Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci leapt to the defence of Juventus team-mate and embattled Spain forward Alvaro Morata ahead of their Euro 2020 semi-final showdown.

Spain's Morata has been on the wrong end of criticism for his performances at Euro 2020, while he reportedly received death threats amid online abuse directed at his family.

Team-mates at club level for Juve in Serie A, Bonucci and Morata will face-off when Italy play Spain in Tuesday's Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley and the former heaped praise on the 28-year-old Spaniard.

"I was really struck by what happened to him and what we all have to go through," Bonucci said of the death threats directed at Morata. "I've also had to go through what he has gone through, and I know what it's like to read certain things and feel certain things as well.

"I've always been right behind him, he's always had my support. Alvaro is a wonderful person, he is a great guy, a wonderful father, and a terrific footballer.

"He's a complete striker, because he can run into space high up the pitch, makes late runs, holds the ball up well. He's one of the best strikers in world football, thankfully at club football he is a team-mate of mine over the course of the season.

"We need to make sure we are switched on tomorrow [Tuesday], not only to keep an eye on Morata but the team as a whole."

Spain are the highest scoring team at Euro 2020, with 12 goals from five games, including two strikes via Morata.

Bonucci was pressed on comparisons between Morata and Inter star Romelu Lukaku, whom Italy faced in the quarter-finals with Belgium.

"They are two top strikers," the 34-year-old Bonucci said. "When you get to this level, this stage of the competition, all the countries you come up against and all of the strikers you face are terrific.

"Alvaro has some very specific qualities that are different attributes to what Lukaku is all about. We need to be very switched on in terms of fine margins and small details, to make sure we really can come away with a big result."

Italy – riding a national record 32-game unbeaten streak – have only beaten Spain twice in their past 14 meetings in all competitions (D7 L5), a 2-1 friendly win in 2011 and, most recently, a 2-0 victory at Euro 2016 in the last 16, with goals from Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pelle.

The Azzurri are featuring in their 12th semi-final at a major tournament (Euros and World Cup), with only Germany (20) appearing at the final-four stage more often among all European sides.

Italy have progressed from nine of the previous 11 semi-final ties, including each of the past four – most recently in this competition in 2012 when they eventually lost in the final to Spain (4-0).

Roberto Mancini's Italy have won all five of their matches at Euro 2020, the only side of the remaining final four with a 100 per cent record to date. Only at the World Cup (1990) have they won more games at a single major tournament (six), while the only European team to win each of their first six games at a major tournament was the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup, when they suffered defeat to Spain in the final in South Africa.

But Bonucci played down the favourites tag, telling reporters: "I think when its Italy against Spain in a European Championship semi-final, there's no such thing as a favourite. Yes, we have had a flawless run so far, but even though Spain have faced some issues, that doesn't matter, we need to put it to one side.

"We really need to focus on what we need to do, where we can improve. We simply need to be motivated by the fact we're coming up against such a great, prestigious side in a wonderful arena such as Wembley, in the knowledge we can make it to the final in a few days' time."

Atletico Madrid defender Kieran Trippier refused to discuss speculation linking him with Manchester United, insisting his full focus is on England's Euro 2020 campaign.

Trippier has been linked with a move from LaLiga champions Atletico to Premier League giants United this off-season.

The 30-year-old has spent the past two seasons in Spain and is reportedly open to a switch to United but declined to discuss any possible move ahead of Wednesday's Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark at Wembley.

"I've just enjoyed the season [at Atletico] and we've won the title," Trippier told reporters.

"I'm away with England, we're playing Denmark and I'm not focusing on my club or what is going on.

"I'm just focused on England and doing as best as I can if I play. If I don't play, I still give 100 per cent."

Trippier, who has one more year remaining on his current Atletico contract, is riding a wave of confidence after lifting the LaLiga title, which is oozing into his England performances having started against Germany and Croatia.

"It's been an unbelievable season and it motivates me to win more, even at my age," Trippier said.

"Coming away with England, it gives me real confidence and maybe I can share that experience with others who have not won things.

"Then again, we have players who are winning trophies with their clubs now and they all have that winning mentality."

United have not won the Premier League title since 2012-13, nor any trophy whatsoever since 2017 after losing the 2020-21 Europa League final to Villarreal.

England have won just one of their last six competitive meetings with Denmark (D3 L2), with that victory coming at the 2002 World Cup (3-0).

