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Azzurri frustrated by Spain possession

Roberto Mancini believes his Italy side faced an uphill battle when playing against possession-focused Spain with ten men in their Nations League semi-final defeat on Wednesday.

The Spaniards are now 1/1 to win the 2020/21 Nations League, with France or Belgium next up in the decider.

World record streak ends

Italy won Euro 2020 earlier this summer, beating England in the final on penalties, and the Azzurri were in contention for another major trophy in the form of the Nations League.

But their world-record 37-game unbeaten run looked under threat when Spain took the lead in the semi-final clash in Milan after only 17 minutes through Ferran Torres.

And, as had been the case with the first goal, the Manchester City forward connected with a Mikel Oyarzabal cross to convert a second in added time at the end of the first half.

Red card leaves Italy stranded

But just before that Italy's situation became all the more challenging when defender Leonardo Bonucci was shown a second yellow card for an elbow on Sergio Busquets.

And Mancini, who has been in charge of the Italy national team since 2018, believes the loss of Bonucci to a red card made it even harder for the team to cope with Spain's passing play.

Spain dominate the ball

Spain, rather characteristically, monopolised possession in Milan with 75 per cent of the ball with 17-year-old midfielder Gavi particularly impressive on his debut.

Speaking after the result, Mancini said: "Football games are like this - sometimes certain details can decide them.

"It is very difficult to face Spain's ball possession with eleven players, so you can just imagine with 10.

"I think the lads did what they had to do, we needed some fresh legs and I made several substitutions which helped us in the second half."

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