Del Bosque: Italy on the same level as Spain

The World Cup winner has the utmost respect for Cesare Prandelli and is in no doubt that the Azzurri can triumph in Brazil next summer
Spain boss Vicente del Bosque has identified Italy as a clear and present danger to his side's hopes of retaining their World Cup crown, claiming that there is no gap in quality between the two sides.

La Roja routed the Azzurri in the final of Euro 2012, while the Iberians also got the better of Cesare Prandelli's men in a semi-final shootout at this year's Confederations Cup.

However, Del Bosque feels that there is little to choose between the two great footballing nations ahead of next summer's tournament in Brazil.

"Italy is a very competitive and organised national team," Del Bosque told Corriere dello Sport.

"Prandelli is a great coach who has demonstrated the ability to work well and get results. I have a good relationship with him.

"So, we have great respect for Italy, who are one of the strongest national teams in the world, and one who has always created problems [for us].

"We only beat them on penalties in the Confederations Ciup, while we were defeated in a friendly in Bari by them.

"There is absolutely no gap [in quality] between us and them."

Del Bosque is keeping a keen eye on the Italian top flight this season in light of the Spanish influx at Napoli this summer, with former Real Madrid colleague Rafael Benitez now in charge of a Partenopei side containing Jose Callejon, Raul Albiol and Pepe Reina.

The Spain boss has been impressed by what he has seen so far from the San Paolo side and is tipping them to challenge for the Serie A title.

"Rafa has a great passion for football and a fantastic track record of wins," Del Bosque said.

"We worked together in the youth teams at Madrid and I remember that even then he had a clear vision of the future: he wanted to become a top coach at all costs; one of the best. I was sure he would make it as he had all the necessary qualities.

"The season has just begun but Napoli can fight for the Scudetto. Rafa not only has Callejon, Albiol, [Gonzalo] Higuain and Reina, but also great tactical organisation and other champions, like [Marek] Hamsik.

"Pipita [Higuain] is a striker of great energy: he participates in the build-up yet is still so effective. He's still young, too, and he's arrived in Serie A at the right time. He will do great things."