Gareth Southgate's England are playing in their third European Championship semi-final, losing to Yugoslavia in 1968 and going out on penalties to Germany in 1996. As it stands, the Three Lions have played more games at the Euros without ever reaching the final than any other nation (36).

England’s 4-0 rout of Ukraine in the quarter-final was their biggest ever European Championship win, and their biggest victory in the knockout stages of any major tournament. Indeed, they netted as many goals against Ukraine as they had in their previous four Euro 2020 matches combined.

Meanwhile, England have kept a clean sheet in all five of their games at Euro 2020 so far – no team has ever kept six clean sheets in a single edition of the European Championship or World Cup before.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique hailed the impact of newcomer Aymeric Laporte after his controversial allegiance switch ahead of Euro 2020.

Laporte is the only Spain defender to play every game at Euro 2020 and looms as a key figure in Tuesday's semi-final against Italy in London.

The France-born Manchester City centre-back only made his international debut last month after being granted Spanish nationality in May.

Laporte, who moved to Spain as a 16-year-old and came through the Athletic Bilbao system, had been capped at every under-age level by France and called up twice for the senior team in 2019 but never debuted for Les Bleus.

Luis Enrique and the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) pursued Laporte over the past three years, despite the player claiming it was "out of the question", eventually winning him over ahead of Euro 2020.

"As soon as he was able to play with us he began to do a huge amount for us," Luis Enrique said during Monday's news conference. "He's a top defender, both in the attacking and defensive phases.

"We obviously need our defenders to have composure in order to bring the ball out and pick out that free man in midfield.

"He is strong in the air, he can play with both feet, he is physically strong, he's quick, he's strong, as I've said, he is good at playing on the front foot, he is good with how he covers.

"He's a top defender and we are delighted that Aymeric has decided to play for Spain."

Laporte's inclusion in Spain's European Championship squad has arguably vindicated Luis Enrique's decision to exclude veteran captain Sergio Ramos.

Luis Enrique has a selection headache with Pablo Sarabia unlikely to be fit to face Italy due to a muscle injury, having started in the quarter-final penalty shoot-out win over Switzerland.

RB Leipzig's Dani Olmo replaced Sarabia at half-time against Switzerland and is a likely preferred option.

"They are all fit except Sarabia," Luis Enrique said. "Physically they are well and tiredness ends 45 minutes after finishing the quarter final game."

Luis Enrique's Spain bossed possession (73 per cent) against Switzerland but relied on penalties to advance to the last four, despite having 28 shots to eight.

Spain have reached the semi-finals of the European Championship for the third time in the past four editions of the competition (failing to do so in 2016). They have gone on to win the Euros on each of the past two occasions they have reached the final four – in 2008 and 2012.

After losing each of their first four matches at Wembley between 1955 and 1968, Spain have only suffered one defeat in their past five games there (W2 D2). However, they were knocked out of the Euros in 1996 at Wembley, losing to hosts England on penalties.

Luis Enrique was wary of Italy's desire for possession too, in a looming clash of styles.

"I think that's one of the main questions really," he said. "We are leaders in terms of possession stats but they are also a side that can use the ball and enjoy their football with the ball.

"I guess that's the first battle to win. I think that they are very good without the ball as well. They've shown that at times during the championship, but they are far more comfortable with the ball.

"Our objectives are clear. We need the ball, we want to have it. If we have to play a different game we'll adapt but of course we'd prefer to have possession."

Gareth Southgate and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are benefiting from Jose Mourinho's "hard-line" approach to managing Luke Shaw at Manchester United.

That is according to former England boss Steve McClaren, who believes the United full-back's strong recent form owes much to the lessons he learned under his former manager.

Shaw started just 17 Premier League games out of a possible 76 during Mourinho's two full seasons at Old Trafford and was a regular target for criticism from his boss throughout.

Disagreements between the pair have not subsided since the latter's departure from United, either, with his punditry during Euro 2020 prompting their most recent war of words.

However, McClaren is convinced that Shaw's improved performances for club and country over the past 12 months are a consequence of the tough love he received from Mourinho.

He told Stats Perform: "The key relationship is always the player and the manager. Whenever you move clubs, whenever you go to a new situation, internationals, whatever. 

"Maybe Shaw was in a moment also in his career where he needed Jose Mourinho’s management – maybe everybody's [previously] accepted [his behaviour]. 

"And maybe you come with a hard-line manager who won't accept this, won't accept that. And this player needs teaching and this player needs the hard line. 

"Unfortunately, you're the manager that suffers because of that. Because Shaw’s probably been through that and is a more mature, more professional, and a better player.

