The Euro Cup 2012 has come to an end with the last 2 teams standing. Spain’s Boss Vicente del Bosque is expected to have a fully-fit squad for the Euro 2012 final showdown with Italy.
The 61-year-old`s biggest selection dilemma is likely to be over whether to field a recognised striker after Alvaro Negredo`s anonymous performance in the semi-final win over Portugal.
With Fernando Torres seemingly out of favour, and with Fernando Llorente yet to make an appearance at the tournament, Cesc Fabregas could be restored to a `false nine` role up front alongside Andres Iniesta and David Silva.
Italy defender Ignazio Abate, who missed the semi-final win over Germany with a muscle injury, is likely to return to fitness in time for the final, while fellow full-back Christian Maggio is also available after serving a one-match ban.
Coach Cesare Prandelli may persist with the same formation that served him well against the Germans rather than revert to the unorthodox 3-5-2 line-up used in the opening match against Spain.
AC Milan-bound Riccardo Montolivo is likely to keep his place in the team ahead of Thiago Motta after an assured performance in the semi-final.
Spain are bidding to become the first team in history to win three successive major tournaments (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012) and the first to retain the Henri Delaunay trophy.
La Roja are contesting their fourth European Championship final (1964, 1984, 2008 and 2012). They have lost just one (1984).
Vicente del Bosque`s side are 19 competitive games without defeat and have won their last nine knockout matches at major tournaments without conceding a goal.
However, the Iberian outfit have not registered a competitive win over Italy in nearly a century (with their penalty shoot-out success in the quarter-final of Euro 2008 classed as a draw). Their record in 11 previous meetings is W1, D5, L5, with the sole victory coming in the sides` first ever encounter at the 1920 Olympic games.
The Italians are competing in their third European Championship final (1968, 2000, 2012). They have won just one (1968).
The Azzurri are facing Spain for the 31st time, with their record in prior encounters reading W10, D12, L8. The sides` most recent meeting was in their opening match in this tournament, which finished as a 1-1 draw.
Italy have won just two of their last eight matches in regulation time, but are yet to lose a competitive fixture under Cesare Prandelli.
Spain vs Italy Predictions: Spain 2-1
This very well could be the most consistent match Italy's Balotelli has played for a five-game stretch. Despite his two great goals in the semifinal against Germany, particularly his second goal, he coupled a moment of brilliance with a moment of stupidity by taking his jersey off and receiving a yellow card. If a hot-tempered Balotelli picks up an early booking, he could just as easily be a detriment to his team with an untimely sending off in the championship game. Thus, these erratic moments need to be kept to a minimum. In a single-elimination game, anything can (and will) happen. For the most part, Germans midfielders Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira were frustrated by the Italian midfielders in the last semifinal. However, the Spanish boast the best arsenal of midfielders in the world and, seeing that Fernando Torres’ role in the title game remains up in the air, Xavi Hernandez or Cesc Fabregas might be called upon for but one flash ofwonder. Spain wins 1-0 to capture an unprecedented third consecutive major championship.
Spain took a few minutes at the end of its breathtaking Euro 2012 triumph to prove it is human, after spending the previous 90 showing why, in soccer terms at least, it is anything but.
A 4-0 victory over Italy on Sunday clinched an unprecedented third straight major tournament success for the majestic Spanish, many of whom brought their young children onto the field at the final whistle to celebrate with them. It was a touching gesture and spawned lovely scenes of childlike exuberance, with the kids hugging and playing excitedly with their delighted fathers.
Fernando Torres enjoys Spain's celebration with his kids Nora and Leo. (Getty Images)Yet for the previous couple of hours, those smiling adult faces in red uniforms had shown sporting ruthlessness of the highest order to silence a growing band of critics with a display of soccer magnificence.
All the accusations of boring play were washed away at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev as Italy, having shown so much spirit and resilience in reaching the final, were simply picked apart with a thousand cuts.
Just as it had all tournament long, Spain controlled the ball, dominated midfield and strung together pass after pass. This time, though, the old attacking intent was in place again after seemingly disappearing during the early part of the tournament.
David Silva got the first goal after only 14 minutes. His header came at the end of an outstanding move that saw Cesc Fabregas cut the ball back from the touchline for a goal of technical excellence. From that point on, it was all one-way traffic.
Spain's second goal was perhaps even better. Left back Jordi Alba charged nearly the full length of the field to collect a pinpoint pass and deliver a cool-headed finish.
When an injury to Italy’s Thiago Motta forced him from the field – after his side had already used all three allocated substitutes – Spain was able to run riot even more. Late replacements Fernando Torres and Juan Mata both got on the scoresheet to cap off a spectacular display and send the discussions of "greatest team ever" into overdrive.
Comparing teams from different generations is always a fool's errand, but this Spain side fully deserves its place at the very forefront of the conversation. It is incredible to think that its success at Euro 2008 ended a drought of 46 years since the nation’s previous major success. Now it has a pair of Euro titles with a World Cup sandwiched in between.
International soccer has never been more deep or diverse, but Spain makes the opposition look second-rate, seemingly at will. In 10 straight knockout games in tournaments, the Spanish have not conceded a single goal and yielded just one in its six matches at Euro 2012.
And to think that people had started to doubt them. Going into the competition, it was felt that the supposed rift between the rival players of Real Madrid and Barcelona would be destructive. Speculation also focused on Spain's dwindling motivation after so much former glory.
Not so. Silva, Manchester City's star playmaker, was the only player not from Madrid or Barca to start the final for Spain. Moreover, this was as seamless a blend of teamwork as you could ever wish to see.
Some key members of the team, such as goalkeeper Iker Casillas and midfield general Xavi, are not getting any younger, and a few fresh legs might be needed for the World Cup in 2014. But this is not a team that is weakening with age or one that is even close to the end of its road. No, it is one that has figured out the blueprint for winning on the biggest stages of all and is enjoying putting it in place.
The 1-0 wins over Germany in the Euro 2008 and the Netherlands at the World Cup were wars of attrition – fierce battles that had to be survived not seized. Sunday's victory, instead, was a festival – a celebration of a truly great team and a dynasty that shows no sign of ending.
EURO 2012: Spain vs Italy Timeline
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