Misfiring Spain settle with Italy
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Spain's title defence got off to a slow start at the UEFA EURO 2012 as they met stubborn Italian resistance in a 1-1 draw in Gdansk.

The world and continental champions dominated possession, but found chances difficult to create against a well-organised Italy side who looked dangerous when they broke forward.

Italy took the lead on 61 minutes through substitute Antonio Di Natale only minutes before the world champions equalised through Cesc Fabregas. However, Chelsea forward Fernando Torres missed two glorious late chances after coming off the bench to replace the goalscorer.

A draw was a fair result, though, as Italy were the better side in the first half and were fearless in taking the game to the world champions.

Both coaches sprung a surprise with their team selections as Vicente Del Bosque opted to go without a striker, playing Fabregas between Andres Iniesta and David Silva. Italy's Cesare Prandelli opted for Juventus reserve Emanuele Giaccherini in the left wing-back position, a role the forward is far from used to playing.

Silva fired a ninth-minute drive over the bar from 25 yards and the Manchester City man drew an 11th-minute save from Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon after a swift break from Iniesta. But the Azzurri's three central defenders, Daniele De Rossi, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, managed to snuff out the rest of Spain's forays forward.

At the other end, Italy, inspired by the impressive Antonio Cassano, offered a genuine goal threat. Andrea Pirlo saw a free-kick saved by Iker Casillas, who then denied Cassano and Claudio Marchisio, whose blistering volley would surely have gone in had it not been straight at the Real Madrid goalkeeper.

First-half injury time saw both sides create their best chances of the period. First, a typically incisive through ball from Xavi presented a wonderful opportunity for Barcelona team-mate Iniesta, but his first touch was uncharacteristically poor, meaning his second only resulted in a tame volleyed lob over the bar.

And then, Cassano escaped down the right and whipped in a wonderful cross for Thiago Motta, whose header was superbly palmed to safety by Casillas.

The Spanish came out with greater verve after the break and Buffon twice had to make smart saves, the first from Fabregas and the second a stunner to deny Iniesta. But Italy were still causing headaches for Del Bosque's men in defence.

It led to a momentary lapse in concentration from Sergio Ramos, the Real Madrid centre defender dispossessed by Mario Balotelli as he attempted a back-pass to Casillas. Balotelli was clear on goal, but took an age to get a shot in, allowing Ramos to get back and smuggle the ball behind for a corner.

Two quickfire goals
It proved Balotelli's final act as he was hauled off by Italy manager Cesare Prandelli in favour of Di Natale. The Udinese veteran made an immediate impact as he opened the scoring within four minutes, latching onto Pirlo's inch-perfect pass before coolly slotting past the onrushing Casillas.

A shock seemed on the cards, but Spain hit back almost immediately. A beautiful flicked pass with the outside of his left boot from Silva picked out Fabregas and he made no mistake with a crisp finish under Buffon.

Del Bosque finally introduced a striker in Torres and although the former Atletico Madrid man looked sharp, he still appeared short on confidence in front of goal. After 75 minutes he tried to round Buffon, but the Juventus goalkeeper made a clean tackle and, then ten minutes later, a clever one-two with Xavi saw Torres burst through but his attempted chip drifted narrowly over.

In between, Sebastian Giovinco picked out Di Natale five yards from goal, but his volley at full stretch went wide.