"Who's benefiting? The manager after, which is Ole and which is now Southgate with England. 

"So, it's a journey for a player and you always want a manager that likes you and loves you, plays you. 

"Sometimes you don't [have that] and that teaches you lessons that stay with you when you do come to a manager who does like [you], you love and you will play."

Shaw's recent renaissance at international level has come under the guidance of one of McClaren's former charges in Southgate.

This year, the England boss has backed up leading his country to a World Cup semi-final by helping them to the same stage of Euro 2020, prompting a nation to dream that glory could lie ahead.

And that success has come as no surprise to McClaren, who believes the Three Lions are being coached by a man who has always shown a knack for leadership and bringing people together.

He said: "I remember signing him as my first signing for Middlesbrough. [He was] an important signing and I wanted a captain, I wanted a leader in the dressing room, and I bought him for leadership. 

"He epitomised exactly what I wanted in the dressing room and on the field. One, he was a winner. He’d proven that at Aston Villa and England – he was a winner, he wanted to win. 

"Number two, he was so professional. And that's what I wanted. That was the main thing. Gareth always did the right thing every day: first in, then last away, fantastic professional. 

"And the third and most important thing was as a leader in the dressing room. He brought people together. We had a lot of foreign players, a lot of cliques in that dressing room at Middlesbrough. 

"And he would mix with them all. I always remember dinner times, lunch times, breakfast, whatever meetings we had, the cliques would always sit on one table and everyone would always sit on one side, which was fine. 

"But every meal-time Gareth used to flit from one table to the other. And he used to mix with everybody, he knew the importance of the squad, the team sticking together. 

"And that's what he's brought to England. The key thing for me is it's like England's like a club side in the present moment.

"I think being the Under-21 coach for that many years, he's had all these players, he knows them inside out. He's got a story with every one of them. 

"He knows the best ones, he knows the characters, knows what will gel, he's brought them into the England team, grown up with them really. And now they're like a club side. 

"And that's what's driving it for us."

Italy and Spain are preparing to face one another for the 10th time at a major tournament, but Luis Enrique believes this is an Azzurri side like never before.

The two old rivals have been paired again in the semi-finals at Euro 2020, making this the most common fixture at the European Championship and World Cup combined.

This will be the seventh Euros clash, with the sides meeting at least once in four consecutive championships.

Spain eliminated Italy in 2008 and beat them in the final in 2012 but were toppled by the Azzurri four years later and now face a rejuvenated Roberto Mancini outfit.

"This Italy side isn't, perhaps, like the ones of years gone by – one that would sit back and wait to see what happened," Spain coach Luis Enrique said.

"This is an Italy side with great players who aim to have a lot of possession. This will be the first battle in the game: who dominates possession?

"I don't think both of us can dominate, so it'll be interesting to see who wins this tussle.

"Apart from having top players, Italy are a real team. They attack and defend as a unit, which is really similar to what we do.

"They also employ a high press, which it would be hard to imagine an Italian side from the past doing.

"Now they're strong in several ways of playing, meaning that the game will be really interesting. Both teams will have their moments."

Mancini, whose men are unbeaten in 32 and have won 13 in a row, was asked how Italy's Jorginho might match up against Sergio Busquets.

 

Among midfielders to have played 90 minutes or more at the tournament, Busquets ranks eighth for passes attempted per 90 (77.7) and Jorginho 10th (74.9).

"Certainly, they are among the best in their role," Mancini said.

"Busquets has been a fantastic player for many years. He has been around for longer, compared to Jorginho.

"Considering the way he is playing right now, however, Jorginho is certainly among the best, too."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Italy – Emerson

Leonardo Spinazzola has been one of the tournament's most impressive players at wing-back for Italy, creating seven chances from open play – including one assist – and having a championship-high six shot-ending carries. Emerson is likely to be the man asked to step in, having replaced Spinazzola against Belgium after he was taken off on a stretcher, and has big boots to fill.

