national team,” José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero told state radio. “We are good at football, but in international matches our team has always had a problem of self-confidence. At the moment our national team is better than Italy's, and I believe that we will win 3-2.”

Spanish media have veered between optimism and despair over the quarter final match against world champions Italy. After a near-perfect start to the European Championship, that has seen it win over its first three rivals, Spain has become one of the favourites to win.

To do so, Spanish newspapers note, the team must face-down its “twin ogres” — Italy and the quarter-finals. Despite promising starts to international competitions, Spain has traditionally failed to clear the hurdle of the quarter finals. It has also failed to beat Italy in an international matchup in 88 years.

Spain’s manager, Luis Aragonés, is well-aware that he needs to work on the players’ psyche as much as their legs.

“We will do positive thinking and apply everything we have learnt in our conversations with psychologists," he said. "We have to forget that it is Italy we are facing.”

A win on Sunday over Italy would mean a great deal to Spaniards, who have long suffered from something of an inferiority complex in Europe. Spain rejoined the international community only in the late 1970s after four decades of isolation under Franco’s fascist dictatorship.

It became one of the European Union’s greatest success stories after joining in 1986, its economy growing briskly even as other European countries stagnated. This year, Mr Zapatero leapt at EU figures showing that Spain had overtaken Italy in GDP per head for the first time — numbers disputed by Italy.

Mr Zapatero said that Spain should now set its sights on reaching France’s income per person — which could prove difficult as Spain’s construction-driven boom grinds to a halt.

In recent years, Spain has also become a world-player in sports such as tennis, golf and Formula 1; its companies have snapped up UK businesses such as BAA, Abbey National and O2, and it now boasts some of the world's most-celebrated chefs.

Despite their country’s great strides in the world of business, arts and sport, many Spaniards confess privately that they are nervous about facing a traditional European power like Italy on the football field. An internet poll by the Madrid-based daily El País found that 60 per cent believe Italy will win.

Superstitious Spanish fans also fret about the inauspicious date of the match. It was a June 22 when Spain were eliminated in a penalty shootout by Belgium at the 1986 World Cup. They were defeated in penalties by England in the 1996 European Championship and lost to the South Korean team in the 2002 World Cup — all on the same, ill-fated date.

Italian footballers have turned up the heat on nervous Spanish fans. Dino Baggio, who helped to knock Spain out of the 1994 World Cup, seemed to sum up their fears when he said: “Spain has not beaten us in an official match for 88 years. It must be for a reason. Spain always play well — but Italy wins more.”

Source: The Times

Football scores:

  • Spain 1 Italy 0 "Spain won one - nil".
  • Spain 1 Italy 1 "Spain drew with Italy one all"
  • Spain 2 Italy 2 "It was a 2 all draw.
  • Spain 3 Italy 2 "Spain beat Italy three - two"

Whats the difference between "win" and "beat"?

You win "something" eg a game but you beat " someone" eg an opponent.