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Spain vs Italy: Euro 2012 Final Preview and Prediction
Published by William | Filed under Euro 2012, Italy, Predictions, Previews, Spain
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7/01 20:45 CET, Spain vs Italy – Stats
Euro 2012 comes to a close Sunday night in Kiev’s Olympic Stadium as Spain looks to defend their crown against an Italian side that is looking more and more like the complete package. Just three weeks after their Group C opening 1-1 draw, both teams fully deserve their chance at European Glory. Spain looks to make history in becoming the first nation to win three consecutive major tournaments. A win would surely cement Spain’s place as one of, if not the greatest national team of all time. Italy on the other hand, is trying to close the gap on three time European Championship leaders Germany. The Italians are fighting another battle as they are playing in the midst of another match-fixing scandal that at one point had the potential to disqualify them from the Euros. And we all remember how the Azzurri responded to Calciopoli in 2006.
Spain played out a scoreless draw with Portugal and only advanced from the semifinals through a nervous penalty shootout. While Portugal was the bigger threat in regulation time, Spain came back to life in overtime and applied constant pressure against a visibly exhausted Portuguese defense. Manager Del Bosque will be concerned that it took too long to settle down against Portugal who chose to attack rather than park the bus. Barcelona mastermind Xavi played to a fraction of his ability in the midfield, forcing passes and not making the right decisions on the break. Del Bosque opted for untested Álvaro Negredo to lead the attack, but will not make that mistake again. In the final, look for Spain to play with a false nine Fabregas, but introduce Torres who won Spain their last Euro 2008 against Germany. Iniesta started the game trying to spread the field from the left wing but ended up clogging the space for Jordi Alba to make runs. The midfielder is much more effective when starting from a central role and drifting into the open space on the wing. Iniesta will be the key in sparking the attack for Spain.
In short, Spain lacked a scoring threat for much of the game against Portugal. Without a presence in the box and without midfielders or wingers making runs off the ball, Spain is simply not the Spain of the past. The introduction of Fabregas, Jesus Navas and Pedro however, provided the edge in the attack as they took players on and made runs through the defense. To crack the Italian defense, La Roja will need more players making runs off the ball.
Coming into the tournament, this Italian team was as unpredictable as any. Since, Balotelli and Cassano are forming the perfect partnership and linking up all over the pitch. From one-twos, counter attacks and crosses, the two look as if they have played together for years. While Cassano is a tricky player, Balotelli provides the biggest threat to Spain as the Juventus loaded Italy can win the aerial battle and will need to capitalize on their opportunities. Cesare Prandelli knows that Spain’s weakness lies in the counter attack and set pieces. Unbeaten in 15 games as coach, Prandelli’s 3-5-2 formation has paid off and he will continue with two in attack against the Spanish. Christian Maggio is back from suspension and Ignazio Abate returns from a hamstring injury but it is the latter who is expected to start at right back. Here’s a bit of strange, maybe unrelated history for you. Before this year, Manchester City won their only Premier League title in 1968, the same year that Italy won their only Euro Cup.
Spain are still the favorites to lift the trophy. Both teams however, have been the most consistent and deserving of the tournament. Italy, through Antonio Di Natale, scored the only goal that Spain has conceded in the entire tournament. Spain has not conceded a single goal in the knockout stages of a major tournament since 2008. Neither has lost a game in the 2012 Euros and both know how to win the big ones. This is the 31st time Spain and Italy have met, with the Italians holding the advantage of 10 wins to Spain’s eight (12 draws). The Spanish era of dominance will be decided on Sunday. With two of the world’s best goalkeepers, I really wouldn’t mind a penalty shootout.
Spain 1 – 1 Italy (Spain through on penalties)