Spain – Pedri

Busquets might have been the man at the centre of pre-match discussion, but Pedri has arguably been Spain's most impressive midfield performer at these finals. Against Switzerland, he created five chances and made five tackles. The Barcelona teenager has been involved in five more shot-ending sequences (35) than any other player at Euro 2020.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Italy have only beaten Spain twice in their past 14 meetings in all competitions (D7 L5), a 2-1 friendly win in 2011 and, most recently, a 2-0 victory at Euro 2016 in the last 16, with goals from Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pelle.
– The Azzurri have reached their 12th semi-final at a major tournament (EUROs/World Cup), with only Germany (20) appearing at the final four stage more often among all European sides. They have progressed from nine of the previous 11 semi-final ties, including each of the past four – most recently in this competition in 2012 when they eventually lost in the final to Spain (4-0).
– Italy have won all five of their matches at Euro 2020, the only side of the remaining final four with a 100 per cent record to date. Only at the World Cup (Italia 90) have they won more games at a single major tournament (six), while the only European side to win each of their first six games at a major tournament was the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup, when they suffered defeat to Spain in the final in South Africa.
– Spain have reached the semi-finals of the European Championships for the third time in the past four editions of the competition (failing to do so in 2016). Indeed, they have gone on to win the competition on each of the past two occasions they have reached the final four – in 2008 and 2012.
– After losing each of their first four matches at Wembley Stadium between 1955 and 1968, Spain have only suffered one defeat in their past five matches there (W2 D2). However, they were knocked out of the Euros in 1996 at Wembley, losing to hosts England on penalties.

Harry Kane has described Nuno Espirito Santo as a "great manager" but will hold off from speaking to his new Tottenham boss until after England's Euro 2020 campaign.

The 27-year-old's club future has been a hot topic of debate after admitting in May he feels at a "crossroads" in his career following another trophyless campaign with Spurs. 

Kane, who has spent the past 17 years with the north London club aside from four loan spells away, is a rumoured target for Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Keeping hold of the prolific striker will be a top priority for Nuno, who was last week confirmed as Jose Mourinho's permanent successor.

But Kane has yet to discuss his future with the ex-Wolves coach as he is eager to focus solely on helping England to Euro 2020 glory on home soil over the next week.

"Whenever a new manager comes in, I guess there's a level of excitement around the club," Kane, who has scored three goals in England's run to the semi-finals, told talkSPORT.

"Obviously, I've not been there and not had any contact with him. I'm away with England now and my full focus is on here.

"Hopefully, we've got a week left. He's a great manager and did a great job at getting Wolves playing a really good way.

"Let's get back and I'm sure we'll be in contact after the tournament."

 

Kane finished as the Premier League's top scorer last season with 23 goals, making him the third player to win the award three times after Thierry Henry (four) and Alan Shearer.

He also set up 14 goals to become only the second player in the Premier League era to top the charts for both goals and assists, the other being Andy Cole for Newcastle United in 1993-94.

Those 37 goals involvements were his most across a league campaign in his career, while his 14 assists doubled a previous high of seven in 2016-17.

Kane is under contract for another three years and new sporting director Fabio Paratici stressed on Monday that Spurs have no intention of selling the "special" player.

Asked about the comments made by Paratici, Kane said: "Of course, as a player you want to be wanted, you want to feel like you're loved, which I do.

"I haven't had the chance to talk to any of these people yet. I'm sure we'll get to know each other after the tournament, have a phone call or two once I get a week or two of holiday.

"To get praise from big people from football is great, it gives you confidence, it gives you motivation so of course it’s nice to hear."

 

While Kane has yet to speak with Nuno or Paratici, he has been in dialogue with Mourinho since the Portuguese was sacked by Tottenham in April.

"He's been texting me," Kane said of the now-Roma boss. "It's common knowledge we have a great relationship and got on really well.

"I really respect him as a manager and person. I wish him all the best at Roma. It is great to have one of the best managers in the world on your side.

"I will always respect him and hopefully be in contact with him for the rest of my career."

Italy coach Roberto Mancini is expecting a tough test from an "extraordinary" Spain side in the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.

The two teams go head to head at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday hoping to earn a place in the showpiece fixture of the tournament.

Spain have won just one of their five games en route to the last four in normal time – a group-stage victory over Slovakia that staved off the threat of an early exit.

But Italy have been altogether more convincing in winning each of their five outings without the need for extra time or penalties.

When it was put to him that many Italians believe their team is already in the final as a result of this strong form, Mancini replied: "I hope you get it right for once.

"It won't be easy. We need to put in a great performance. Spain are a top team, we are in the semi-finals, so it won't be easy.

"It will be a tough game, Spain are different from Belgium, but we will still face many difficulties.

 

"We suffered against Austria because of their aggressiveness and because it was the first game in the knockout stage.

"Spain have been extraordinary over the last few years, they have many young players and an excellent coach.

