Giorgio Chiellini has denied Xavi Hernandez’s claim that Italy are Spain’s bogey team at Euro 2016, stating it is the other way round.
Xavi also suggested that Italy were the “worst” team Spain could face in the last 16 as he felt his country had long feared the Azzurri, but Chiellini insists La Roja’s recent successes make them favourites in the match.
“Spain have been our bogey team since 2008,”the defender he said at a Press conference on Friday.
“The beginning of their golden period coincided with their win over us in Vienna in 2008. It was only in Kiev that we weren’t able to give them a game, we hadn’t been able to recover from our game against Germany.
“In all the others we saw more balanced games decided by incidents. Twice we went out on penalties [2008 and the 2013 Confederations Cup]. Indeed, in Fortaleza in the Confederations Cup we deserved to win.
“That’s how the game will be on Monday, I see it being balanced where details can make all the difference. There’s mutual respect, and every game is beautiful.
“It’s a shame that it’s in the second round, but it’ll be challenging.
“I did an interview with UEFA before we came here, where I emphasised that defence was Italy’s strong point.
“We’ve been playing together for years, we don’t just do our job well but we give security to our teammates around us.
“We’re aware of that double job we have to do, and the responsibility we have toward others. There’s no defender in the world who can do well without the help of the other four.
“We know how hard it’ll be, but our strength is our humility. It led us to beating Belgium and Sweden, which represented a small surprise. No-one expected Italy.
“We’d been designated as sacrificial lambs, some even said we’d already be home by the 27th. Instead we’re here.
“Now we meet a team which has quality, which is almost unbeatable on paper, but I’m sure that with a prudent game and by putting our qualities on show we can do well.”