Euro 2012: Cesare Prandelli rues Italy's missed opportunity

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli was left to rue a missed opportunity after his side were held to a 1-1 draw by Spain in their opening match of Group C.

The Azzurri pegged the defending champions back for long periods of the match in Gdansk, taking the lead through Antonio Di Natale on the hour.

However, Spain equalised three minutes later - to Prandelli's frustration.

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We were a little surprised that there was no striker but we decided to play as we had planned

Cesare Prandelli Italy coach

"What disappoints me was that we allowed them to equalise very quickly," he said. "The draw was a fair result."

Italy had the better of the first half, forcing Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas into a succession of vital saves.

Substitute Di Natale gave Italy a deserved lead moments after coming on for Mario Balotelli, but Cesc Fabregas hit back almost immediately for Spain as the game ended all square.

"We need to improve," Prandelli said. "We really tried to press the Spaniards from the start of their attacks.

"We tried to avoid one-on-ones and, for 60-70 minutes, I think we played very well at the back.

"[But] we allowed them to equalise very quickly. We should have made them work harder to get back into the game."

Fernando Torres might have won the game for Spain in the dying minutes but the Chelsea striker was unable to convert any of his three chances.

"The problem we had with Torres is that we gave him the ball twice. We caused problems for ourselves," Prandelli added.

Euro 2012 goal: Fabregas scores Spain equaliser

The Italy manager surprised many by handing a debut to Emanuele Giaccherini at left wing-back in a new 3-5-2 formation, while Spain manager Vicente del Bosque started without a recognised striker.

"We were a little surprised that there was no striker but we decided to play as we had planned," Prandelli said.

Balotelli started up front for the Italians, and he endured a frustrating afternoon before being replaced by Di Natale.

The Manchester City striker spurned a clear opportunity to score, when he hesitated when through on goal to allow Spain defender Sergio Ramos to tackle back.

However, Prandelli denied the decision to withdraw him had been linked to that missed opportunity.

"When he missed that chance I already had decided to bring on Di Natale," he said. "We needed to be a bit better going forward, it was not a punishment at all.

"I just wanted one of the strikers to go deeper. Mario just has to remember how he created that chance, he pressed, won the ball back and created it."