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Spain begins title defence

Spain begin their mission to become the first nation to retain the European title when they take on Italy.

Euro 2012 Logo

WARSAW - Spain begin their mission to become the first nation to retain the European title when they take on Italy in Gdansk on Sunday.

Vicente del Bosque's world champions have played the most eye-catching football in the world over the past four years and they will be fancied to beat an Italy side who arrived in Poland having lost three consecutive friendlies.

The two European heavyweights meet for a 26th time at 4pm knowing the last time they clashed Italy ran out 2-1 winners in Bari in August.

Italy's centurion goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said on the eve of the match that they were here to cause a surprise so Spain have been warned.

However the four-times world champions preparation has been dogged by poor results and another match-fixing scandal back home, making it unlikely that Italy will venture too far from their stubborn defensive formula.

In the other Group C match on Sunday underdogs Ireland face Croatia in Poznan.

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic called their opponent's style of play "simple" on Saturday before saying his side were not capable of surprising Ireland themselves.

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