"Luis Enrique won the Champions League with Barcelona, but not only that. His Roma side played good football."

After scoring in Italy's opening two fixtures, Ciro Immobile has faced criticism for the two goalless games that have followed, particularly the quarter-final win over Belgium.

But Mancini has leapt to the defence of his striker, saying: "He is the Golden Boot, one of the best scorers of the last few years. 

"Sometimes the most criticised are the decisive ones during the Euros or the World Cup."

Leonardo Spinazzola has undergone a "perfectly successful" operation after he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during Italy's Euro 2020 win over Belgium.

The Roma full-back had been one of the stars of the tournament, but his participation came to a painful end during a 2-1 quarter-final victory in Munich last Friday.

Spinazzola suffered cruciate ligament damage in May 2018 and has endured frequent fitness problems during his career, but the 28-year-old is ready to put in the hard yards on the road to recovery again after going under the knife.

He posted on Instagram: "Perfectly successful intervention. I thank everyone for being close to me, there were so many of you!

"Countdown started, see you soon."

 

Serie A side Roma have not put a timeframe on how long they expect Spinazzola to be out of action.

"The club can confirm that Leonardo Spinazzola underwent surgery on Monday to repair the Achilles tendon in his left leg, following the injury suffered during Italy's win over Belgium at Euro 2020 on July 2," the Giallorossi stated on their official website.

"The surgery, which was completed in Turku, Finland by Prof. Lasse Lempainen under the observation of the club's chief doctor Massimo Manara, was successfully completed.

"The player's condition and likely recovery period will continue to be assessed over the coming weeks."

The chief executive of the Belgian Football Association says Roberto Martinez will stay on as coach despite Belgium's Euro 2020 "failure".

A 2-1 quarter-final defeat to Italy in Munich on Friday ended the Red Devils' hopes of being crowned champions of Europe.

Belgium once again started the competition with the expectation of mounting a strong challenge to win a first major tournament as the top-ranked team in the world.

They fell short once again under Martinez, but CEO Peter Bossaert says the Spaniard has the full backing of the Belgian FA and he does not expect the 47-year-old to walk away.

Asked if Martinez will remain at the helm, he told HLN: "Yes. He has a contract until the end of the World Cup [in Qatar next year]. 

"We are already together on Monday for the international matches in September and the Nations League final. I'm not afraid he'll leave. Normally he stays.”

Bossaert can understand criticism of Belgium after their exit at the hands of the Azzurri.

"The result is disappointing, so you can call it a failure," he said. "I fully understand that. We didn't realise what we were working for. 

"That's the cruel side of top football. If you lose in the KO phase, you don't have a chance to make amends."

 

Bossaert does not feel Euro 2020 represented the last chance for a so-called 'golden generation' to win a major tournament.

He added: "I am more positive about that [their chances of glory at a big competition]. This European Championship was a missed opportunity, but the Nations League final will follow in October and the World Cup will start in 16 months. 

"Many of our top players are still quite young. [Kevin] De Bruyne and Eden Hazard are 30, [Romelu] Lukaku 28, [Yannick] Carrasco 27, [Youri] Tielemans 24, and I can name many more. 

"They can last a long time. This generation still has opportunities. Certainly in the first two challenges, the Nations League and the World Cup, we can be ambitious. 

"Then there is the European Championship in Germany. The World Cup in 2026 in the US, Mexico and Canada is still too far away. But if we regularly supplement this core with new talents, I look to the future with confidence."

Kylian Mbappe has been urged to consider leaving Paris Saint-Germain by Nicolas Anelka if he wants to have the same global impact as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

The 22-year-old has spent the past four seasons in the French capital but is out of contract in 2022 and has been strongly linked with Real Madrid, while Liverpool are also rumoured to be interested.

Former Monaco forward Mbappe raised further questions over his future when revealing last month he is unsure whether the Parc des Princes is the best place for him.

Those comments were made on the back of a disappointing 2020-21 campaign for PSG in which they failed to defend their Ligue 1 title and exited the Champions League in the semi-finals, though they did win the Coupe de France and Trophee des Champions.

On an individual level, Mbappe was as prolific as ever with 42 goals in 47 appearances in all competitions last time out, averaging one every 86 minutes for the French giants.

In Europe's top five leagues, only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (48) scored more goals in all competitions than Mbappe in 2020-21.

 

But former France international Anelka, who started his career with PSG before joining Arsenal in 1997, believes it is time for his compatriot to seek a new challenge elsewhere if he is to fulfil his career ambitions.

