Patience key for Spain against Italy's tough defense

SAINT-MARTIN-DE-RE: Spain is pledging to stick to its acclaimed passing game to try to break through Italy's equally famous defense in the round of 16 of the European Championship on Monday.

Facing one of the best defenses at Euro 2016, Spain is vowing to stay patient and keep the ball for as long as needed to create scoring chances against its old rival in Monday's match at Stade de France.

"It's difficult to score and it's difficult to create opportunities against them," Spain midfielder Thiago Alcantara said. "It's a team that is well set up. It scores few goals but also concedes few goals. It will be a tough game. It's always complicated to play against Italy."

It will be the third straight European Championship in which Spain and Italy play each other. Spain eliminated the Italians in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals of the 2008 tournament and triumphed in the final in Ukraine in 2012.

"We played one of the best games I can remember in that final," defender Jordi Alba said. "But it's not going to be like that this time. They have three central defenders and two wingers who can create problems for us. It will be very difficult."

Coach Vicente Del Bosque used the same starting lineup in the first three matches and is not expected to make any changes to the squad against Italy despite the disappointing 2-1 loss to Croatia in its final group game, a result that dropped the team to second place and set up the early encounter with the Italians.