GDANSK, Poland, June 10 (Xinhua) -- World champions and Euro2008 champions Spain were held to a 1-1 tie by Italy in the Euro2012 Group C opener here on Sunday.
Di Natale, who substituted Mario Balotelli in the 56th minute,gifted Italy 1-0 lead in the 60th minute when he slipped through ongoal by a wonderful pass from Andrea Pirlo and found the corner ofthe net with a cool finish.
But Spain striker Cesc Fabregas tied the score only after fourminutes. With a fine passing, Silva slid Fabregas in and the latterslammed the ball past Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Balotelli, the rising star striker from new English PremierLeague champions Manchester City, stunned the world in the 54thminute when he got a solo run through a tackle. But he hesitated atthe goalmouth without any clear action. Then a chasing defendercame to ruin the scoring chance.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli forgave Balotelli, telling thepost-match press conference that he would not punish the Man. Citystriker.
"He is still a young player who may make mistakes at any time, "Prandelli said. "At that moment, he may thought about several plansbut failed to choose the right one."
He noted that it was his pre-plan to send in Di Natale toreplace Balotelli, which had nothing to do with Balotelli'smistake.
In the 74th minute, Spain made a surprising change, Fabregas outand Fernando Torres in. From then on, Torres, who showed poorperformances in the 2010 World Cup despite Spain won the title,squandered at least three clear scoring chances. His bad formcontinued in the Euro 2012.
In injury time, Spain would have a stupendous goal as AndresIniesta beat three men, found Navas, who teed it up for Alonso buthis shot squirmed wide of the far post.
The most interesting thing was that the starting list issued onehour before the kickoff showed Spain's no striker plan.
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said that Fabregas was a specialplayer who could play well in the midfield and the front. "I justtried to use this point today."
"Italy is a great team and it was a difficult match. Wepreferred to win but this is football. We will try to play betterin the next two games," he added.
The 0-0 first half was entertaining. There were lots of neat,short passes from Spain, but they did not change the possessioninto a tangible cutting edge. Neither side got clear cutchances.
Prandelli said," Spain is a great team. They are worldchampions. It is not easy for us to beat them in ball possession.But we can beat them in other areas. The 1-1 draw today is fair."