Defending European Champions Spain opened their tournament with a draw against former World Champions Italy.
Antonio Di Natale scored with just over an hour gone, receiving a through ball from Andrea Pirlo before beating Iker Casillas. The lead only lasted a couple of minutes as Cesc Fabregas levelled for La Roja.
Spanish manager Vicente del Bosque opted to start with six midfielders in a 4-3-3 formation, Fabregas playing as the central striker. While the Italians placed Danielle De Rossi as a sweeper in a 1-4-3-2 system.
David Silva had the first chance, smashing the ball over the bar from the edge of the box with eight minutes gone. The Azzurri soon responded with a free-kick from Andrea Pirlo that Casillas had to turn around the post.
Pirlo was at the centre of the next Italian attack as well, this time finding Antonio Cassano on the left before the striker burst inside the box and forced Casillas into another fine save.
Cassano himself then turned provider as he lobbed the ball back towards Claudio Marchisio on the edge of the box, the midfielder struck a powerful volley at goal but once again the Spanish captain was equal to it.
Xavi was very much the engine room of the reds, he set up two of the best chances of the first half. First, he found David Silva who played in Fabregas but Bonucci blocked the shot brilliantly. Then Xavi’s inventive through ball to Iniesta had the Barcelona middle man flicking it up and sending his effort inches over the bar.
Italy had the final say of the first 45 though, Cassano again the provider as his cross to Thiago Motta brought the best out of Casillas. Motta’s powerful header towards goal was effortlessly turned away by the man with the most Spanish caps ever.
After the break, Fabregas and Iniesta found Gianluigi Buffon in top form as the veteran goalkeeper was able to keep out both efforts, the second only touched wide with his fingertips.
Balotelli should have done much better when he closed down Sergio Ramos on the right wing. He took so much time in getting the ball into the box that Ramos was able to recover brilliantly with Cassano rolling his eyes at the Manchester City star.
Balotelli was then replaced by Di Natale, who wasted no time in opening his account for the tournament. Pirlo beat Sergio Busquets easily in the middle and flicked the ball to Di Natale, the striker burst through the back four and swept home his first goal of Euro 2012.
The lead only lasted three minutes. Xavi once again found David Silva in an advanced position, he played in Fabregas and the former Arsenal captain slotted the ball past Buffon with his left foot.
Italy might have snatched victory at the death, Di Natale was found unmarked in the box but his acrobatic attempt went wide of the post and every Spanish fan breathed a huge sigh of relief.
The shared points here open up an opportunity for either Croatia or the Republic of Ireland to take the advantage tonight in Group C.
Spain’s next game is in Gdansk against the Irish on Thursday 14 June, and Italy will play Croatia on the same evening in Poznan.
SPAIN: Casillas; Arbeloa, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Xabi Alonso; Silva (Jesus Navas 64), Fabregas (Torres 73), Iniesta
ITALY: Buffon; De Rossi; Maggio, Bonucci, Chiellini, Giaccherini; Marchisio, Pirlo, Thiago Motta (Nocerino 88); Cassano (Giovinco 64), Balotelli (Di Natale 56)
Possession: Spain (60) Italy (40)
Attempts: Spain (18) Italy (10)
Fouls: Spain (12) Italy (19)
Goals: Spain (Fabregas 64) Italy (Di Natale 60)
Booked: Spain (Arbeloa, Alba, Torres) Italy (Maggio, Bonucci, Chiellini, Balotelli)