Writing a letter to Mbappe on The Athletic, Anelka said: "You have done so well since coming through at Monaco and taking it to a new level at Paris Saint-Germain. 

"You play at a team that has evolved into a big club capable of winning the Champions League. It seems you will stay for another year, then there is a big choice to make. 

"It is a bit more complicated for you than it was for me. You have at least two choices – stay in Paris or move to Real Madrid. Both of them can win the Champions League these days. When I was at PSG, that wasn't the case.

"That choice depends on what you want to achieve in football. If you want the biggest accolades, you will have to move from PSG at some point. 

"Whatever you do in Paris will be good, but somebody will always say, 'Well, you did great for PSG but it was only in France. The best leagues are in England and Spain, so you didn't compete with the best players in the best league.

"You will have to decide. If you want to win the Ballon d'Or, which is what you should be looking at to echo Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, you will have to compete with the best. 

"You can't say you compete with the best all the time when you are at PSG. The French league is not easy, don't get me wrong, but I think the toughest league is in England. 

"So, if you want to be one of the best, then do what you do in Paris but with Chelsea or United or Arsenal or Manchester City or Liverpool. Or go to Spain to Madrid or Barcelona. Or maybe Italy. Then we can speak about a more global impact."

 

Mbappe endured an underwhelming Euro 2020 campaign in which he failed to find the net in France's four matches before their shock last-16 exit at the hands of Switzerland, a game in which he missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out.

He failed to score in the tournament despite taking 14 shots. At the point of France's tournament exit, only Cristiano Ronaldo (five goals from 15 shots) and Alvaro Morata (two goals from 15 shots) had taken more goal attempts.

It is the first time France failed to make it to at least the quarter-finals of a major competition since 2010 but Anelka, who won the European Championship with Les Blues in 2000, does not think the blame should lie with the attacking players.

"Football is a magnificent sport that remains unpredictable," he said. "Even if France had the best team on paper with a team capable of winning again, something was missing in the collective. 

"They had difficulties in defence. This France team was able to score goals at any time but was also able to concede at any time so that's what stopped them from going further in this tournament.

"The World Cup in Qatar is next year so there will be matches for France to try to make the tactical and collective repairs to compete, to win again. 

"France won the World Cup three years ago but the page has turned. This European Championship is another page that has to turn. Some new players might be integrated and this is a new chapter. 

"Many teams want to be world champions but there are not many examples of a country winning the World Cup twice in a row. It is easy to say, not easy to do."

Sergio Busquets expects this to be his last European Championship with Spain, but the midfielder has not decided when to end his international career.

Busquets lifted the World Cup in 2010 and played his part in La Roja's Euro 2012 triumph nine years ago.

The Barcelona player has another major trophy in his sights, with Spain taking on Italy in the semi-final of Euro 2020 at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday.

Spain captain Busquets has thought about his future with the national team at the age of 32 but says beating the Azzurri is the only thing on his mind for now.

He told AS: "You have to think about when to finish your cycle. What I have in mind is that this will be the last European Championship and then it depends. 

"You have to go step by step, I am no longer 20 years old. I feel very good, I am very comfortable in the group. 

"The coach always says that age does not matter, that as long as you are well he will have those who are better and those who make merit, later it will be seen. 

"At the moment I'm thinking about the semi-final with Italy, which is the important thing, then there's the Nations League in October and we'll see. 

"A year can be very long, I am very excited, but I am also responsible and I want the best for myself and for everyone."

 

Busquets says Spain are lucky to have Luis Enrique in charge of the national team.

"It is very difficult to reach the semi-finals," he added. "Football has evolved a lot and it is difficult to win any game because all the teams are very hard working, they have a very high level of scouting, of staff, individually the players are given a bonus in all aspects, mental, physical, nutritional.

"But I knew that Luis Enrique's work at this stage was very good. It is very difficult to see a top coach in a national team because normally such coaches are with a team during the day. 

"We are lucky and privileged to have Luis Enrique here. He is developing his idea, with his work group, with players that he believes in, with a very great ambition and that is reflected on the field."

Jose Mourinho has spoken highly of Luke Shaw's performances at Euro 2020 following his standout display in England's win over Ukraine.

The Manchester United left-back was voted as the Three Lions' man of the match in a fan poll after providing two assists in the 4-0 quarter-final victory in Rome.

Shaw appears to have cemented his place as Gareth Southgate's first-choice left-back at these finals, a fitting reward for an impressive season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at United.

