This Sunday sees the conclusion of the European Championships as Italy take on Spain.
The Spanish will go into the match with the humble confidence they portray in every match but who wouldn’t be confident when you spend 70% of the match perched on the opposition’s box? The side are trying to win an unprecedented third major tournament in a row after winning the European Championship in 2008 and the World Cup, taking the title off of Italy from their ’06 win, in South Africa two years ago. It is something that has never been done before and Spain is certainly the media and neutral’s option to be the team to complete such a record.
The Spain line up will be similar, if not identical to the one we have seen for most of this tournament. Vicente del Bosque did give Negredo his chance, although the Sevilla striker did not make as big an impression as he would have hoped for. Whether that means Torres will get a chance remains to be seen. Torres is an odd choice at the moment. He seems to have lots of confidence in himself to shine but does not get picked, yet when he had no confidence he was being played all the time. The other option for del Bosque is to go with Llorente to exploit his physical presence against the tough, sturdy Italian defence.
Spain, the champions of world football , have continued their amazing run in competitive matches since losing to Switzerland in their opening game of the 2010 World Cup. They have not lost a game in 19 matches and have won 17 of those games. The two draws have been in this tournament against Portugal in the semi final and Italy in the opening group game. Daunting is it not Mr. Prandelli?
If Prandelli and Italy are to take one positive into this match against the world’s champions, which is mainly composed of players who play at two of the greatest clubs in club football, is that this competition has seen them less glamorous than usual, and lacking the finesse of David Villa and the only team that we have seen the thunderous Spain against was Ireland and they were the worst performers at the tournament.   A victory on Sunday would see Spain joining Germany as the team who has won the competition the most (3).
Don’t write off the Italians though. Knocking out the favourites, the world class performances of Andrea Pirlo and the having the joint top scorer, Mario Balotelli, on hand shows that they are not there to make up the numbers.
This tournament has been a lot cagier for teams. 30% of the goals scored have been from headers, the passing teams have been struggling to walk the ball in the net and there have been plenty of surprises along the way.
Italy have the in form Balotelli, the tricky Cassano or Di Natalie, who after 5mins of being on the pitch netted against Spain earlier in the competition.
The Italians have done their homework before every game and learned how to stop players from being effective i.e. Mezut Ozil had a pass completion rate of 91% before the semi-final but it was 79% against Italy. They also learn how to play in such a way that it allows Pirlo time on the ball to work wonders, although that may be tougher against the high pressing Spain.
This match, as the old cliché says, could go either. Prandelli v del Bosque, Pirlo v Xavi , Buffon v Casillas . This match has classic written all over it. Let’s hope it lived up to the hype!
Who will win?! Have your say!
By Simon Bienkowski