Former Spanish great Luis Enrique has called for Spain and in particular striker David Villa to exact revenge on the country's 1994 World Cup loss to Italy when he walked off the pitch in Boston with a broken nose.
Spain take on the world champions here in Vienna on Sunday with the prize a meeting with either Spain or Italy in next Thursday's Euro 2008 semi-final.
Yet the competition's top scorer Villa, whilst acknowledging Enrique's comments – insisted vengeance in Vienna wasn't their prime motivating factor for that loss 14 years ago – which was the last time the pair have met at this level.
“Luis suffered in that match in America, the whole country suffered – not just because of the defeat but also I remember the image of his broken nose.
“But we're not out for revenge, all we want is to win and be in the semi-finals and to go on progressing in this competition.
“When the ball starts rolling tomorrow nothing that's happened before is important.
“All that is not going to help Italy or damage us, all that is in the past. Tomorrow (Sunday) is a new match, it's simple – if they want to beat us they have to play better than us. All we have in our minds is to defeat Italy.”
Villa's four-goal tally is due reward for his sparkling form which he put down to his physical wellbeing.
The Valencia striker told an eve of match press conference at the Ernst-Happel stadium: “At one stage of last season I wasn't in good shape, I missed a few games. But I came here in the best physical shape of my whole career, it's helping me quite a lot.
“I'm taking advantage of all the chances that come my way, Spain have good players who create these opportunities for me.”
One of the dangermen for Spain is Italy striker Luca Toni who despite netting 24 goals in 31 league games for Bayern Munich last season has yet to score here.
And one of the men whose job it is to keep Toni from getting on the scoring charts is defender Carles Puyol who appearing alongside Villa said: “Luca Toni is a player who creates chances, we'll have to be really alert to him. We'll have to keep a close eye on him.”
The last man in the Italy defence, keeper Gianluigi Buffon, was singled out by Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso who may join the World Cup winner at Juventus for next season.
“Gianlugi has great unique qualities. He plays a big role in the national team. He has the confidence of the coach and organises the game.
“From the former generation he's one of the best – he's got lots of charisma and is a leader, that spills over to his teammates. Look at what he did against Romania.”
Alonso was alluding there to Buffon's late save of Adrian Mutu's penalty which kept Italy in the hunt to qualify from Group C which they finally secured with a convincing 2-0 win.
Despite the presence of Buffon, Toni and the rest of the Azzurri facing them on Sunday Alonso expressed confidence that Spain, the perennial 'bottlers' in major finals, would come good.
“We're convinced we're going to win. We respect Italy, they're a great team, world champions, but we trust in our team, we've got a good, positive dynamic both in results and in playing.
“It's the right moment to face Italy, we're in a winning mood.”
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