The former Southampton man has enjoyed arguably the strongest 18 months of his career, a far cry from a difficult spell when Mourinho was in charge at Old Trafford, when the Portuguese would often single out Shaw for criticism.

Mourinho took aim at Shaw again after England's group-stage win over the Czech Republic, claiming his delivery from corners was "dramatically bad". That prompted a response from the player, who accused his old boss of having a "strange" personal agenda, adding: "Clearly, I'm in his head."

However, Mourinho appeared far more impressed with Shaw's display in the Italian capital on Saturday, saying the form of England's defenders means Southgate should resist any temptation to revert to a back three for the semi-final against Denmark.

 

"The question is, do England need to play with a back three like they did against Germany? My view is no," he told talkSPORT.

"The back four is really, really solid. Luke Shaw is playing better and better and better. Kyle Walker is having an amazing tournament.

"The two centre-backs are very solid and the back four with the amazing Euros that both central midfielders are doing is more than enough to control Denmark offensively. Then, you have four players to decide the creativity of the game. It is there that Gareth may have some doubts.

"Walker, [Harry] Maguire, [John] Stones and Shaw is clear. [Kalvin] Phillips and [Declan] Rice is clear. [Raheem] Sterling and [Harry] Kane is clear and there are two places that in my opinion are open and two positions where the options are different.

"[Jadon] Sancho played well, [Phil] Foden started the tournament, the same with [Mason] Mount, while [Jack] Grealish looks like he's not the favourite player of Gareth but, every minute he's on the pitch, he does well. There are lots of options for these two places.

"I believe playing at Wembley, England will be solid as always but you have to try and win the match as soon as they can and I don't believe that they need to play with a back three like they did against Germany."

When Jadon Sancho slalomed past Serhiy Sydorchuk and Andriy Yarmolenko in Rome, those who remember him as a boy in the football cages of south London would have barely batted an eyelid.

Yet it was a joyous piece of skill from the England winger, who will join Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund once Euro 2020 finishes, and reflected his growing confidence at international level.

The Ukraine pair strained to prevent him dancing through midfield, and it eventually took a cynical foul from Yarmolenko to halt the winger's charge.

Sancho, now 21, was raised in the Kennington district south of the Thames, where cage football has been a breeding ground for bright, young English talent, players who have to be nimble-footed and daring with their skills in confined spaces.

It was reminiscent of Zinedine Zidane as Sancho body-swerved this way and that in evading the Ukraine tackles.

"I've never changed," said Sancho on Sunday. "In the cages it was all about nutmegging, badding people up, and taking them on.

"When I've had a one-v-one situation, I've always tried to do the things I used to do in the cages and kind of perfect it when I've been in training.

"There could be like a situation where there's three men around you and you do a mad skill to pull free. It definitely does work, the cage skills, the tight skills and things like that."

 

In England's 4-0 thumping of Ukraine, Sancho attempted seven dribbles, three more than any other England player.

He completed four of those, which was also a team high, bringing a fresh dimension to the team.

Sancho also made three penalty area entries, beaten only in that regard by Mason Mount's four, and had a passing accuracy of 92.9 per cent.

The former Watford and Manchester City youngster could have done little more to press his case for inclusion later in the tournament too, starting with Wednesday's semi-final against Denmark at Wembley.

Speaking on England's Lions' Den YouTube show, Sancho spoke of his satisfaction at reaching the highest levels of the game by representing his country.

"It's something I've been dreaming of as a kid, especially putting on the shirt for my family. It's really a big honour for me," he said.

"I class myself as lucky, and to be representing England in a major tournament is a dream come true really and I'm just thankful for every opportunity I get."

Cesar Azpilicueta says Spain must keep Lorenzo Insigne and Jorginho quiet if they are to overcome Italy in Tuesday's Euro 2020 semi-final.

Italy head into the showdown at Wembley as the most in-form side in Europe after going 32 matches without defeat and winning the last 13 of those.

The Azzurri saw off Turkey, Switzerland and Wales to top Group A, before beating Austria in extra time and Belgium inside 90 minutes, in the last 16 and quarter-finals respectively.

Forward Insigne started four of those five games, the exception being the final group match against Wales, while Jorginho has been an ever-present for Roberto Mancini's side.

Jorginho has completed the most passes (364) of any midfielder at Euro 2020 so far and is fourth in the list in terms of passes in the opposition half with 249, behind Koke (269), Toni Kroos (271) and Pedri (305).

He is a player Azpilicueta is familiar with, the pair having helped Chelsea to Champions League glory last season, and the defender knows the importance of shackling his club-mate.

"We have a chat set up with all the Chelsea players, but it will be good to see him on the pitch on Tuesday," Azpilicueta told Sky Sport Italia.

"This is football. Sometimes you play against your team-mates when representing your national side. We will both give it our all to helps our teams reach the final.

"He is of course a great player both for Chelsea and Italy. It is important we limit his involvement. He likes to have the ball and control the game. He is a very intelligent player.

"The better we are at keeping him quiet, the more chance we have of controlling the game."

 

While Jorginho has provided an assured presence in the engine room for a much-fancied Italy side, Insigne has been receiving plenty of plaudits for his performances up top.

The Napoli forward was on target for Italy in their opening match and curled in one of the goals of the tournament in the 2-1 win over Belgium in Friday's quarter-final.

He has been involved in 13 goals in his last 15 games for Italy in all competitions – six goals and seven assists – and netted 19 goals in 35 Serie A appearances last season.

"He is not someone I know personally, but on the pitch he is very dangerous," Azpilicueta added. "He is a great player, very technical and fast.

"He always looks to work a one-on-one and is constantly communicating with his team-mates. We will have to defend as a team and attack as a team. We are aware of the strength of Italy's attackers."

Spain's performances have not been as consistent as Italy's, having drawn their opening two group matches before advancing in second place with a 5-0 win over Slovakia.

La Roja then held off Croatia 5-3 after extra time, becoming the first side in European Championship history to score five or more goals in consecutive games, and penalties were required to overcome Switzerland last time out.

However, Italy have beaten Spain only twice in their last 15 meetings in all competitions and lost 4-0 when the sides met in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev.

Azpilicueta has started Spain's last three games and is focusing on the positives ahead of Tuesday's clash in London.

"We did not start well in terms of results, but on the field we have always managed to dominate and control matches," he said.

Spain greats Xavi and Andres Iniesta are inspirational figures for Italy's Nicolo Barella, although the Azzurri midfielder does not try to replicate their skill sets.

Barcelona legends Xavi and Iniesta formed a key part of the Spain side that won Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 – in which they thrashed Italy in the final – either side of lifting the 2010 World Cup.

While the Barca duo were more renowned for their creativity than goalscoring exploits, albeit Iniesta got the crucial strike in Spain's World Cup triumph in South Africa, Barella has established himself as a real goal threat for both Inter and Italy.

Indeed, the former Cagliari man opened the scoring in Italy's 2-1 quarter-final win over Belgium with a fantastic finish, teed up by some excellent footwork.

And while Barella is inspired by the Spain greats of the past, he finds it hard to compare his own game with theirs. 

"They had great champions who inspired everyone, like Xavi and Iniesta," Barella told a news conference. 

"It's easy to say that we were inspired, but all those who love football are. I have different characteristics, seeing me in them is difficult.

"The Spain side that won the Euros in 2012 had an incredible midfield. There were amazing champions there, here there are great players, but we hope we can reach their level and possibly do even better."

Italy inflicted a 2-0 defeat in the last 16 of Euro 2016 to gain revenge for their 4-0 loss in Kyiv nine years ago, and a final against either England or Denmark is the prize for the victor at Wembley on Tuesday.

"[Sergio] Busquets has been one of the best midfielders in the world for many years," Barella continued.

"Then they have Pedri and Koke. It will be a nice game, we'll try to beat their midfield and beat Spain.

"It will be a tough game, we are similar as we both want to dominate the possession. I hope it will be a nice game, we want to enjoy it in a fantastic stadium."

Italy did suffer a blow in the win over Belgium, with influential left-back Leonardo Spinazzola suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon.

"It was strange not to celebrate because one of my team-mates had suffered a serious injury," Barella said when asked about Spinazzola, who has travelled to Finland for surgery.

"It was the first time I didn't celebrate a win at the end of the game, all we can do is to make Spinazzola proud and celebrate for him."

Only three defenders – Andrew Robertson (nine), David Alaba (10) and Jordi Alba (11) – have created more chances than Spinazzola (eight) so far at Euro 2020, though Barella is confident that Chelsea's Emerson, who is set to replace the stricken Roma full-back, will prove an able deputy.

"Emerson and Spina have different characteristics, they are two great players and nobody is worried," he said.

"[Emerson] won the Champions League and he will help us as he's always done. He's played many games for us and we all trust him."

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